What should I do while waiting for my test result?

Stay in isolation until your test has been completed and its result is final. Read below for actions following Negative and Positive results.

Do not go to any public place or business during this time.


Are my test results confidential?

COVID19 Viral Detection tests results are reported to the South Central Public Health District. Otherwise, this information is confidential. We do not send results to anyone other than the public health department.  If your test is positive and you wish to provide the name of your primary care physician, then we will inform your physician. 



What do I do if my COVID19 Viral Detection test is NEGATIVE?

A negative test does not rule out COVID19 infection, but a positive result confirms one.


A Negative Test is NOT a “Hall Pass”; it does not change personal responsibility to follow CDC self-isolation guidelines if you had an exposure.  

A Positive test allows you to “Pay It Forward” by alerting people who have been in contact with you starting 2 days before your symptoms or before your positive test result, if you had no symptoms, and enabling your “downstream” direct contacts to protect others.


If you tested because of symptoms:

Even if your COVID19 test is negative, you should still self-quarantine until your symptoms resolve.

Most viral infections are infectious to other people starting 2 days before symptoms appear and lasting 10 days afterward. COVID19 is like that, as well.

  • False negative rates are higher on Day 1-2 of symptoms than on Day 3 through Day 5 (Day 3-5 after symptoms is a better time to test.
  • **The First Day of Symptoms = Day 0 (zero)**


If you tested because of an upcoming procedure:

You are responsible for sending your test result to the medical center where the procedure will take place. 


If you tested because of a close contact exposure:

Someone with a direct close contact to a known COVID19 case (within 6 feet with a mask for a cumulative 15 min over 24hrs or ~2+ minutes without a mask) requires a self-isolation lasting 10 days.   A negative test at 7-8 days makes it fairly safe to end isolation then, but not earlier.

**The Day of Exposure – Day 0 (zero)**


A negative viral detection test  does not eliminate the need for masking, social distancing, and quarantining as appropriate per the recommendations of the CDC and local health authorities.

  • False negative rates are highest on Day 1 to Day 5.5 after exposure. (Testing on Day 6-8 is the earliest right time to test following exposure). (Day of exposure is Day 0)


CDC Guidelines changed December 2020 (regarding Quarantine after Direct Contact Exposure):

For people with an exposure and no symptoms, the Day of Exposure is Day 0.

CDC has changed the recommended duration of quarantine to 10 days.

If a nucleic acid test (like the one used by COVID Outreach Wood River) is negative on Day 7-8, then CDC says it is reasonably safe to end quarantine but to continue to socially distance and wear a mask around others. However, please know that you still carry a risk of infecting others through Day 14.

After Day 10 after exposure, if you never had any symptoms and had no testing, your risk of being infectious is 1-10%.  If you have a negative viral detection test at Day 7, your risk of being infectious is 5-12%.  CDC guidelines suggest it is reasonably safe to end quarantine after day 7 (the day of exposure was Day 0) if a viral detection test is negative, and you have NO SYMPTOMS.  You must still wear a mask and distance from others at least through Day 14.

Link to CDC Article and Graph Above 




What do I do if my COVID19 Viral Detection test is POSITIVE?

A Negative Test is NOT a “Hall Pass”; it does not change personal responsibility to follow CDC self-isolation guidelines if you had an exposure.  

A Positive test allows you to “Pay It Forward” by alerting people who have been in contact with you starting 2 days before your symptoms or before your positive test result, if you had no symptoms, and enabling your “downstream” direct contacts to protect others.


With symptoms and a positive test, you are at high risk of infecting others so remain in quarantine until ALL of the following are true:



  1. At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first started (20 days if hospitalized)
  2. You have had no fever for at least 24 hours without using fever reducing medication
  3. Overall symptoms are substantially improving.


The CDC still says that someone who is asymptomatic with a positive viral detection nasal test should isolate for 14 days from the date of the positive test.


Note: A follow up test is not required, nor offered, for returning to work, school or other activity. Tests remain positive long after infectiousness has ended.


 Self-Quarantine definition:

    • During the infectious time period, we recommend that you do not leave your house at all.
    • As able, maintain distance from other household members to try to reduce risk of infection to others (different beds, different rooms).
  • Do not go to the grocery store, post office, work, church, gym, or any other location visited by other people even if at different times during the day from when you would be there, even with a mask. The virus SARS-CoV-2 lingers for well over an hour in still indoor air, able to others who walk through that space later.


We want to help you reduce the risk of infecting anyone else and recommend the following.

Contact Tracing: South Central Public Health officials should likely contact you to help identify anyone who might have been exposed to you starting 2 days before your symptoms started or 2 days before your positive test if you did not have symptoms. Please be prepared to list and give contact information for anyone you have had close contact with.

Non-emergent Medical Care: Seek medical care by calling your physician or visiting an urgent care facility if you do not have a physician. Your physician may recommend over the counter or prescription medications for symptom relief. COVID Outreach Wood River is for testing only; it is not a substitute for medical care and does not establish a patient-physician relationship.

Emergency Medical Care: Seek emergency medical care at the ER if experiencing severe shortness of breath, moderate to severe chest pain, no urination for over 12 hours, changes in mental status, or severely worsening symptoms.

Household members: Your other household members are at risk for becoming infected and then infecting others, and their isolation depends on the timing of their exposure to you or anyone else in the household who becomes infected.  They should quarantine for 10 days after the end of your 10 day isolation (possibly earlier if they become symptomatic or have a positive test). For more detailed information, please follow this link to see the  CDC guidelines for quarantine in households

Masks and Windows: Please wear a mask when around anyone in your household, and open windows as able to allow respiratory droplets to disperse.

Surface Cleaning: Clean 2 times per day all hand-touched surfaces including door/cabinet/refrigerator handles, knobs, light switches, counter surfaces, hand-touched devices, and faucets. Use CDC-approved disinfectants and allow surfaces to remain damp over 2 minutes or more.

Frequent hand washing: Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water several times per day. Hand sanitizer is a backup plan if unable to wash with soap and water for 20 seconds.

Not touching your face: Take care to not touch your face with your hands at all. Avoid using contact lenses so as to minimize touching one’s eyes or face.

Hydration: Stay hydrated by drinking enough fluid (3-4 liters of fluids per day is common in otherwise healthy adults) so as to urinate about every 3-4hrs. If you have no urination for >12 hrs, then consider an ER visit for dehydration.

Nutrition: Aim to eat 5-7 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit per day

Rest/Exercise: It is IMPORTANT that you rest correctly and limit exercise intensity to just walking until recovered for 2-3 weeks in a row. This is because of myocarditis (heart muscle cell infection by SARS-CoV-2) in even asymptomatic people, and it can hurt the heart if mixed with exercise.  Discuss your return to exercise with your physician. Expect to experience fatigue, and avoid any level of exercise that causes significant return of fatigue. Gradually expand exercise capacity over 6-8 weeks or more. See JAMA Cardiology Article for “return to exercise diagram.”




Who should NOT test?

  • Testing is not recommended for people with indirect exposure unless the close contact subsequently tests positive or develops symptoms
    • “Indirect” means being exposed to a close contact of an infected person and not being directly exposed to the infected person
  • Testing is not recommended for people who have previously tested positive within the past 3 months
  • Testing is not recommended, nor offered, for return to work, school or other activity after a positive test. (See What do I do if my COVID19 Viral Detection test is positive?)



What are the testing priorities, and what are the strategies to reduce false negative rates?

  1. First Priority: Asymptomatic “close contact” to a person with known COVID19 infection
    • within 6 feet for 15 minutes with a mask; or
    • within 6 feet for more than a few minutes without a mask
    • Test on Day 6-8 after close contact exposure
  2. Second Priority:
    • Exposures in communal living facilities such as:
      • Long-term care facilities, correctional and detention facilities, homeless or domestic violence shelters, or group homes in which there has recently been a known COVID19 infection.
  3. Third Priority: Pre-procedural or pre-surgical clearance testing
    • St. Luke’s REQUIRES that their pre-surgical testing be done at St. Luke’s.
    • For upcoming procedures at an outside medical center, refer to their policy and select a testing time accordingly.
  4. Fourth Priority: Symptomatic
    • Symptoms include any of the following: fever or chills, cough, congestion, runny nose, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, body aches, fatigue, headache, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
    • Symptom-based testing is available at St. Luke’s via the MyChart app, at Sterling Urgent Care, and at private clinicians’ offices
    • Test on Day 2-3 after symptom onset 
  5. Fifth Priority: Travel-related testing is a lower priority
    • Tests are provided so long as capacity for higher priorities are met
    • Includes visitors/tourists without symptoms or known exposures


May you be well, and protect others.