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You have an at-home COVID-19 test. What do you do if it's positive?

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The omicron variant of COVID-19 is continuing to spread at a rapid pace across New York and the nation. Gov. Kathy Hochul reported more than 85,000 new cases of the illness on Dec. 24 and 25.

As the new variant spreads, rapid at-home COVID tests are becoming more important in the fight against the virus. Thousands of tests will be distributed by local, state and federal governments in the coming weeks.

But what happens if an at-home test is positive?

Upstate University Hospital infectious disease expert Dr. Elizabeth Asiago Reddy said positive results mean one thing at this point. Individuals must quarantine for 10 days. But she admits that’s not so easy.

“Many people have commented that the most significant challenge they face if they have COVID is that period of isolation, of essentially being by themselves,” said Ruddy. “If they are the only person in a household with COVID it’s very difficult to stay by yourself for that period of time."

But what does quarantining mean? Ideally staying in a room away from other people, with access to a bathroom, if possible. And for anyone who is positive who needs to leave their room, it’s important to wear a mask. Reddy also suggests all family members get tested, because often the virus spreads easily at home. She’d ultimately like to see more studies on the quarantine timeline, with perhaps some changes to make it more palatable.

"I think those are areas that need to be explored for the future, because for people who’ve received vaccines and boosters, the likelihood is if they get sick it’s going to be a mild illness. And in that case, the sooner we can get them out of quarantine makes so much sense on every front for that individual and community,” she said. “But right now we don’t have a standard protocol for testing out earlier than the typical ten days."

Gov. Hochul on Friday announced that “critical” workers, such as healthcare workers, could return to work five days after testing positive for COVID-19, if the worker is fully vaccinated, no longer shows symptoms, and wears a mask.

Reddy also suggests anyone testing positive contact their doctor.

“Stay at home, contact your health care provider, they can get a sense of how you’re doing and if there are any additional treatments you can benefit from,” Reddy said. “And let people know who have been around you. And that’s anyone you’ve had close contact in the prior two days of testing positive.”

Onondaga County officials ask anyone with questions can also call the county health department to report a case, and receive quarantine protocols.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.