By now everyone knows about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has plagued the world since last December. The virus has proven to be incredibly contagious and terribly deadly; it’s infected over 27 million people and killed over 890 thousand worldwide at the time of this writing. Until there is a vaccine or a cure, it’s necessary to stay vigilant against this microscopic invader.
The concern over COVID-19 initially drove people into their homes, as leaders across the globe implemented stay-at-home orders and lockdown protocols. But over six months later, the fear of COVID has begun to wane – and many people are return to their lives as they did before. This not only puts the individual at risk, but anyone with whom they come into contact!
So, what do you do if you think you’ve contracted COVID-19? The best thing to do is get tested. And now your coronavirus test can be free, thanks to changes in Medicare part B (health insurance) coverage.
Do I Need a COVID-19 Test?
Although COVID-19 testing is free for Medicare patients, not everyone needs to get tested for the novel coronavirus. How do you know if you should get tested? You should fall into one of four groups: people with symptoms, people who’ve been in contact with the sick, immunocompromised people, and people getting medical procedures.
The first (and possibly most obvious) group of people who should be tested for COVID-19 are the people experiencing symptoms. The illness usually appears 2-14 days after contact with an infected person, and symptoms include:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath
- Fever or chills
- Muscle or body aches
- Loss of taste or smell
- Congestion or runny nose
- Nausea or vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms, call your doctor and find out when you can get a test immediately.
While many people exhibit at least mild symptoms of the coronavirus, some can be infected (and therefore spread the disease) without any symptoms. Therefore, if you find out that someone you’ve been in contact with is sick, it can be worthwhile to get yourself tested. With drive-up clinics and other testing facilities popping up across the country, it is easy to get a quick and free test to give yourself peace of mind.
COVID-19 affects people with other conditions – especially respiratory conditions – more than it does healthy individuals. This is why immunocompromised people need to be particularly careful during this time. If you do have a health condition and you want to make sure that you aren’t sick, you can also visit a drive-up clinic to get tested and find out your current health status.
Finally, some people may need to get a COVID-19 test before undergoing certain medical procedures (for example, giving birth). This helps the medical professionals who work on you during your procedure, as it helps them determine just how precautious they need to be to prevent spreading any disease.
How to Test for COVID-19
There are many labs around the country currently offering COVID-19 tests, including many pop-up labs and drive-up clinics. These facilities are designed specifically for COVID testing, so they have all the necessary precautions and social distancing measures in place. If you want to get tested – particularly if you have symptoms – there is no reason to be afraid to visit one of these testing sites.
There are two main types of COVID-19 test. The first is an oropharyngeal (OP) swab, which swabs your tonsillar pillars to check for traces of the virus in your throat. Some clinics may do the swab for you, while others may ask you to swab your tonsils yourself.
The second test (which you’ve likely seen on the news) is a nasopharyngeal swab. With this test, a clinician will insert a 6-inch long swab that looks like a Q-tip into your nostril and rotate it a few times. This swap then goes to a lab to test for any sign of the virus.
Once you’ve completed the test, it’s time to wait for your results. Unfortunately, wait times vary from state to state. Some results take only 10 minutes, while others can take several days. Your clinic will tell you how long you’ll have to wait and give you any other necessary information about the testing process in your area.
Your Coronavirus Test Costs
If you think that you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus – particularly if you’re showing symptoms – it is important to get tested. However, many people may be concerned about the costs associated with this test. There’s no need to worry; if you’re covered by Medicare Part B, you’re COVID-19 test is free!
Additionally, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act guarantees that COVID-19 tests are free across the U.S. If you’re uninsured, insured under Medicare, or covered by a private health insurance policy, you can get tested for the coronavirus without having to worry about paying a dime. This helps our healthcare professionals and epidemiologists understand the full scope of the virus in the United States.
Other Ways to Slow the Spread
Thanks to our lawmakers and health insurance companies, no one should be afraid to get tested for COVID-19 because of the cost. But even if you do get tested (and especially if you decide not to), it is important to take other measures to slow the spread of this deadly virus.
Make sure that you always adhere to the CDC guidelines for slowing the spread:
- Wash your hands for 20 seconds after touching surfaces
- Wear a mask when out in public
- Practice social distancing: stay six feet apart from others whenever possible
- Cover your coughs and sneezes (but don’t cough into your hand – use the crook of your arm)
- Avoid touching your face
- Stay home if you’re sick
Following these rules will help keep you and the people you love healthy – as well as countless strangers in your community. And if we all follow these guidelines, we just might see the end to this devastating pandemic before much longer.