Midland’s health director offers advice on how best to use COVID home testing

With community transmission rates dropping and the prospect of more at-home COVID tests becoming available, things are looking up according to Midland County Public Health Department Medical Director Cathy Bodnar.

During his State of the Union address on March 1, President Joe Biden announced that citizens could order a second batch of free COVID-19 tests. Starting this week, residents can order a set of four rapid antigen tests that can be administered at home.

“Home testing is very helpful in many ways,” she said.

Bodnar offered the following advice on what to do after receiving home COVID test results. The tests can be used if someone has symptoms of COVID-19, has been in close contact with someone infected with the virus, or is planning to travel or has returned from a recent trip. The full table can be viewed on the Midland County Health Department website.

If the test result is positive and you have symptoms or have been in close contact, self-isolate at home for at least five days and wear a mask in public for 10 days, regardless of vaccination status. If the test is positive and you have not been in close contact, isolate yourself at home for five days and confirm the result with a PCR test if possible; additionally, self-isolate for at least five days and wear a mask in public for 10 days.

If the test shows a negative result and you are up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations, actions differ depending on the presence (or absence) of symptoms. If you have symptoms, take a PCR test or other home test within 48 hours; self-isolate while waiting. If you are a close contact without symptoms, test on the fifth day after exposure and wear a mask around others for 10 days. No follow-up is necessary if you are not a close contact or have no symptoms.

If the test comes back negative, you have symptoms, and you are not up to date on COVID vaccinations, do a PCR test or another home test within 48 hours and isolate yourself at home. If you are a close contact without symptoms, self-quarantine for five days and wear a mask around others for 6-10 days after exposure. Follow-up is not necessary if you are not a close contact or have no symptoms.

It’s important to follow isolation and quarantine guidelines, Bodnar said. The key is knowing when you might have possibly been exposed; the best time to test is on the fifth day after exposure.

“People have to take it upon themselves to tell their close contacts,” Bodnar said.

Masks continue to be an influential tool to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Late last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its mask guidelines based on COVID community levels. In areas with low COVID community levels — including Midland, Gladwin, Isabella and Saginaw counties — individuals can wear a mask based on personal preference, informed by their personal risk level.

In areas with average community levels of COVID, people who are immunocompromised or at high risk of severe illness are encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider about wearing masks in public. Bodnar added that those at high risk should speak to their primary care physician to find out if they are eligible to receive monoclonal antibodies.

Bodnar explained that the importance of masks has changed since the start of the pandemic. At first they were worn to protect others. Now, higher quality masks, including N95s and KN95s, offer some protection to the wearer. In the event that higher quality masks are not available, the best thing to do would be to wear a cloth mask over a medical mask for better protection, according to Bodnar.

With spring break coming up and families traveling more, Bodnar said it would be wise for residents to wear masks in public to reduce their risk of contracting COVID. Upon returning home, travelers should be aware of any symptoms.

“Don’t decide it’s just another respiratory disease,” Bodnar said. “That’s when we want to do tests and differentiate between symptoms.”

Bodnar hopes the downward trend continues in cases and positivity rates, saying the county has moved from the response phase of the COVID-19 cycle — characterized by increased masking and testing during a surge — to recovery. , which takes place after a push . The goal now is to get as many people vaccinated as possible, so the community is ready for the next surge. Now is the best time to get a boost, if you’re not already up to date on vaccinations, Bodnar said, adding that there’s evidence that being up to date on vaccines helps reduce the risk of serious hospitalizations and deaths.

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