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5 things about COVID-19 testing

Testing is a key tool in our pandemic toolbox. Here’s what you need to know about using this important resource to help stop community spread and enhance the health and safety of our communities.

  • You can get four free at-home antigen tests from the U.S. government
    Earlier this week, the government launched a site where you can order four free rapid at-home antigen tests per household. The form is easy and fast. Tests should begin to ship in late January.

  • Use a rapid antigen test after day 5 of isolation to check your status.
    Current CDC recommendations say you can use a COVID-19 antigen test after day 5 of isolation to see if you’re still infectious. If it’s positive, the CDC says to continue your isolation until day 10.

    Do not take a PCR test following isolation. PCR tests could continue to return a positive result for up to 90 days because it picks up both viable and unviable viral particles.

  • If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, isolate and get tested.
    Noticing any new symptom consistent with COVID-19 is reason enough to get tested. Start with IU’s symptom checker to schedule a symptomatic test on your campus. Or, if you have at-home tests, you can use those.

    A positive antigen test or PCR test indicates you should isolate and follow IU’s isolation guidance. If you receive a positive test outside of IU (at-home test,
    community testing site, etc.), use the self-report form to let the university know.

    If you test negative with a rapid test but have symptoms, you can schedule a symptomatic PCR test through IU’s symptom checker. The omicron variant especially is not always picked up on rapid tests early in infection. You can also isolate for two to three days and take a rapid test again.

  • If you’ve been exposed, wait a few days before testing.
    Unless you have symptoms (in which case you should get tested right away), the CDC recommends waiting five to seven days after being exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 before testing yourself. This allows enough time to pass that the viral load will be high enough to be detected by testing if you do have the virus. Testing too early could provide a false sense of security with a negative result.

  • All IU testing options are PCR tests.
    Both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing at IU use PCR tests. These are saliva-based tests with results usually back within 24 to 72 hours.

Amanda Roach is a senior communications consultant in the Office of the Vice President for Communications and Marketing.