Test Positive with COVID? How to Respond

Photo by Mary O’KEEFE
Several testing sites in the area can be found that administer a PCR test, known as the “gold standard” in the medical field.


“We certainly have seen an uptick in patients presenting to the Emergency Department,” said Jessica Thomas, RN at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital. “We are seeing about 10% to 14% of those folks testing positive for COVID-19.”

Thomas said USC-VHH has seen a lot of patients in the Emergency Department (ED) with respiratory complaints and have seen a “rather dramatic” increase in pediatric patients. Aside from COVID-19 patients, others have come in with symptoms relating to influenza A, rhinoviruses and other respiratory issues.

A common cold that is making the rounds has been described by a local parent of a toddler as “one of the scariest colds you will get” because you aren’t certain if it is a cold or COVID-19.

“Yes, [patients] are sick and not feeling well and, of course, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘Oh, my goodness – I have COVID,’” Thomas said.

That uncertainty is why so many patients are coming into the ED for COVID testing, or even asking for treatment regardless whether or not they have COVID. These are called by some the “worried well.”

Those were the majority of patients who came a few weeks ago to the ED; they were either asymptomatic and just worried or had mild symptoms. However, that was then and this is now.

“We were seeing more patients who were concerned about their exposure or concerned about having COVID,” Thomas said.

They were coming in for reassurance.

“But those [numbers] have been rising. Just in the last couple of days we have seen the positivity rates increasing and so we expect, unfortunately, it will get worse,” Thomas said.

Many are coping with family, friends and co-workers who have tested positive for COVID. So when should you get tested and how long should you isolate?

“If you are fully vaccinated and boosted then you want to isolate for the first three to five days and then get tested. That is usually when people get infected,” said Dr. Kimberly Shriner, infectious disease specialist with Huntington Hospital.

There is some data that shows the antigen/rapid test, like the at-home test available for purchase (and very difficult to find at local stores), may not detect the omicron variant as successfully as they did the delta variant. However, they still do have a degree of success and are still useful.

“Rapid tests can be helpful especially if the [individual] is symptomatic,” Shriner said. “What they are not good at is picking up asymptomatic people. So you can have a negative rapid test but are still infecting others.”

The best test is the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) – known by many in the medical industry as the “gold standard” – which is usually administered at a testing site or medical facility but results may take longer to receive.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday shortened the amount of time that omicron positive people should isolate and quarantine. People who have tested positive should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic at that time, need to follow up with wearing a mask around others for five days.

People who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are unvaccinated or it is more than six months since their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or it is more than two months since the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, should quarantine for five days followed by strict mask use for an additional five days. People who have received their vaccine booster do not need to quarantine following an exposure but should wear a mask for 10 days after exposure.

And wear a more protective facemask, either KN95 or N95 [NIOSH certified], Shriner added, not just a cloth facemask.