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How the State Counts At-Home COVID Tests

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As the omicron variant spreads across the country, the federal government is shipping four free at-home tests for every household that requests them. That means a lot more people will be testing on their own.

“The biggest issue is for people to know if they’re positive or not positive,” said Dr. Jennifer Morse, medical director for District Health Department #10 and the Central Michigan District Health Department.

Lines are long, appointments are filling up. It’s harder to get a COVID test done by a nurse or doctor so at-home tests are the new strategy. But how does the state count cases that are done at home?

The short answer? They don’t.

“We’re getting to a point where knowing the total counts are not really as critical as people knowing what to do with themselves,” said Morse.

At- home tests are antigen tests and, even when done in clinics, only count as probable cases and not the hard positives we see the state report. So these tests are less a way to count and more a sign you need to quarantine.

“The first day of your symptoms, if you have symptoms, or if you don’t have symptoms, the day you did your test is Day Zero,” said Morse, “You’re going to stay home for at least five days. If you feel better, then you can leave your home after Day Five. You’ll just want to wear a mask at all times when you’re out in public.”

That is to aggressively mask up into Day Ten. Morse says you should be masking at all times right now anyway but specifically if positive. She also said there should be faith in the at-home accuracy, as long as you do it correctly.

“The tests are pretty much the same as what you would get done in a doctor’s office,” said Morse, “The biggest thing is doing them correctly so make sure you read your directions thoroughly before you do anything, make sure you understand it and make sure you do the test exactly as directed.”

If you have any questions about using an at-home test, you can call 211 or the state COVID test hotline at 866-806-3447.