Doctor: at-home COVID tests best for symptomatic people

Posted at 1:19 PM, Nov 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-25 17:14:41-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — It’s getting easier and easier to test yourself for COVID-19 in Maryland. Thousands of at-home kits will soon be available, just in time for the holidays.

Wednesday, Governor Larry Hogan announced the Maryland Department of Health will give out 500,000 at-home test kits to local health departments for them to distribute as part of a new program being launched statewide to help make testing more accessible this holiday season.

“Testing continues to be one of the most important tools we have to keep people safe,” said Hogan. “By making these at-home test kits available through local health departments, we are giving Marylanders more options and more peace of mind as we head into the holiday season.”

Johns Hopkins lung doctor Panagis Galiatsatos views this as another tool to help us end the pandemic.

"We have weapons that work keeping people out of the hospital such as the vaccines and we have weapons to identify who could potentially be infected. That’s the at-home test," said Galiatsatos.

Each kit contains two COVID-19 tests that are approved to be used by one person, and the tests are to be used at least 36 hours apart and within three days of each other. The tests are self-administered, and results are available in 15 minutes.

Galiatsatos said when you use it is the most important part.

"It’s like an at-home pregnancy test. If you test too early, it’s going to be negative so it’s all about knowing when to use it," said Galiatsatos.

He said they are most effective if you already have symptoms.

"A runny nose, a cough, fever, these are great tests to do to see if these symptoms could be potentially COVID-19," said Galiatsatos.

He said use caution if you are testing for an asymptomatic infection.

"The at-home tests are not great for that. They weren’t designed for that. You can make it better by testing daily. That’s one way to improve the accuracy of at-homes tests. A one and done is not going to pick up the asymptomatic carrier but multiple in a row 24 hours apart may be able to help with that," said Galiatsatos.

He said the lab-based PCR test is still the gold standard and is widely available across the state.

In coming weeks, local health departments will make announcements regarding the availability of these testing kits.

In Caroline County, for example, residents can obtain at-home tests while supplies last at their local public library or at two community food pantries, Aaron’s Place and Giving Grace. In Prince George’s County, public libraries, local federally qualified health centers, and other partner locations will serve as distribution points for the test kits.

Individuals who test positive for COVID-19 should consider themselves infectious, notify their contacts, and seek further medical advice, which may include additional testing. Individuals are encouraged to report their test results, both positive and negative, to help Maryland slow the spread of COVID-19. Those who test negative should confirm the result by using the second test in the kit to test again at least 36 hours after the first test.