12 things you should know about COVID-19 testing i...

12 things you should know about COVID-19 testing in metro Detroit

From nasal swabs to antibody tests, here are some key facts to consider before you go.

It’s getting easier to be tested for COVID-19 here in Metro Detroit. And with so much changing so fast, Detour’s goal is to minimize your internet-scrolling and provide the answers to help you decide whether to take that step. 

We also talked to Beaumont Farmington’s Infection Prevention Supervisor Brianne Bachman to help get you up to speed — from understanding what the antibody tests are really about to what negative test results really mean. 

Here’s what we learned:

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

Fever or chills, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, cough, chills, muscle pain or body aches, sore throat, fatigue, and new loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms can be gastrointestinal (nausea, vomiting or diarrhea). For more details, visit the Center for Disease Control’s website. 

What do I do if I have symptoms?

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been discouraged from showing up at a testing site or hospital unless it’s a serious emergency. That’s still the case. A good first step is contacting your healthcare provider or a testing site to get proper guidance. Another option is checking out Beaumont Health’s online risk assessment tool to help decide whether you should stay home or seek medical attention if you’re experiencing symptoms.

Should I get tested? 

Bachman points to The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) COVID-19 test prioritization guidelines released on May 26, 2020, which align with The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prioritization guidelines. The highest priority cases for testing include:

  • People in the hospital with symptoms
  • Healthcare workers, first responders and congregate care facility workers with symptoms
  • Residents of congregate-care facilities, including prisons and shelters, with symptoms

When should I consider getting tested if I have no symptoms?

MDHHS’ second and third priority tiers indicate testing for asymptomatic individuals under these circumstances:

Second priority:

  • A treating clinician advises testing before undergoing a surgical procedure
  • Being exposed to someone with COVID-19 symptoms
  • High-risk professions where there has been a confirmed case or that are in a location/receiving patients in an area considered medium to high risk
  • Living in communities with inequitable access to testing such as areas with ethnic/racial minorities or rural areas 

Third priority:

  • Asymptomatic people leaving their home for work
  • Anyone prioritized by local health departments or clinicians
  • Asymptomatic people who reside at or are employed at a congregate living facility or high-risk workplace.

OK, I want to get tested. Where can I do that?

Residents in Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb County can get tested for free without a prescription at the State Fairgrounds (778 W. State Fair Ave., Detroit, MI 48203).  Appointments are required and will be offered within 24-48 hours by calling 313-230-0505. Suburbanites must provide their own ride. Transportation for a $2 suggested fee is available to Detroit residents. 

Don’t want to go to the State Fairgrounds? The Oakland County Health Division offers free testing Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. by appointment. Call 1-800-848-5533 to schedule a test at the following locations:

Monday and Wednesday: 27725 Greenfield Rd., Southfield, Oakland County Health Division Parking Lot

Tuesday and Thursday: 1200 N. Telegraph Rd., Pontiac, Medical Examiners Facility (28E) Parking Lot

Friday: 45175 W. 10 Mile Rd., Novi, Novi Civic Center Parking Lot

You can use the state’s COVID-19 test finder to search for a testing center near you, or call the Michigan Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-535-6136.

tested for COVID-19 City of Detroit
Credit: City of Detroit/Facebook

Are drug stores offering testing?

Some are, but make sure to check their websites first for specifics. The majority are requiring online screenings first:

  • Rite-Aid (free) — A physician’s order and screening is required. Complete this survey to determine if testing eligibility, and if you qualify, you’ll be scheduled at a location nearest you. 
  • CVS (free) — Schedule appointments online only.
  • Walgreens (free) — Take this online screening to see if you’re eligible

What are the different types of tests?

Tests for COVID-19 require a swab of the respiratory tract —  either a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab (nose or throat). There’s a rapid test available, the Abbott Test, which can develop a result within five minutes. The accuracy of the Abbott Test has been questioned by the Food and Drug Administration. The more commonly used PCR test, which is believed to be the most reliable, can take several days to get a result. 

I tested negative, so I’m good, right?

Not so fast. Bachman emphasizes that even with a negative nasopharyngeal test, people still need to follow all the major precautions like social distancing, wearing masks in public, practicing good hand hygiene, staying away from sick people and keeping your hands away from your face.

“Just because you test negative one day doesn’t mean you can’t be exposed and become positive later on,” she says.

Keep in mind that tests can produce false-negative results. This may happen when COVID-19 symptoms are diminishing or for people who are infected but not yet showing symptoms.

What should I do if I test positive? 

Bachman says that whether you have symptoms or not, you should isolate yourself from others, even those in your own home, for at least 10 days, and notify your close contacts. 

It’s also important to wait at least 72 hours until the major symptoms are resolved (your fever has to be fully resolved without taking fever-reducing medications) before leaving isolation. 

However, if you have any emergent warning signs, including trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency center.

Should I check my temperature regularly?

“Everyone should be doing temperature checks and constantly monitoring themselves for signs and symptoms,” Bachman says. “Temperature checks are important because the hope is to catch a fever in its development early on. Studies suggest contagiousness peaks at about a half-day before symptoms show up, so the earlier it can be caught, the better.”

What about antibody tests?

Antibody tests (aka serology tests) don’t indicate whether you’re currently sick. Instead, they can determine whether you previously had a COVID-19 infection. They are available at some urgent care centers, and the COVID-19 search tool can help you search for centers offering these tests. If you’re thinking about getting the antibody test, Bachman cautions that testing negative doesn’t necessarily mean you weren’t exposed to the virus. Testing positive is also far from 100% certain — the Centers for Disease Control warns that tests on the market today are too unreliable to base policy decisions on.

Also, testing positive for antibodies does not necessarily mean you are safe. According to the CDC, “We do not know yet if having antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19 can protect someone from getting infected again or, if they do, how long this protection might last.”

Which employers are requiring or offering tests? 

The Big Three automakers all have protocols in place and testing available for workers showing symptoms of COVID-19. Ford employees exhibiting symptoms will be given a prescription for testing from Ford’s doctors. GM is offering on-site testing for workers exhibiting symptoms and Fiat Chrysler has partnered with Beaumont and other health systems to provide testing to workers on-site. 

City of Detroit workers must be tested for COVID-19. Departments must implement safety protocols that include daily temperature checks, social distancing, enforcement of masks and necessary PPE, cleaning protocols and daily screenings prior to entering worksites. 

Frontline workers in Detroit are not required to be tested at this time, but “it is strongly recommended, and most businesses we have heard from are glad to have their employees tested,” city spokesman John Roach told Detour.

The MI Symptoms Web Application is a free tool for business owners and employees and Michigan residents to help identify potential symptoms and make decisions about when to seek medical care. Local and state public health will also use the data to help identify the likelihood of new outbreaks of COVID-19.

Find more stories about how Detroiters are navigating the COVID-19 epidemic here.

Allison Jacobs is the digital producer and lifestyle reporter for Detour Detroit. She was the former digital editor at The Detroit Jewish News, where she helped oversee their digital strategy and produced a four-part video series called “Bubbie’s Kitchen.” Over the years, she has contributed articles for The Detroit Jewish News and SEEN Magazine. She’s a stickler for honest reporting and creating content that educates, entertains and inspires. Follow her on Twitter: @ajacobs114