COVID-19 Home Testing and Next Steps

Taking an at-home COVID-19 test can lead to several different choices, depending on whether you have symptoms. We answer your questions and give the latest guidance.

Jan. 19, 2022 5   min read

There are many different situations that lead people to take an at-home COVID-19 test. But what do you do after you take the test? Depending on the test result, you might be steered in a number of different directions.

With the current surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, anyone who takes an at-home COVID-19 test and gets a positive result should consider themselves positive. There is no need to go to an urgent care or emergency department get a PCR test for additional confirmation.

Answers about what to do next may be hard to figure out on your own. Our experts at Rochester Regional Health took some of the questions they hear the most often and explain what to do in each case.

When should I take a test?

At-home tests offer fast and reliable results and are one of several options for testing for COVID-19. You may want to take a test if you are:

  • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
  • Exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19
    • If you have no symptoms, test 5 days after the date of your exposure
    • If you have symptoms, test immediately
  • In need of a negative COVID-19 test result for non-medical reasons

I took an at-home COVID-19 test and…

…I’m negative and don’t have any symptoms

If you were exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, continue to monitor yourself for symptoms for the next 5 days. If you are fully vaccinated and have received your COVID-19 booster shot, as long as you do not develop symptoms within that time period, you should be in the clear.

If you are not fully vaccinated or unvaccinated, quarantine for 5 days, then test yourself again on the 5th day. If you are positive, report your result to your local public health department. If you are negative, you can go out in public again but wear a well-fitting mask around others for 5 more days.

…I’m negative but still have symptoms

Regardless of your vaccination status, call your primary care provider and ask their advice what you should do next.

I’m positive and don’t have symptoms

Isolate yourself, contact your local public health department, and continue to monitor for symptoms for the next 5 days, and call your primary care provider if you develop symptoms. If you do not develop symptoms within those 5 days, you are in the clear.

…I’m positive and have symptoms

There is no need to schedule a PCR test to confirm the positive test result. A positive result from an at-home COVID-19 test can be trusted.

Isolate yourself. After reporting your positive test result to your local public health department, you need to monitor your symptoms. If they stay mild, continue to isolate and monitor. If your symptoms worsen to where they are a concern, you can call your doctor for advice on how to handle your symptoms.

If your employer requires a PCR test, call a pharmacy or schedule an appointment with a testing site run by your local public health department. Monroe County has sites available for rapid testing daily; New York State Department of Health has an online search tool to find a site near you.

How accurate are at-home COVID-19 tests?

A positive result on an at-home COVID-19 test is highly likely to be accurate - especially if you are symptomatic. The rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 in the United States and the number of positive COVID-19 cases resulting from it are the reasons for this.

The FDA has given emergency use authorization for 12 at-home COVID-19 testing kits. Many of these kits are sold at pharmacies and retail locations such as CVS, Walgreens, Wegmans, and Kinney Drugs. Some local public health departments and municipalities are distributing kits to residents at no cost.

Who should I tell about my positive COVID-19 test?

If your at-home COVID-19 test comes back positive, you should report the test to your county’s health department so they can provide an isolation order to you. As of January 11, 2022, New York is no longer conducting contact tracing for individuals who report themselves as positive for COVID-19.

Visit your county’s website for self-reporting COVID-19 test forms:

If you are symptomatic with a positive at-home COVID-19 test, as long as your symptoms are mild, there is no need to contact your primary care provider. If your symptoms worsen, contact your primary care provider.

If you are asymptomatic with a positive at-home COVID-19 test, you do not need to contact your primary care provider at this time.

I need an at-home COVID-19 test kit. Where can I get one?

A variety of at-home testing kits can be found at most pharmacies. Some public health departments are distributing some COVID-19 test kits at no cost; contact your local public health department to see if they are offering these kits.

For primary care patients of Rochester Regional Health or GRIPA, your primary care provider can refer you to a drive-thru rapid test distribution site. This site is not currently open to the public; patients must first be assessed by their providers’ office via telehealth, telephone, or in-person, AND patients must have a referral from their doctor.


Stay informed about the latest guidelines for getting a COVID-19 test, whether at home, a pharmacy, or a Rochester Regional Health office or location.

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