Should You Get Tested For COVID-19?

Senior woman having her blood pressure measured at a doctors office

If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or feel sick, it is probably time to get tested for COVID-19.  The sooner you get tested, the sooner you can begin treatment. And, the sooner you can help protect friends and family from being exposed to you while you are contagious—it really is an act of love.

Fortunately, many COVID-19 testing sites are open throughout Virginia now. COVID-19 testing is free for Virginia Premier health plan members. If your doctor orders a COVID-19 test for you, Virginia Premier will cover the full cost, waiving any co-pays or cost-sharing. And rest assured, we will also cover your care if you are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Who needs a test? You should get tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, if you have had close contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19, if you have taken part in activities that put you at higher risk, or if your healthcare provider asks or refers you to testing.

  • Symptoms include: Fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea. Consider testing if you have any of these symptoms, whether mild or severe.
  • Close contact means: You have been within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.
  • Higher risk activities, where you cannot stay socially distanced from other people, include travel, attending large social or mass gatherings, or being in crowded indoor settings.
  • You may also receive a call from your healthcare provider or the state or local health department asking or referring you to testing. The health department may call to alert you that you’ve been near someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19. Or, your healthcare provider may simply see that you are scheduled for a medical procedure, and they want to be sure you don’t bring COVID-19 with you.

A great first step is the Coronavirus Self-Checker, a free online tool to help you make decisions for yourself or your children, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We tried it out and received personalized recommendations in less than two minutes.

What about children? Kids also need to get tested if they have symptoms, even mild ones – such as a runny nose or sore throat. They should also be tested if they have been involved in higher risk activities like traveling, or if their school/daycare or a hospital requires it. And, like adults, children should get tested if they have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, even if they do not have any symptoms.

If you are taking a child to get tested, remember that you set the tone about how anxious they should get. Stay calm. Convey that the test may feel a little uncomfortable but it won’t hurt. It’s just something that must be done. And, children of all ages are getting the test—even babies.

Also, prepare kids for the protective shields, masks, and gowns that healthcare providers wear, to avoid surprise. Explain that they wear this clothing to stay safe, similar to how people wear cloth masks when they go outside.

If possible, try to get your child tested by someone who tests children regularly (your own pediatrician, ideally). Be prepared to wait – bring crayons and paper, storybooks, games, snacks, water, and whatever else keeps your kids comfortable and entertained.

When should you get tested? Timing depends on whether you have any symptoms. The CDC notes the virus can take anywhere from two to 14 days to incubate. That means, for the first few days, you or your child may have COVID-19, but not feel sick yet or get accurate test results.

Currently, the best advice is to wait at least 5 days after exposure to get tested if you do not have symptoms, but get a COVID-19 test immediately if you do have symptoms.

Your healthcare provider can guide you on timing. While you are waiting to get tested, and again while you are waiting for your results, stay at home (self-quarantine) so that you do not spread the disease if you do have COVID-19.

Who doesn’t need a test? You do not need a test if you have not been near anyone with the virus and if you do not feel any symptoms of COVID-19. The one exception is if you are scheduled to have a procedure in a medical setting, in which case your healthcare provider will provide you with instructions about testing. Keep wearing your mask, washing your hands, and staying at least six feet apart so you continue to avoid COVID-19 exposure.


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