Am I Still Contagious? Understanding Your COVID Test Status
As COVID-19 public health measures lighten and more time passes since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, many people are wondering to what level they need to still be protecting themselves against COVID-19. Statements like the one made by President Biden declaring the end of the pandemic only add to the confusion.
The reality is that, while COVID rates are lower than they were in previous weeks and months, the coronavirus is very much still an active illness that is being spread every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of September 22, 2022, in the U.S. alone, there are 226 counties, districts, and territories with a high COVID-19 community level. In fact, overall, 46 out of 52 jurisdictions in the U.S. still contain counties with high or medium COVID-19 community levels. This number of COVID cases in the U.S. will likely only go up as we approach fall and winter and people become more susceptible to becoming ill.
Is the Pandemic Over?
The medical community has provided individuals with the tests and medications that they need to minimize the spreading of the coronavirus. Still, studies show that there is still a relatively large percentage of people around the world who are contracting COVID daily. Thus, it is safe to say that the pandemic is NOT over. Since the pandemic isn’t over, it’s important that individuals remain vigilant when it comes to taking the necessary measures to minimize spreading the virus.
Types of COVID Tests
There are two main types of COVID tests: NAATs and antigen tests.
The acronym NAATs stands for nucleic acid amplification tests. NAATs identify nucleic acid sequences in genetic material. COVID-19 NAATs identify the ribonucleic acid (RNA) sequences that comprise the genetic material in the coronavirus.
The most well-known type of NAATs is the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID test. PCR COVID tests can detect the genetic material that makes up part of the coronavirus for up to 90 days after COVID is detectable in a person.
Unfortunately, PCR COVID tests are usually processed in specialized laboratories, using a series of tools and steps. As a result, it will usually take you several days before you can receive your PCR COVID test results from the lab.
Rapid Antigen Tests
Rapid antigen COVID tests work by detecting the presence of a specific viral antigen. An antigen is a toxin or other foreign substance that induces an immune response in the body. Oftentimes, this immune response comes in the form of antibodies. In the case of COVID antigen tests, the viral antigen being detected is that of COVID-19.
Antigen tests can easily detect viral antigens through a specimen of a person’s saliva or a swab of a person’s nasal passages. Therefore, there is no need to send antigen tests to laboratories to receive results, as antigen test results appear rapidly when you mix your nasal sample with the liquid provided in the at-home test. In fact, you can take a COVID rapid antigen test at home by yourself and receive results within 15-30 minutes.
The speed and convenience that COVID antigen tests provide often make them the preferred method of COVID testing. That’s why we here at eMed Digital Healthcare, provide you, the customer, with rapid antigen COVID tests.
How to Read COVID Test Results
eMed combines the most innovative and cost-effective at-home rapid antigen test kits with the largest real-time network of licensed clinicians and telehealth proctors. Therefore, we not only provide you with at-home rapid antigen COVID test kits, but our telehealth proctors also guide you through the COVID testing process, from the moment that you first open the eMed at-home COVID telehealth kit to the moment that you receive your positive or negative test results.
Having telehealth proctors guiding you through the COVID testing process helps ensure that you supply good and useful testing samples. Telehealth proctors also make it easier for you to understand your COVID test results. Still, to ensure complete testing accuracy, it’s important for you to personally know how to read COVID test results.
How to Tell if Your eMed Rapid Antigen Home COVID Test is Positive
When the time comes for you to determine if the results of your eMed rapid antigen home COVID test is positive or negative, our telehealth proctors will ask you to verify the number of pink lines that you see on the test card from the kit.
If you see a pink or purple line next to “control” on your COVID testing card and a pink or purple line (even if it is faint) by where it says “sample” on your COVID testing card, then you’ve tested positive for COVID. After receiving positive COVID test results, you should take the proper measures to minimize spreading the virus.
How to Tell if You Have Negative Test Results
If you see only one singular pink or purple line next to “control” on your COVID testing card, then you have negative test results. Therefore, you are free to socialize with others.
How to Tell If You Have an Invalid COVID Test
An invalid COVID test result is a COVID test result that is inconclusive. This means that you didn’t give a good COVID testing sample, and, as a result, the test was unable to determine if you had COVID-19 or not.
There are a number of ways that an eMed rapid antigen home COVID test result can show up as invalid. One way is by only one blue line showing up by the word “control” on the COVID testing card. Another way that an eMed rapid antigen home COVID test result can show up as invalid is by no lines appearing on the COVID testing card by where it says “control” or “sample.”
If no line appears on your at-home COVID testing card by the word “control,” but one pink or purple line still appears on your COVID testing card next to “sample,” your COVID test results are invalid. eMed at-home COVID tests with testing cards that appear as one blue line by the word “control” and one pink or purple line by the word “sample” are also invalid.
What to Do If You Test Positive for COVID
As previously stated, if you test positive for COVID, you should take the proper measures to minimize spreading the virus to others. This means isolating yourself for a designated period of time and wearing a mask for at least 10 days.
How Long Should I Quarantine After Testing Positive for COVID?
According to the CDC, if your COVID symptoms are mild or asymptomatic, you now only have to isolate yourself for five days. These five days of isolation should occur either after you first notice COVID symptoms or after your first positive COVID test.
If you test positive for COVID with mild or no symptoms but then develop more severe symptoms within 10 days of testing positive, you should begin a new five-day isolation period, even if you’ve already been isolated for five days.
Is COVID Still Contagious After 5 Days?
While CDC guidelines now only require you to isolate for five days if your COVID symptoms are mild or asymptomatic, you may likely still be contagious after 5 days. Therefore, how long you should isolate yourself after contracting the coronavirus truly depends on the severity of your COVID symptoms and the health of your immune system.
What Should I Do If I Test Positive for COVID While Traveling?
Before you travel, you should make sure that you test negative for COVID as close to your departure date as possible. You should also check your destination’s traveling requirements prior to traveling from the United States. This is because other countries may have their own traveling entry and exit requirements.
If you test positive for COVID while traveling within the country, you should continue to abide by the CDC isolation guidelines. You should also make sure to abide by any local laws when it comes to wearing masks.
If you test positive for the coronavirus while traveling internationally, you should look up the isolation and mask-wearing standards and guidelines in the places that you are traveling to. You should then make the preparations to follow such guidelines and standards. Unfortunately, this sometimes even means postponing the day that you arrive back home.
If you contract COVID while traveling internationally, you should go to local urgent care facilities where you are at. That way, you can receive care and any medications that you might need.
It’s helpful to identify clinics and hospitals in advance of a vacation. Having extra eMed rapid antigen home COVID tests on hand when traveling is also advised.
Just in case, you should even make sure that you know how to read COVID test results prior to traveling. Non-U.S. immigrants and Non-U.S. citizens must show proof of being fully vaccinated prior to boarding flights to the United States.
If COVID Test Is Positive, Am I Still Contagious?
If you test positive for COVID, you’ll likely be contagious for around 10 days. Therefore the CDC recommends that individuals with COVID isolate for five days and then continue to wear masks for 10 days.
While the CDC now recommends quarantining for only five days after testing positive for COVID, it’s important to remember that there is no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to how long you will remain contagious after testing positive for the coronavirus. This is especially true since the severity of people’s symptoms and viral load for the coronavirus varies.
Viral load is the amount of a virus that is detected in your body. In the case of the eMed rapid antigen home test, viral load is the amount of the coronavirus that the COVID antigen test detects from the nasal swab sample that you provide.
If your viral load for the coronavirus that is detected by your at-home antigen test is low enough, you can test negative for COVID while still having some of the virus’s symptoms. It’s also possible for you to test positive for COVID while being asymptomatic, if you have a high enough viral load.
Testing positive on a rapid antigen test means that you have enough virus to infect those around you and should follow CDC guidelines.This includes isolating oneself for at least five days and wearing a face mask for at least 10 days after testing positive for the virus. Repeat testing can help you decide how long you should isolate to avoid infecting others.
If you test negative for COVID but have symptoms, you should also consider other respiratory illnesses such as the flu. Testing for many types of infections can provide better insight into what is causing your symptoms and get you to the treatment and care you need.
Studies on How Long People With COVID Stay Contagious
While the CDC now only requires individuals who test positive for COVID to isolate themselves for five days, many people are actually hitting their peak of infectiousness around day five. Earlier this year, eMed’s Chief Science Officer Michael Mina, MD, co-authored a study that showed almost 50% of people were still infectious with COVID after five days of isolation. Check out the study here: High Rates of Rapid Antigen Test Positivity After 5 days of Isolation for COVID-19.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Massachusetts, in collaboration with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), also completed a study on the length of time someone can be contagious with COVID. Between 75% and 90% of people still test positive on a rapid antigen test on day five. That means, even if you feel better, you could be a risk to others. Check out the study here: Finding a Needle in the Haystack: Design and Implementation of a Digital Site-less Clinical Study of Serial Rapid Antigen Testing to Identify Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection.
What to Do If You Test Negative for COVID
If you receive negative COVID test results when utilizing the eMed rapid antigen home COVID test, then you don’t have COVID. If you receive negative rapid antigen home COVID test results but still feel sick, continue to take caution, as you may have a respiratory illness such as the flu and still need testing and medication.
Even if you receive negative test results for COVID, it’s important to remember that the pandemic is not over. Therefore, get vaccinated and continue testing for COVID regularly. This is especially true when traveling or planning to visit family members or friends that are at high risk.
Test for COVID Regularly with the eMed Rapid Antigen Home Test
By regularly taking COVID tests and understanding your COVID status prior to traveling and interacting with family members and friends who are at high risk, you’re protecting your loved ones. Understanding your COVID status is also doing your part to one day end the pandemic.
eMed Digital Healthcare provides individuals with rapid antigen COVID tests. Learn more here.