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In-Depth: When to get a COVID-19 test and what to trust

Posted at 5:55 PM, Feb 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-07 20:07:38-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Here are some basic things to know about COVID-19 tests.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at-home rapid tests are useful, but they need to be understood for what they can and can’t tell you.

You can trust a positive result. That means the test detected the virus.

If you are symptomatic, then don’t trust a negative result as conclusive. "Negative" with rapid tests means antigens were not detected. Antigens are created after an infection takes hold, so the test is less likely to pick up an early case of COVID.

READ: Utah pausing use of rapid tests at state-run sites after apparent false-negatives

Dr. Leisha Nolen, Utah's state epidemiologist, says you should isolate at home for five days if you are sick with COVID-like symptoms, but you don’t necessarily need a test unless you have another reason. For example, your employer might require a test result.

“We are encouraging companies and organizations to recognize that not everybody should get a test,” said Nolen.

Full in-depth interview with state epidemiologist Dr. Leisha Nolen:

The Utah Department of Health suggests a number of reasons to get tested:

  • You have a significant underlying condition
  • You are going to visit someone vulnerable
  • You have been sick but are getting better and want to confirm you are negative
  • You are traveling somewhere requiring a negative test
  • You are elderly
  • You work with vulnerable populations, such as:
    • Health care workers
    • Long-term care facility employees
    • Congregate settings including prisons and homeless shelters