Your COVID home test is positive. Now what? –

So you’ve tested for COVID-19 using an at-home test, and the results are positive.

Now what do you do?

Do you need a PCR test to confirm? Should you call your doctor? The health department?

Below is what health experts have to say.

Do you need a PCR test to confirm? It depends.

The antigen rapid tests are less sensitive than PCR tests, but the bigger issue with rapid tests are false negatives vs. false positives.

Especially if you have COVID-19 symptoms — cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever and/or lost of taste and smell — a positive result on an at-home test is very likely accurate, says the federal Centers for Disease Control. It “indicates that you likely have a current infection.”

Although many people do follow up with a PCR test to confirm, it’s not necessary, said Dr. Christine Nefcy, chief medical officer at Munson Healthcare based in Traverse City. “

If you can work from home and you have a positive antigen test, I would assume it’s positive and stay home and do your masking and isolation and all that kind of stuff,” she said. “But if you’re required to travel or you’re a frontline health-care worker or first-responder, it might behoove you to do further testing.”

Call your local health department.

In some cases, the home test involves an app that would notify public health authorities, Nefcy said. But if it doesn’t, “we would highly encourage you to call your local health department to report a positive result.”

There are two reasons for that. One is so that a public-health nurse can review your symptoms and living circumstances, and offer advice about how to isolate and whether to seek medical treatment.

“But also it’s important from an epidemiological perspective, so that we know the positivity rate out there,” Nefcy said.

Call your primary care physician.

Giving your primary-care physician a heads-up also is important since COVID can impact your long-term health and you want it to be part of your health record.

“So if you just took a test and never reported a positive result, you’re going to have a much harder time from an insurance perspective” if you develop complications or symptoms of long COVID, Nefcy said.

Also, people at higher risk of developing severe COVID — which would include people age 65 and older; have co-morbidities such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease, and/or are immune-compromised — will want to ask their doctor about treatments such as monoclonal antibodies or the new anti-viral pills produced by Pfizer and Merck designed to keep people out of the hospital.

However, those treatments need to occur as soon as possible to be effective.

Those treatments are “for high-risk patients early on in their diagnosis of COVID 19 as a preventive measure so they don’t get sicker,” Nefcy said. “It’s not an option for people who are already hospitalized.”

Notify your close contacts

People with COVID-19 are typically contagious about 48 hours before they develop symptoms. So if you test positive, you should notify the people you might have exposed.

Close contacts are defined as ”those within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period (for example, three individual 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes),” according to CDC guidelines. “An infected person can spread COVID-19 starting from two days before they have any symptoms (or, if they are asymptomatic, two days before their specimen that tested positive was collected), until they meet the criteria for discontinuing home isolation.”

Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated know that they should quarantine for 10 to 14 days. This means they should stay home and away from others during this time, the CDC says.

Close contacts who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine, but they should continue to wear a mask around others and get tested five to seven days after exposure.


People who test positive for COVID-19 need to isolate for at least five days, regardless of whether they have symptoms.

That means they should stay home, and separate themselves from others in the household or wear a well-fitting mask when they are around others.

“People in isolation should stay in a specific ‘sick room’ or area and use a separate bathroom if available. Everyone who has presumed or confirmed COVID-19 should stay home and isolate from other people for at least five full days (day 0 is the first day of symptoms or the date of the day of the positive viral test for asymptomatic persons),” CDC guidelines say. “They should wear a mask when around others at home and in public for an additional five days.”

Seek immediate help if your symptoms significantly worsen.

Severe COVID can develop very quickly. Call 911 if you have:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone.

What to expect in terms of illness.

Dr. Craig Spencer, a Manhattan emergency department doctor affiliated with Columbia University, recently tweeted a detailed breakdown of what omicron cases look like — and much depends on vaccination status.

“Every patient I’ve seen with Covid that’s had a 3rd ‘booster’ dose has had mild symptoms. By mild I mean mostly sore throat. Lots of sore throat. Also some fatigue, maybe some muscle pain. No difficulty breathing. No shortness of breath. All a little uncomfortable, but fine,” Spencer wrote.

“Most patients I’ve seen that had 2 doses of Pfizer/Moderna still had ‘mild’ symptoms, but more than those who had received a third dose. More fatigued. More fever. More coughing. A little more miserable overall. But no shortness of breath. No difficulty breathing. Mostly fine,” he said.

“Most patients I’ve seen that had one dose of J&J and had Covid were worse overall. Felt horrible. Fever for a few days (or more). Weak, tired. Some shortness of breath and cough. But not one needing hospitalization. Not one needing oxygen. Not great. But not life-threatening,” he tweeted.

“And almost every single patient that I’ve taken care of that needed to be admitted for Covid has been unvaccinated. Every one with profound shortness of breath. Every one whose oxygen dropped when they walked. Every one needing oxygen to breath regularly,” he said.

The highly infectious nature of Omicron means it’s more likely that even fully vaccinated persons will get infected, said Dr. Mark Hamed, an emergency room doctor who also serves as the medical officer for eight Michigan counties in the Thumb and northeast Lower Peninsula.

“I think we’re all going to have a date with Omicron or whatever variant is next, but you want to go into it fully prepared,” he said. That means being fully vaccinated and using a mask and social distancing to decrease the exposure to a high viral load.

“We’re probably all going to get exposed unless we sit home and do nothing,” he said. “But if you’re prepared, it’s going to be a very mild infection.”

Read more on MLive:

Michigan reports 43 new COVID-19 outbreaks in Jan. 4 report

How long after having COVID-19 should you get vaccinated?

Michigan lawsuit challenges Biden vaccine mandate for federal contract employees

COVID-19 spread motivates University of Michigan faculty to push for remote learning

U.S. Air Force medical team arrives to support Muskegon hospital during COVID-19 surge

Omicron variant of coronavirus now in 18 Michigan counties, latest data shows

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Your COVID home test is positive. Now what? –

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