Testing at home? Here’s what you need to know.

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[Updated January 11, 2022]

The new Omicron variant has been detected here in Skagit County, and we’re expecting to see a dramatic rise in cases over the coming weeks. Thankfully though, we don’t need to fret! Other than getting vaccinated, testing is one of our most important tools for slowing the spread.

Below you’ll find some helpful information about the at-home testing process and what to do once you’ve tested. For more information about COVID-19 testing, visit the Washington State Department of Health’s webpage here.

Why should you test for COVID-19?

Testing saves lives! Testing allows people to take precautions, like quarantining, in a timely manner to stop the virus from spreading; infected people without symptoms can still spread the virus. Testing also helps public health officials identify and respond to outbreaks, and to track new variants of the virus. Testing is an important component in helping resume normal activities.

Who should test?

Anyone, regardless of vaccination status, should get tested if they’re showing symptoms of COVID-19. They should also get tested if they have had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID-19 symptoms may include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you should also get tested if:

  • You’ve taken part in activities that put you at higher risk, such as being in large gatherings or crowded indoor settings.
  • You’re traveling (even domestically). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends unvaccinated people get tested 1–3 days before a trip and 3–5 days after returning from a trip.

The vaccines are very effective, but breakthrough cases can happen. If you’re fully vaccinated, you may still need to get tested in some instances (even if you’re not showing symptoms). Basically, it comes down to this: When in doubt: Test.

When should you test?

Go to a testing site or use an at-home test if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who may be positive for COVID-19. You should test immediately if having symptoms, or 3-5 days after suspected exposure, even if you don’t experience any symptoms.

Where can you get an at-home test?

Public Health has now run out of at-home testing kits. Please consider for-purchase at-home testing options, available at locations such as Walgreens, Rite Aid, Bartell Drugs, CVS, Walmart, Safeway, and Albertsons.

At present, testing demand is far exceeding availability throughout our state. If you cannot get access to testing, please refer to the CDC’s Isolation and Quarantine Guidance found here: https://bit.ly/3JQLIwF.

IF YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS but do not need medical care and can’t get a test, you might have COVID-19 and you should isolate for at least 5 days to keep from spreading the virus to others. Monitor your symptoms.

IF YOU WERE EXPOSED to someone with COVID-19 and need to quarantine and are unable to get a test 5 days after your last close contact, you can leave your home after day 5 if you have not had symptoms; wear a mask for 10 days after last contact.

What kind of test is available for at-home use?

All available at-home tests are rapid antigen tests. These tests typically provide results in 10-15 minutes and are used to identify those with active COVID-19 infections. A positive result generally means a person currently has COVID-19 and can spread the virus to others.

What should you do if you test positive?

Please call the state COVID-19 hotline at 1-800-525-0127 (press #) as soon as you receive a positive test result. The hotline is available Monday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Tuesday to Sunday (and observed holidays) 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

An interviewer from the Washington State Department of Health will contact you to discuss what’s next and what support is available. Learn more about what to expect if you test positive.

If you have confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and have symptoms (regardless of vaccination status), you can end home isolation when:

  • It’s been at least 24 hours with no fever without using fever-reducing medication, AND
  • Your symptoms have improved, AND
  • At least 5 days since symptoms first appeared.

If you test positive for COVID-19, but have not had any symptoms, you can end home isolation when:

  • At least 5 days have passed since the date of your first positive COVID-19 test, AND
  • You have had no subsequent illness.

Note: If you need help while you’re isolating at home, you may be able to get support from Care Connect Washington.

What if you tested negative but are experiencing symptoms?

If you test negative but are currently experiencing COVID-like symptoms or have been recently exposed to COVID-19, the safest thing to do is to get a follow-up PCR test. A PCR test is a molecular test that looks for genetic material inside the virus and can determine if a person is “COVID-19 positive.” The turnaround time for results with these tests is usually 24–72 hours. While you wait for your results, please quarantine to avoid any possible spread.

Looking for a PCR test? Visit our website for a full list of testing providers here in Skagit County.


Say Yes! COVID Test Program Offers Free, Rapid, Self-Administered Tests to Skagit County Residents to Reduce COVID-19 Spread

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Updated 12/29/21: Due to overwhelming demand, there are no longer free test kits available through the Say Yes COVID Test program.

December 20, 2021

The Say Yes! COVID Test At-Home Testing Challenge provides households with access to free, rapid COVID-19 test kits that they can self-administer and is now available in Skagit County. Say Yes! COVID Test encourages residents to use the tests to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and keep the community healthy. Beginning today, Skagit County residents can order testing kits online for free home delivery. This service will be available while supplies last. There is a 4 kit (8 total tests) maximum per household.

“Children, adolescents, and adults who are not yet fully vaccinated or at high risk need more accessible tools to inform their choices. Free, rapid, self-administered testing will give community members one more way to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Anyone can just swab the front of their nose and perform this test in the privacy of their home and have results within 10 minutes.” 

Jennifer Johnson, Skagit County Public Health Director

The Say Yes! COVID Test initiative is a cooperative effort from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community partners, test manufacturer Quidel, and healthcare technology company CareEvolution. State and local health departments help connect the initiative to local community members. Researchers at NIH-supported academic health centers will work with CDC and NIH to use publicly available data to determine if the local testing efforts slowed the spread of COVID-19.

Rapid, self-administered testing has potential to disrupt the spread of COVID-19 that occurs when people are infected, but don’t yet have symptoms. Testing on a routine basis offers the best chance of identifying COVID-19 infection and isolating early. The COVID-19 tests are authorized for use by the FDA, provided free of charge, and the entire testing process can be managed privately at home. Tests require a quick swab inside each nostril, and results can be read in just 10 minutes. A free, private, and easy-to-use mobile application is available to help individuals in every step of test taking. The maker of the tests, Quidel, is the same company that made the first rapid flu tests used by doctors’ offices in the United States. 

Individuals who have not yet received the COVID-19 vaccine or who have the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19, such as people working or going to school outside the home, are ideal candidates for participation, but anyone over the age of 2 is welcome to participate. The testing challenge lasts for at least a month, or until all tests are used. Test users who choose to use the companion digital assistant to record and share their test results and complete a survey can earn up to $35 in gift cards.

Skagit County residents can visit the website SayYesCovidHomeTest.org to order test kits for doorstep delivery.

If you have questions about the Say Yes! COVID Test project, use the links above, or call Skagit County Public Health at (360) 416-1500.