When to get tested for COVID-19 as omicron variant spreads

File photo. (AP Photo/Mark Baker, File) (Mark Baker, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

If you’re experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with the virus, the CDC said you should get tested. But, what if you can’t get access to a test right away due to the high demand?

“You should assume you are positive and take adequate steps accordingly, and that is to isolate and quarantine until you can get access to a test and know that it is negative,” said Dr. Neha Vyas, family medicine physician for Cleveland Clinic.

Vyas said if you have the option to choose what kind of COVID-19 test to take, she recommends getting the PCR test. It is considered the gold standard and the most reliable.

Rapid tests, like the ones you take at home, can sometimes come back with a false negative. So, if you aren’t feeling well but the test said you are negative, you should test again with a PCR test.

However, Vyas said if the rapid test comes back positive, it’s usually right.

She knows it can be frustrating to wait for a test but said that information is necessary to document.

“It’s helpful to know your COVID status for contact tracing, especially if you have been around people who are unable to get the vaccine because of their own immunocompromised state or medical issues,” she said. “When we know who has COVID and who their contacts are, we can help understand and potentially curb the spread of the illness.”

As the Omicron variant continues to spread, Vyas emphasizes the importance of getting vaccinated and also getting your booster shot. She said that’s going to be your best form of protection.