What Happens When You Don't Trust Your At-Home COVID Test Results?

Unless you live in a big sanitary bubble, there is a good chance that you have had to take a COVID test at some point since 2020. 

Jobs require them after travel. Schools require them after a day of illness.  And these institutions don't want any test result; they only want to see the negative results of a PCR test. So these tests are like the god of all tests and are the most accurate for detecting COVID. 

I have driven my car into the Kidd Road parking lot at a Wake County testing site for PCR testing more times than I can count.  In some weeks, I've gone two days in a row with a different child in tow. I seriously wonder if they know my car by now. I mean, I am pretty memorable. 

During one of my testing days, two young test workers were moving a box of tests, and a sample was dropped.  I anxiously put down my car window and yelled through my mask, "You lost a test!"  And just like that, I helped a random person know if they were positive or negative for Covid.  It truly does take everyone to make sure we are all safe during these COVID times. 

Another time my daughter dropped her test tube in the crack beside the passenger seat. I had to get out of the car and run around to the other side of the car to help recover the dropped test tube. It was a good long process because it was stuck under the passenger seat. The point of drive-thru testing is to stay in your car. See, I am memorable at these testing sites. 

Another hip-hip-hooray for the Kidd Road Covid testing location in Raleigh is that it is reliable. Usually, by 10 pm the same day I tested, I get a text that my results are ready to be viewed. And just like that, I have an answer to my question and I go about my normal routine. 

But what happens when this great testing site is closed, or you can't get an appointment for a test? Then what? 

This is the story of my COVID testing gone crazy. 

As the holidays ramp up and the new variant Omicron soars in the atmosphere, at-home COVID tests are flying off the shelves just like the most wanted toy of the year. 

Last week, I had exposure to COVID after traveling. I took two PCR tests after learning about the exposure.  I had cold symptoms plus a cough. Both tests were negative, but since I've been around the block a few times on this COVID testing, I knew the best day to test was on Day 5 after exposure. 

I drove around to four pharmacies over the weekend trying to find an at-home Covid test. Finally, on my 5th pharmacy trip, I hit the jackpot. I bought two tests because just like toilet paper, one roll is not enough. 

On Day 5, I unboxed my test on my kitchen table.  And just like that, the results were in front of me and I had no idea of what they were telling me.  I got my reading glasses out, and I still could not see what the test was trying to tell me.  Is there a line?  Yes, there is a line.  No, there is not a line. Yes! No! Yes! No! . What the hell? This tells me nothing.  I send it to seven women over text.   They all say, "I think that is positive?"  They say, "You have Covid!"

I mask up in my home and separate from my family. I declare I want a PCR as soon as I can.  I did a home test the following day with that second test I bought.  I sent that test to the same group of women, and it is unanimous.  

That test looked negative. I even added two more individuals for a new set of eyes, which they confirmed negative, too.  I am being told positive one day. Negative the next. Is this the new normal?  My good friend who works in infection prevention advises me to treat myself as a positive COVID case. 

I search for a PCR testing site. My Kidd Road testing location was booked. My husband, who had to sleep on a cot in a playroom, yelled at me for not making the appointment the day before when I knew I needed an appointment. So I went into Covid testing overdrive. 

In one day, I drove around Wake County trying to prove I was, in fact, negative for COVID and could celebrate the holidays and my 53rd birthday not in quarantine.  First, I went to Cary to a different lab.  My rapid at that location said negative.  I also did a PCR there, but on the wall, it said that the PCR results could take up to 36 hours.  I then drove to an Apex location, but as soon as I scanned the QR code for testing, it told me that the testing was done by the same lab I had just left in Cary. Damnit!!! That result may not be ready today either. 

I then drove from Apex to the town of Zebulon. The Zebulon location is the same testing as my Kidd Road location. As soon as I made the 25-mile drive and pulled up to the testing site,  I felt the relief of familiarity. 

Wake County has done a fabulous job of putting testing information together for us, however, when I wrote this post the site crashed.  Appointments can also be made by calling  1-888-675-4567.

By 10 pm on the same night of all my testing, the Zebulon lab texted me my results. At 11:30 pm, the Cary lab emailed my results.  Both results were the same. 

It's reasonably clear that I am not spreading COVID around Raleigh, but there is still this mystery surrounding Day 5's at-home test.  

Health experts say it could be a false positive, but in fully-vaccinated individuals, it could be a transient positive, and you can get rid of the virus much more quickly than someone not vaccinated.  But, the rule of thumb is that if you get sicker after a negative  COVID,  see a doctor.  Your symptoms could be the lingering effects of COVID.

I wish you all a safe and healthy "not-detected" holiday!

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