Next steps if you test positive for COVID at home

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Many Americans are now finding out they have COVID-19 through at-home rapid tests.

St. Louis County Public Health Educator Susan Vitulli says if you test positive through that method, your first move should be to start isolating.

"First, I want to say that a positive is a positive. So I think we have a lot of confusion with folks, maybe they get a negative here and a positive there and they don’t know — so just if you get a positive, just assume it’s positive," she said, "and make your best plans from there."

She recommends planning to quarantine for between 5-10 days and not to get hung up on the length but pay close attention to your symptoms.

As far as reporting your result to the state, you can let them know. But right now, there is no good way for public health officials to validate your home test result. At-home COVID positives are not included in the state case counts put out a couple times a week.

"If you just take a home test yourself, other than maybe notifying your employer, there’s not any kind of formal reporting that you have to do," Vitulli said. "You can certainly call MDH, but you don’t have to."

Because of that, she says it’s safe to assume COVID-19 is even more widespread than case totals and positivity averages show.

"It probably is higher than the numbers that are reported because we can’t capture everything," Vitulli said. "But just the numbers alone from the lab-confirmed ones are really high, and that’s enough to just assume that the spread is even bigger than we think."

The Minnesota Department of Health says, "If you are taking a self-test for yourself and not connected to a setting with its own specific testing guidance, you do not need to report the results of the self-test to local or state public health."

Vitulli says the at-home tests work best if you are symptomatic or within a few days of a known positive exposure. And if people can’t find at-home tests, there are still other options around the region, including rapid tests at the DECC and UWS.

She also recommends thinking ahead and making a plan should you need to isolate at home.