Asymptomatic Coronavirus Testing Remains Elusive. OH Really?
As coronavirus case numbers continue to surge, our OH Really? team has received a number of questions about testing: when, where, and how to get a COVID-19 test. Summit County Public Health Commissioner Donna Skoda weighs in on what to do if you think you’ve been exposed but do not have symptoms.
DONNA SKODA: First off, if you have been exposed and you know you have, you should immediately start to quarantine on your own and stay away from other people, your family members, or whomever else you may live with.
Testing is still in very short supply, so if you're asymptomatic you should probably not even try to get a test.
Testing is still in very short supply, so if you're asymptomatic you should probably not even try to get a test. Getting a test will not get you out of quarantine. It could be up to 14 days when you will finally have COVID symptoms and you'll have enough of a viral load to test positive.
Now, if you're an essential worker -- in the grocery business, construction, manufacturing, healthcare -- you are allowed to work as long as you're asymptomatic. But you have to wear the appropriate PPE.
If you feel as though you have underlying health conditions and you're extremely concerned, I would reach out to your medical provider: a physician, nurse practitioner, whomever that might be. Tell them your exposure. Then, I would wait at least five or six days to see how much of a viral load you're going to build, and then get that test.
KABIR BHATIA: What if you do suddenly have cold and flu-like symptoms?
SKODA: You have a much better chance of getting a test if you are symptomatic. The problem with this is that COVID mirrors cold, cough, any kind of allergies -- you don't really know. You could just have a headache because you have a headache. So, we really want people -- when they start to see any symptoms or feel different at all -- to stay home, quarantine, and talk to their medical provider.
BHATIA: So, what if you get a test on day five or six after an exposure, and you've built up a viral load, should people circle back with their physician around day 10 or day 14?
SKODA: If you are positive and if you get symptoms and you got a test, then you have to stay home until you get your results. Because if not, you're just going to be out spreading it more and more.
If you do not develop symptoms after the 14th day, you are free to go about your business. There is quite a bit of literature that says you probably aren't contagious beyond those 14 days. You'll still test positive, but you probably are not contagious.
You're most contagious those one and two days before your symptoms develop. So with that said, I would tell you to wait. You know you've been exposed, try to get a test set up for five or six days out. Have your test. If it's negative, you still need to stay home for the 14 days.
You're most contagious those one and two days before your symptoms develop.
BHATIA: When it comes to the lack of testing and the limited supply of tests, is it getting to the point where -- and I hate to use this term -- the "haves" and "have nots" might be fighting over tests? Or that some people might get access due to their status? What are your thoughts on that?
SKODA: I think the testing remains a problem because of lab capacity and because of the actual ability to run the test. We have plenty of test kits now. There's a lot of different kinds of testing available now that I think is confusing folks. But I have to say, to my knowledge it is not really an issue of socioeconomics. It's more symptom-based analysis as to whether or not you get a test.
I'm not sure if the drug store chains -- I know if you just call and say you have symptoms -- then I think they would [test you]. It's not been that 'I have access to a physician, so I got a test.'
If you're looking for a COVID-19 test, a pop-up test center will be at the Trumbull Plaza (2485 Parkman Rd. NW) in Warren today from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
More information is at our Coronavirus 411 page. And you can ask your question for OH Really? below: