How to Get Tested for COVID in Mass. and What to Do If You Test Positive

Although COVID testing is widely available across the state, the recent increase in demand has made it a more daunting task

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As the omicron variant surges in Massachusetts, COVID-19 cases have shot past 1 million in the state and the demand for residents to get tested has increased.

Long lines of cars seeking to get tested were seen across New England just days after Christmas, with some reporting waiting in line for hours.

State health officials are encouraging residents to get vaccinated and tested for COVID-19 if they traveled or gathered with family and friends for the holidays.

In an effort to stop the spread of omicron, Massachusetts officials have also adopted the latest isolation and quarantine recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although COVID testing is widely available across the state, the recent increase in demand has made it a more daunting task.

Long lines are leaving many waiting for hours to be tested for COVID-19 Monday.

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Here’s how to get tested for COVID-19 in Massachusetts and what to do if your test comes back positive:

How do I find a COVID testing location in Mass.?

Regardless of vaccination status, all residents are encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 if they develop any symptoms or may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

There are nearly 500 testing locations across the state but wait times have sharply increased at many after the holidays.

Click here to use the state’s portal to find a testing location near you.

The CDC has updated its guidance for isolation and quarantine periods, but a UMass Dartmouth professor questions why that time frame should not end with a negative test result.

What to do if I test positive for COVID-19?

The Baker administration on Tuesday adopted the CDC’s latest federal isolation guidelines for people infected with COVID.

For those who test positive, regardless of vaccination status, both the CDC and Massachusetts health officials recommend that you:

  • Stay home for 5 days.
  • Continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days.
  • If you have no symptoms or your symptoms are resolving after 5 days, you can leave your house.
  • If you have a fever, continue to stay home until your fever resolves.

Click here for more information on isolation guidelines.

Do rapid tests detect the omicron variant?

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that antigen tests -- the rapid ones you can take at home -- may be less sensitive at detecting omicron.

"We do know the antigen tests may not perform as well as it had for prior variants, the alpha and the delta, but it's still picking up quite a bit of infection," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on the TODAY show Wednesday.

Dr. Emily Hyle, who works in infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that if you have symptoms consistent with COVID you should still test, and that the rapid tests can be very useful to do at home.

"I think a high degree of vigilance and recognizing that one negative test may not actually be truly negative is a really important message for people right now," Hyle said.

She added that rapid tests are very good at telling you how contagious you are -- sometimes you can have symptoms but not be contagious.

"The antigen tests ... have been tracking very well when someone is infectious with others. They tell you when you're most likely to actually be transmitting to others," she said.

The FDA did not say people should avoid using rapid tests, and if you have symptoms and you're rapid comes back negative, they recommend to do a PCR test -- the one that takes a day or two to return results -- as well.

"I think the issue is that, if the rapid test is negative but you still have symptoms that are very consistent with COVID or you know you were in close contact with someone, you should continue to assume that you do have COVID despite that negative rapid antigen test," Hyle said.

at-home test results aren't being accounted for in the latest recorded case counts, potentially obscuring local health departments' full understanding of infection rates.
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