I received a text message from a family friend who was recently tested in a community outside of Pittsburgh and wanted to know what the results mean and I suspect that there are many people out there who are either being tested, have been tested or are thinking about being tested and want to know exactly what the results actually mean.
So now I’ve gone through the process. I’ve had my test, I’ve stayed isolated while waiting for the results and now I get the call and I need to know just what to do with the results. Well, if I’m sick – meaning I had symptoms and my test was positive – it means that your symptoms were almost certainly due to COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus.) If you’re young and healthy and have no symptoms of chest pressure or respiratory distress, you can simply treat your symptoms at home, stay hydrated, and avoid contact with others for at least 14 days. Your results have already been communicated to your local public health officials and they will follow up with you.
If you’re positive and you’re part of a high risk group – you’re over 70 you have complicated preexisting conditions or immune compromised – but you have no symptoms, you can contact your primary care physician and monitor your symptoms closely with them and remain isolated for up to 14 days. If you’re positive, regardless of your risk factors for severe disease, but you’re experiencing breathing difficulty, chest pressure or pain or change in mental status, you should seek medical care promptly.
If you must call 911, please notify the dispatcher of your positive test result and the symptoms you’re experiencing. If you’re coming by private vehicle, as soon as you reach the registration area, you should let them know of your positive test result.
If you’re sick and you have a negative result, then your current symptoms are due to something other than COVID-19 but here’s the catch: because there’s not a lot known about this disease and how it progresses, it could be that your negative test result means that you have early disease, but the test just isn’t detecting the presence of the virus. So even in those cases, it’s best to probably keep yourself self isolated for up to 14 days. You should remain in self isolation for that period of time and it may require repeat testing, particularly if your symptoms get worse.
It’s important to know that it is currently unclear whether or not a COVID-19 positive patient can become reinfected during the same pandemic season. So that’s why it’s important regardless of your test result to practice social distancing. That’s why it’s important to keep your hands clean, to keep them away from your face and to keep the surfaces that you touch with your hands as clean as possible. That’s why it’s important that even after a positive test result and weeks and weeks have passed, if you begin to feel sick again, that you isolate yourself and go through the process all over again because the more we learn about this disease, the more we realize that there are things that we still may need to put into practice that we don’t yet clearly understand.