As the call gets louder for more COVID-19 (coronavirus) testing, government and medical officials are finding that not only is demand outpacing supply for tests, but test result timelines are getting longer. That puts the pressure on the public health officials to make sure getting tested is really a necessity, and that quarantine and distancing guidelines are followed while waiting for results. Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 testing and isolation guidelines in Fresno County:
Where do I get tested?
Let’s start with where NOT to go for tests. Community Medical Centers’ hospitals and other hospitals’ COVID-19 tests are not intended for the general public. They are reserved for patients and those with symptoms needing critical medical attention. Do not go to the Emergency Room expecting to be tested much less to get the results quickly.
Instead, the first step is to contact your primary care physician for a referral to a testing site. Many local urgent care and other medical centers, as well as select CVS pharmacies, are now conducting tests. Fresno County residents can get more information on available testing centers through the Fresno County Department of Public Health. California residents can find testing centers through testing.covid19.ca.gov.
What will the test cost me?
For most people, there are no costs associated with a COVID-19 test. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act states that all forms of public and private insurance must now cover FDA-approved COVID-19 tests as well as any services that result for such a test. However, this does not mean that all services provided during a visit for anything beyond the test will be covered. Contact your individual testing center or insurance provider for more information about tests and related costs.
When will I get my test results?
Depending on your situation, test results may come back within 24 hours or may take several days. Community Medical Centers is unable to speak to the timeline for testing at other locations. Since we only conduct COVID-19 testing for our patients with immediate surgical or other health requirements, test results are usually available in a day.
Who should get tested?
The California Department of Public Health updated the priority list of who should be tested on July 23, 2020.
Tier 1 priority are those hospitalized with COVID-19 symptoms.
Tier 2 priority includes those with symptoms of COVID-19, close contacts of confirmed cases, and those with no symptoms but who live in higher risk homes such as nursing facilities, work in healthcare, emergency services or correctional facilities, provide care to a high-risk individual, or patients being admitted to or discharged from hospitals.
Tier 3 priority covers those with no symptoms working in other sectors such as retail, manufacturing, agriculture or food services, public transportation, or education.
What do I do while I’m waiting for test results?
It’s very important that you stay home and self-isolate while waiting for your test results, even if it takes several days for them to come back. Remember, you got tested because you were concerned for your own health and that of friends and family, and you’re waiting to find out whether or not you may be sick with coronavirus. Until you know more, you want to keep everyone safe and the best way to do that is to quarantine yourself.
That means restricting all activities outside of your home with the exception of medical care. You and your close household members should only leave your home when absolutely necessary from the time your test is taken until you hear results. Restrict visitors to household members and caregivers during this time.
Avoid sharing personal household items. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels or bedding with other people or pets in your home until you know more. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.
During this time, maintain the good health practices you’ve heard about including:
Wearing face masks (and washing them daily, either in hot water or drying on high heat)
Maintaining social distancing (six feet between you and others)
Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue (throw it away and wash your hands)
Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, mouth and mask when you’re wearing it
Cleaning all “high-touch” surfaces daily (such as doorknobs, remote controls, phones, counters, etc.)
If you become ill, monitor yourself for symptoms and seek prompt medical attention, if needed. Symptoms including fever, shortness of breath, chills, and body aches should be reported to your primary doctor immediately. When you contact them, be sure you inform the office you’ve been tested for COVID-19 and are waiting for results. If you have a medical emergency call 911 for immediate assistance.
What do my results mean?
If you have a positive result for COVID-19, don’t panic. You should receive a call from your provider regarding your plan of care and next steps.
If the result is negative, remember that means COVID-19 was not detected on the sample during the test, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get sick. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the result means you weren’t sick with it at the time of testing. Negative results could mean the sample was collected early during infection before there was enough of the virus in your system to be detected. You can also be exposed after the test and be infected then.
If you get a negative result but have symptoms, keep monitoring your health and seek advice from your primary doctor about self-isolating and if you should be tested again.
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit communitymedical.org/coronavirus