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COVID19 2021-12-23 Self-Test Guidance and Form

The Tompkins County Health Department is sharing guidance for individuals who use a self-test for COVID-19. Self-tests are commercially available COVID-19 test kits that do not require a prescription and are available in some local pharmacies with plans for more availability through upcoming State and Federal programs. As information becomes available from the State and Federal Government on availability of self-tests, TCHD will update the community. Join our COVID-19 Update list to receive notifications via email.


TCHD has published a Positive COVID-19 Self-Test Reporting form for individuals who test positive on a self-test to upload their results and receive further guidance on isolation and contact tracing. The form can be accessed online; for those without internet access, you may call 2-1-1 (877-211-8667) during regular business hours 8:30am-5:00pm to report your result and a representative will fill out the online form for you.  

Self-tests are one of the many prevention tools we can use to stop of the spread of COVID-19, along with vaccination, masking, and physical distancing.

TCHD is reiterating the following guidance for self-tests:

  • Self-tests are recommended for individuals who do not have symptoms, seeking quick results to identify infection or increase confidence that you are not positive for COVID-19.
    • While self-tests may be used if you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed or potentially exposed to an individual with COVID-19, TCHD recommends a PCR test through the Cayuga Health community sampling site at the Shops at Ithaca Mall for those who are symptomatic or close contacts. Contact your healthcare practitioner to further discuss symptoms or if you are seeking medical care.
    • A self-test can be used as a prevention measure before gathering indoors with others who are not in your household. The test can give you information about the risk of spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. This is especially important before gathering with individuals who are unvaccinated, older individuals, those who are immunocompromised, or individuals at risk of severe disease.
  • Prepare to take the test by reading the manufacturers’ instructions exactly to minimize false or invalid results. Wash hands thoroughly and clean surfaces where you’ll take the test. Be sure to know what the results will look like on your brand of test.
  • Collect your sample by following the instructions exactly. Most self-tests take nasal samples, which require you swab the inside of your nose for fifteen seconds.
  • Many test kits include two tests. Repeating the test within a few days, with at least 24 hours between tests, will increase the confidence of your result.
    • A negative test result indicates that you may not be infected and may be at low risk of spreading disease to others, though it does not rule out an infection. Repeating the test will increase the confidence that you are not infected. Performing serial tests, meaning two or more tests over several days with at least 24 hours between tests—with one test as close as possible to the event you will attend—improves the reliability of testing and reduces your risk of transmitting disease to others even further. Some self-tests require this type of repeat testing in the manufacturer’s instructions.

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.

Tompkins County recently received 4,175 self-test kits from New York State as part of a distribution to support local school districts. These kits included two tests per kit, meant to offer a confirmatory second test for the individual being tested. TCHD distributed those tests to TST BOCES to help identify cases and keep children with negative test results in schools. New York State is making additional self-test kits available to other local school districts directly.

Tests are expected to be made more widely available from the State and Federal governments over the coming months. As more positive COVID-19 cases are identified through self-tests it is important that everyone follow test directions and guidance closely, including that all individuals who receive any positive result isolate immediately for 10 days or from onset of symptoms, whichever comes first. TCHD will continue to communicate additional at-home test guidance as it becomes available.