Traveling? Home COVID-19 test kits may not be enough

News Photo by Julie Riddle Tracie Schaedig, receptionist at the Thunder Bay Community Health Service location in Rogers City, delivers a COVID-19 test kit outside the health center on Monday.

ALPENA — Residents who’ve had COVID-19 and want to get on an airplane or into a concert may need to prove that infection happened long enough ago that they’ve had time to recover — and home test kits don’t provide that detail, health officials warn.

Getting an official test at a clinic or pharmacy will say when the test was taken and can help residents prove their infection happened before recommended quarantine timeframes, officials say. COVID-19 tests can show positive results even after residents have passed the recommended quarantine time, officials say.

District health officials on Monday reported 29 new COVID-19 infections among Northeast Michigan residents in the past week, fewer than half the 76 newly reported cases the previous week.

Those numbers don’t paint the whole picture, said Cathy Goike, certified health education specialist for the District Health Department No. 4.

About 90% of people detecting COVID-19 recently have done so via at-home tests — and those test results don’t get reported to the public, Goike said.

Residents regularly call District Health Department No. 4’s hotline to report the sickness, like the seven people who had called by 9 a.m. Monday to report they’d tested positive over the weekend.

While health officials appreciate knowing about those positive tests, they can neither report nor verify them — and that can mean frustration for residents down the line, Goike said.

The virus can show up on tests for weeks after an infected person’s required quarantine period has ended. If an airline or entertainment venue demands proof of health, only tests conducted by medical personnel at health clinics or pharmacies will officially verify when someone had the sickness and whether they’ve had time to recover from it, Goike said.

While on-site testing offers an official say-so, at-home tests available from many pharmacies and free from the Health Department or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention can help residents decide what to do if they suspect they may be sick.

The COVID-19 variant currently predominant in Northeast Michigan usually produces mild symptoms, sometimes nothing more than an itchy nose, Goike said.

While the sickness may not lead to a hospital stay, especially for those fully vaccinated, “we still have a lot of vulnerable people out there” who could get very sick or even die if exposed to the virus, Goike cautioned.

Anyone who knows they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 should get tested and use caution in public, even if no symptoms appear, health officials say.

Tests may not detect the virus in an infected person for five days after exposure, but that person could still be contagious, Goike said.

Anyone who tests positive should isolate for five days after a positive test or first symptoms, when they are most contagious. They should wear masks in public for the next five days, when they are less contagious but can still transmit the sickness to others, according to current medical guidance.

Those living with people who have tested positive should do their best to stay separate and monitor themselves carefully for symptoms. Those without symptoms can continue their daily routines but should consider masking and stay at least six feet from others, especially around those in high-risk populations.

Those exposed should test three to seven days after exposure or if symptoms develop.

Links to order free at-home tests, find free testing sites, and learn other COVID-19-related information can be found at covid.gov/tests.

Northeast Michigan public health officials reported three Northeast Michiganders who died in the past month after getting infected with the coronavirus.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693 or jriddle@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jriddleX.

Where to test

∫ Alcona Health Center: Same-day rapid testing and send-out testing appointments open to the community at the Acute Care Clinic on U.S.-23 in Alpena. Phone 989-356-4049 for appointment. Will send at-home tests to those with an order from a different provider or health care facility; any resident can pick up at-home test kits at locations in Alpena, Ossineke, and Lincoln.

∫ Thunder Bay Community Health Service: Same-day rapid testing and send-out testing appointments open to patients. Phone 989-742-4583 for appointment. Any resident can pick up at-home test kits at locations in Rogers City, Atlanta, and Onaway.

∫ Pharmacies: In Alpena, schedule COVID-19 tests at Meijer, Walgreens, and Rite Aid pharmacies by visiting the companies’ websites or at LeFave Pharmacy by calling 989-354-3189.

Free at-home tests are available from District Health Department No. 4 locations in Alpena, Atlanta, and Rogers City.

What if I test negative?

∫ A negative at-home test result means that the test did not find the virus, and you may have a lower risk of spreading COVID-19 to others. Check your test kit’s instructions for specific next steps. If you test negative, you should test again within a few days with at least 24 hours between tests.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When to test

Take an at-home test:

∫ If you begin having COVID-19 symptoms like fever, sore throat, runny nose, or loss of taste or smell, or

∫ At least 5 days after you come into close contact with someone with COVID-19, or

∫ When you’re going to gather with a group of people, especially those who are at risk of severe disease or may not be up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines.

What if I test positive?

∫ A positive at-home test result means that the test found the virus, and you very likely have COVID-19.

∫ Stay home for at least 5 days and isolate from others in your home.

∫ If you test positive and have a weakened immune system or other health conditions, talk to a doctor as soon as possible about available treatment options.

∫ Contact your doctor for information about an oral medication available in some cases for the treatment of COVID-19.


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