[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
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Muscle or body aches
- 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.