Updated: Nov 6, 2020
You hear it all the time. COVID-19 testing is critical for reducing the spread of COVID-19. But, when should you seek testing?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control suggests you should talk to your doctor if you have symptoms of COVID-19, have had close contact with someone who has had a confirmed case or if you’ve been asked or referred by your healthcare provider or the health department. Close contact is considered being within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes within a 24-hour period.
The CDC states that not everyone needs to be tested. If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine or isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider.
“Keep in mind, just because you have symptoms doesn’t mean you need a COVID-19 test,” said Dr. Hilsman. “If you have mild symptoms and can self-isolate at home, you may not need a test.” Self- isolation should last for 10 days from onset of symptoms. After that period, you can end self-isolation once 24 hours have passed since your last fever and improvement of symptoms.
But, tests can be helpful, so you can take precautions to avoid passing the virus to others. Talk to your doctor for their recommendations.
Start With Your Doctor
If you meet the criteria for testing, the best place to look into testing is with your doctor.
“Your doctor can guide you on where you should go to be tested,” says Dr. Matthew Hilsman, Wayne UNC Health Care Hospitalist.
In addition to being tested if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or come into close contact with someone who has tested positive, you will need to be tested before a planned medical procedure or surgery. Knowing if a patient has a current COVID-19 infection can help your provider plan accordingly to reduce the spread of the virus to other patients and hospital staff.
If You Have Severe Symptoms
If you have severe symptoms, like difficulty breathing, call 911 or seek immediate treatment. If it is not an emergency, you can seek guidance about treatment by calling your doctor or visiting the emergency room.
“Do not go to a healthcare facility without calling first,” said Dr. Hilsman. “They will ask you screening questions, like whether you have a fever, cough or problems breathing and whether you’ve been in contact with someone with COVID-19.”
While you wait for guidance, it’s critical to stay away from others. If that’s not possible, wear a face mask to protect others and avoid physical contact.
Another resource is UNC Health’s COVID-19 online symptom checker. The interactive checker leads you through a series of questions to determine whether you need medical follow up.
Free Community Testing
Another local option for COVID-19 testing is free community testing, offered by the Wayne County Health Department. The department, in partnership with Wayne UNC Health Care, offers COVID-19 testing, weather permitting, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Wayne County Health Department office at 301 N. Herman St. in Goldsboro.
Pre-registration is recommended to ensure an appointment time, but is not required. Individuals can call the Health Department at 919-731-1000 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday to pre-register. Testing will be conducted in a drive-thru setting but walk-up visitors, or visitors who did not pre-register, will also be accepted.
Testing through the health department is provided regardless of insurance with no cost to the individual.