The prevalence of the Omicron variant has brought with it new challenges and new questions. We understand that many of our patients need information about where and when to get tested for COVID-19, the latest guidance on quarantine and isolation, and much more.
Below are answers to some commonly asked questions about COVID-19.
Testing and Exposures
If you have symptoms, you should get tested. Typically, the best time to test is 2-3 days after your symptoms start. Check the Massachusetts state website for testing options or visit your state’s website for information on testing. You can also use an at-home test (often called antigen tests). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has more information about at-home testing here. Routine COVID-19 testing for people without COVID-19 symptoms is not available in our emergency departments, urgent care locations or primary care offices.
Please visit our COVID-19 Testing page or the state’s website for a list of testing options or consider purchasing an at-home antigen test kit. If you have COVID symptoms, your Primary Care team is ready to provide advice and care. We can also arrange a telehealth visit (online or by phone) or an in-person visit; and based on needs assessed during that visit, we can assist in coordinating a test at the most appropriate site.
BILH Urgent Care locations do not offer COVID-19 testing for people without COVID-19 symptoms or for travel requirements. Please visit the state’s website for a list of testing options, or consider purchasing an at-home testing kit. If you have COVID symptoms, our Urgent Care locations are ready to provide advice and care. We can arrange a visit, and based on needs assessed during that visit, assist in coordinating a test at the most appropriate site.
Massachusetts has many testing options. You can also use an at-home test, if applicable. Primary Care, Urgent Care and the Emergency Departments are not doing onsite routine testing for travel or asymptomatic patients at this time. After exploring all these options if you still need advice or an order for a COVID test, please call your Primary Care team.
If you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, it may be recommended that you get a test. If you develop symptoms, you should get tested.
Guidance around the need for quarantine and testing after an exposure is changing. See the CDC, Massachusetts Department of Public Health or your state’s website for the most up-to-date guidance about quarantine in the community setting. Please note that quarantine guidance is different in the healthcare setting. If you enter a healthcare facility in the 14 days after your diagnosis or a positive COVID-19 test, you may be cared for under precautions or asked to delay a non-urgent visit..
“Close contact” refers to time you spent directly with an infected person. This means you were within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period. The 15 minutes do not need to be at the same time. For example, three separate 5-minute exposures over the course of a day would total a 15-minute exposure. If you were in close contact with an infected person, you should be notified either by the person, by the school, or by the health department, though community contact tracing efforts have recently been reduced.
Isolation is for people who have tested positive for COVID-19. Quarantine is for people who have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. The CDC has more information on isolation and quarantine in the community setting here.
If you tested negative with an at-home test, follow the current guidelines related to quarantine and other testing. If you develop symptoms, you should test again. If your at-home antigen test is negative and you have symptoms, please contact your primary care office for further guidance (please note that at this time, call/email volume is extremely high for related issues, wait times may be longer than expected). You may need to repeat a home test after 24-48 hours or you might be recommended to get a PCR test.
If your antigen test for COVID was negative and you have symptoms, you should repeat the test within 24-48 hours or get a PCR test, which is more accurate. Additionally, flu is now spreading in our community. If you had a negative COVID test but have mild flu-like symptoms, please rest, drink plenty of fluids, monitor your symptoms and try to limit contact with others. If you had a negative COVID test but have moderate symptoms, including fever and body aches or cough, contact a health care provider. They can give you advice on how to care for yourself at home, and determine if you may need a test or treatment.
If You Have COVID-19
If you use a home testing kit and test positive, you have COVID-19. You do not need a PCR test for confirmation. Please start isolation immediately and notify your close contacts of your positive test. This guidance may change over time; please continue to check back.
High-risk conditions for severe COVID-19 include undergoing treatment for cancer, currently taking medications for transplant, or taking immunosuppressant medications for other conditions. Other high-risk conditions, including having chronic lung, kidney, or liver disease; diabetes; HIV; obesity; and age 65 years or older, may pre-dispose you to worse symptoms from COVID-19 or influenza. The CDC has more information here. Your health care providers can help you determine if you are high risk or not.
If you have mild symptoms, stay home and isolate. Mild symptoms include a temperature below 100.4 degrees, aches and pains, or a mild cough. If you have these symptoms, stay at home and isolate for at least five days and until you are fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications for 24 hours, whichever is longer. Rest, drink plenty of fluids and monitor your symptoms. Hopefully you will start feeling better within a few days. You do not need to contact your doctor to let them know you have COVID. After five days, if you meet these criteria, you can leave isolation but continue to mask until 10 days after your symptom onset or first positive test.
If you have moderate symptoms, like a fever (a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees), significant coughing, or shortness of breath, isolate at home and contact your primary care provider’s office. If you are receiving cancer treatment, please call your oncologist’s office.
If your child has a fever (temperature higher than 100.4 degrees), significant coughing, working harder to breathe or shortness of breath, you should call their primary care provider’s office. You should also call if they are sleepier, if they have not gone to the bathroom in more than 10 hours (if 3 years or older) or more than 8 hours (if younger than 3 years old). Your child’s doctor can recommend next steps. If your child is less than one month old and has a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees, your child should be evaluated at an emergency department.
If you don’t have a primary care provider or you have symptoms that need immediate attention, try an urgent care location.
If you have severe symptoms, go to the emergency department. This includes symptoms such as:
- Severe trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or dizziness
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone
If you cannot get to the emergency department, call 9-1-1.
Call your primary care provider’s office if you are at high risk for severe COVID-19. You may be eligible for outpatient COVID treatment. Please note, we have limited availability and supplies for these therapies.
For example, monoclonal antibody therapy (mAB), can help fight the infection. You are eligible if you are at high risk for severe COVID-19 and have either a positive antigen test or PCR test and are within 10 days of starting symptoms. Your primary care team may be able to assist in coordinating this type of treatment. Please note that monoclonal antibody therapy is not administered at your primary care provider’s office and needs to be coordinated at dedicated hospital or state-run sites. Your primary care team does not have direct control over who may receive this treatment on a given day.
High-risk conditions include undergoing treatment for cancer, currently taking medications for transplant, or taking immunosuppressant medications for other conditions. Other high-risk conditions, including having chronic lung, kidney, or liver disease; diabetes; HIV; obesity; and age 65 years or older, may pre-dispose you to worse symptoms from COVID-19 or influenza. The CDC has more information here.
Note that mAB is not available at our urgent care locations or emergency departments. If you are eligible, your primary care provider will refer you to a designated clinic.
Also, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for Pfizer’s Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets) and Merck’s molnupiravir. These are pills that can be used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19.
- Paxlovid is available for adults and children 12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kilograms.
- Molnupiravir is for adults only.
Both are available by prescription only for patients who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Both should be started as soon as possible after the diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of the start of symptoms. We do not yet have this treatment available but anticipate limited quantities soon. Please do not call or message your primary care provider’s office to request these drugs as they are not available right now.