As the demand for coronavirus tests soars amid a surge in cases, many people are turning to at-home test kits to avoid long lines at testing sites or visits to a health care provider.

It’s why the Washington State Department of Health is reminding the public the importance of using the right type of tests and seeking care and self-isolating if a person tests positive.

Demand for coronavirus tests soars in Seattle amid increased travel, concerns about delta variant

And to help combat the spread of the virus, it’s crucial to report positive results to the state. DOH announced Tuesday that residents can now report their positive results from an at-home test through the state’s COVID-19 hotline.

Here’s what you need to know before taking a self-test.

What types are there?

At-home testing kits are available either through prescription or over the counter at pharmacies and retail stores. The main types to detect coronavirus infections are molecular and antigen tests.

While molecular tests can take longer, they are the most accurate tests available, according to DOH.

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Over-the-counter tests are generally antigen tests, DOH said, and can be less accurate than molecular tests in some circumstances. While most accurate for those with symptoms, these tests can still produce false-positive or false-negative results.

Those who use an antigen test are advised to seek a molecular test to confirm results.

What to do if you test positive

People who test positive should remain in isolation for 10 days, even if they are asymptomatic.

This includes isolating from other people and pets in the same household, not sharing household items and wearing a mask around others. Individuals should also notify people they’ve recently interacted with.

DOH encourages people to let their health care provider know they tested positive and discuss taking a second test either at a public testing site or using another at-home testing kit. Those without a health care provider can call the Care Connect Hotline at 833-453-0336 for assistance.

Positive test results should be reported to the state’s COVID-19 hotline at 800-525-0127. The hotline is open Mondays from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Tuesdays through Sundays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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What to do if you test negative

A negative result for those with symptoms but who properly followed all test instructions likely means their current illness is not COVID-19.

But it is possible the result is a false negative. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you go to a public testing site or to a health care provider for an additional test.

People who are vaccinated and have had no exposure to someone with COVID-19 within the last two weeks may not need an additional test because of their low probability of contracting the virus, DOH said.

For those who aren’t vaccinated but have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and tested negative, DOH recommends isolating for 14 days.

What about invalid or error results?

Though an inconclusive test is rare, it can happen. A specimen may not have been collected correctly or the testing kit may have malfunctioned.

If a test shows an invalid result or an error, either contact the manufacturer for assistance or head to a public testing site or health care provider.

More on the COVID-19 pandemic

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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