Testing protocols are changing regarding COVID-19, particularly as the omicron variant spreads. That’s especially true for travelers.
Along with masks, vaccinations and boosters, tests are crucial to controlling the spread of the virus.
Coleman Cutchins, PharmD and Joe McLaughlin, MD with Alaska’s Dept. of Health and Social Services shared a Zoom call with me yesterday. They answered key questions about testing, travel and what happens if you get COVID-19 on a trip.
Q: For the rapid, at-home antigen tests, is one test enough?
CUTCHINS: Antigen tests have good performance, but sometimes produce a “false negative” result. Taking two tests, 48 hours apart, increases the sensitivity. That’s one reason the rapid tests come in two-packs.
While the tests sometimes produce a false negative, they almost never produce a false positive. If you test positive with the antigen test, believe it!
Q: If you are traveling and you test positive, what’s the best course of action?
McLAUGHLIN: Go into isolation and alert your close contacts. The CDC just released new isolation guidance (shortening it from 10 to five days ). After isolating for five days, those who tested positive should wear a mask around others for an additional five days.
To prevent transmission to others, stay in a separate room, with separate bathroom if possible.
Q: Is it beneficial to travel with rapid tests, including those that come with a tele-health online option? This comes up when traveling internationally and the US requires COVID test within one day of your return flight.
CUTCHINS: I’ve been recommending this since these tests became available. Just make sure you have the right tests that will be accepted at your destination.
McLAUGHLIN: About masks. Fit = filtration. The better a mask fits, the more filtration it will provide. Also, additional layers (double layer) = more filtration. The first layer should be N95 or KN95. Masks aren’t perfect, but they’re going to help.
CUTCHINS: About the rapid tests that you bring with you. There’s a temperature range, so it’s best to pack those take-along tests in your hand-carry luggage. You don’t want them to freeze in the cargo compartment.
Alaska’s Dept. of Health and Social Services COVID Checklist. CLICK HERE
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