TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—The Tompkins County Health Department has established a self-submission process for people who test positive for COVID-19 using a self-test. The move comes as the health department’s testing and contact tracing capacity are being overwhelmed by the onslaught of positive tests that have been detected over the last two weeks or so.

The form, located via this link (those without internet access can call 2-1-1, could also prove crucial as the federal government begins to send at-home test kits (usually containing two tests) to 500 million households in the United States, a move recently announced by President Joe Biden. Those tests have been difficult to come by through the normal retail means, as local pharmacies have routinely run out of stock around Tompkins County—or have had to implement buying limits on the tests.

The county further reports that it just received 4,175 self-test kits from New York State, though those will be used to help local school districts. In addition to the federal distribution, the health department said that New York State is likely to chip in for more test distribution as well.

However, with the proliferation of self-tests, more guidance has been published as well regarding protocols after a positive COVID-19 test. Anyone who tests positive and submits the form attesting to that will receive more detailed guidance about next steps, but the most significant part seems to be an immediate 10-day isolation upon receipt of a positive result (though the health department says isolating 10 days from the onset of symptoms, if that was before the positive result, is also acceptable). The county is recommending self-tests be taken for those people not exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, or to make sure one isn’t positive before being around people who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised. People who have symptoms should seek a PCR test through a medical provider, the county stated.

More detailed guidance here:

If your self-test result is positive:

  • TCHD urges all individuals who receive a positive result from an at-home test to begin isolating immediately. Isolation guidance continues to be to isolate from others for 10 days from the positive test result or the onset of symptoms, whichever occurs first. Additional isolation guidance can be found on the TCHD website and will be communicated directly to individuals who submit their positive result through the self-test reporting form.
  • A follow-up PCR test is not necessary. Once you receive a positive test result, regardless of the type of test, you are considered a positive case and should isolate from others.
  • Complete the Self-Test Reporting Form: the online form will ask for basic contact information and to upload a photo of your test kit result.
  • Documentation for third parties including work/school: Once the form is submitted, you will receive an automated email message with additional guidance and it will include a note documenting that you have submitted a positive self-test result to the Tompkins County Health Department. Your end date for isolation is ten days after you took the test or from the onset of your symptoms, whichever occurs first. You will not receive further follow-up from TCHD. If you develop symptoms or symptoms worsen, contact your healthcare practitioner and seek additional care.
  • Close contacts: Anyone in your household (who you live with) is at increased risk of infection, especially with the more transmissible Omicron variant. If anyone in the household is unvaccinated, immuno-compromised, or has other underlying health conditions, they should monitor themselves closely for symptoms and contact their healthcare practitioner about any concerns and additional treatment.
    • Please inform other close contacts that they may have been exposed. A close contact is defined as someone who was: within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. The infectious period starts from 2 days before illness onset or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection, until the time the positive case is isolated.
    • Close contacts should monitor themselves for symptoms and seek a PCR test if symptoms develop.
  • If you are experiencing any of the emergency warning signs of trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, bluish lips or face, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Education & Public Health Reporter at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com