WHO SHOULD GET TESTED FOR COVID-19
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19.
- People who have had close contact with someone with COVID-19, and
- People who have been asked or referred to get testing by their healthcare provider or the health department.
SYMPTOMS OF COVID
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:
- 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
This list does not include all possible symptoms. CDC will continue to update this list as we learn more about COVID-19. If you have symptoms, use Virginia’s COVIDCHECK to help make decisions on when to seek testing and appropriate medical care. Seek emergency medical care immediately if you are having trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, or bluish lips or face.
DEFINITION OF CLOSE CONTACT
- Being within 6 feet of a person who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, or
- Having direct exposure to respiratory secretions (e.g., being coughed or sneezed on, sharing a drinking glass or utensils, kissing), or
- Providing care for a person who has COVID-19, or
- Living with a person who has COVID-19.
A person with COVID-19 is considered to be contagious starting from 2 days before they became sick (or 2 days before they tested positive if they never had symptoms) until they meet the criteria to discontinue isolation.
TYPES OF TESTS FOR COVID-19
There are two main types of tests for COVID-19:
- Viral tests (e.g., RT-PCR or antigen)
- Antibody tests.
A viral test tells you if you have a current infection by looking for parts of the virus itself. Saliva (spit) or swabs that take samples from the back of the nose, mouth, or throat are used for these tests. There are currently two types of viral tests that detect the virus that causes COVID-19:
- Molecular tests (e.g., RT-PCR tests) that look for the virus’s genetic material
- Antigen tests that look for a specific protein on the surface of the virus. Antigen tests can be easy to run and affordable but are not always as accurate as molecular tests.
An antibody test tells you if you had a past infection by looking for antibodies in the blood. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system when a germ enters a person’s body. Our immune systems help us fight off germs and diseases. The test uses a blood sample to look for antibodies made in response to SARS-CoV-2 rather than looking for the virus itself. It usually takes 1-3 weeks for the body to make antibodies in response to an infection. We do not know how much protection the antibodies might provide or how long this protection might last.
Antibody tests have limited ability to diagnose COVID-19 and should not be used alone to diagnose COVID-19. Results from these tests should also not be used to make decisions about staffing or the ability of an employee to return to work, the need for available personal protective equipment (PPE), or the need to discontinue preventive measures, like social distancing.
ISOLATION VS. QUARANTINE
- Isolation is a term used for persons with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.
- Quarantine is a term used for people who have been in close contact with a person who has COVID-19 while they are contagious.
CRITERIA TO DISCONTINUE ISOLATION – Persons with confirmed or suspected COVID-19
For persons with CONFIRMED or SUSPECTED COVID-19, you are considered likely to be no longer contagious when:
- Symptom Based Strategy – If you had COVID symptoms and were directed to care for yourself at home, you can leave your “sick room” after these 3 things have happened:
- At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared, and
- At least 24 hours with no fever without fever-reducing medication, and
- Other symptoms have improved. Note that loss of taste or smell might persist for weeks or months and this should not delay the end of isolation.
- Time Based Strategy - If you tested positive for COVID-19 and never had any symptoms and were directed to care for yourself at home, you can leave your "sick room" and home if:
- At least 10 days have passed since the date of your first positive COVID-19 diagnostic test, and
- You continue to have no symptoms since the test.
Persons with COVID-19 who have severe to critical illness or who are severely immunocompromised might need to stay home longer than 10 days. These persons can consider using a test-based strategy to discontinue isolation, in consultation with an infectious disease expert.
CRITERIA TO DISCONTINUE QUARANTINE – People who have been in closed contact with a person who has COVID-19 while they are contagious.
- Household contacts - Self-quarantine (stay home) and monitor for symptoms while the person is home and for 14 days after the person has been released from isolation (because exposure is considered
ongoing within the house).
- Non-household contacts - Self-quarantine (stay home) and monitor for symptoms until 14 days after the date of last close contact with the person infected with COVID-19.