Frequently Asked Questions About COVID-19
We know that you may still have many questions about COVID-19, including questions about testing and when to get care. Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions are below.
For questions about COVID-19 vaccines, please visit our vaccine FAQ page. You can also make an appointment for your first, booster, or third vaccine dose by calling your primary care provider's office.
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When should I get tested for COVID-19?
You should get tested for COVID-19 if you:
- Have symptoms of COVID-19
- Had an exposure to COVID-19, which means you were was less than six feet away from an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period
- Are planning to gather with people outside your household, for peace of mind
- Need a test to clear you for work, school, or travel
You can use an at-home testing kit or visit a state or local testing site.
Please do not come to our Emergency Department for COVID-19 testing.
Can I get tested for COVID-19 at BMC?
Effective January 27, patient COVID testing will no longer be available at the ILI Clinic, with the exception of pre-operative testing. Please follow-up with your primary care provider for in-clinic testing and for information about at-home testing kit availability.
For other testing options, please visit a state or local testing site or use an at-home test if one is available.
Please do not come to our Emergency Department for COVID-19 testing.
If your child has COVID-19 symptoms, please call their pediatrician for testing.
Do you offer rapid testing?
All BMC COVID-19 tests are PCR testing, which takes several days for results. We do not offer rapid testing, including in the Emergency Department.
I tested positive with an at-home test. Do I need a PCR test?
No. If you tested positive with an at-home test, you should assume you have COVID-19, especially if you have any symptoms. Please stay home to isolate. Do not come to get another test to confirm a positive at-home test.
I tested negative but had a COVID-19 exposure or have symptoms of COVID-19. What should I do?
If you test negative but had a COVID-19 exposure, you may need to quarantine. Currently, you do not need to quarantine if you are up-to-date with vaccinations or had COVID-19 within the last 90 days. Learn more about when to quarantine and what this means on the Centers for Disease Control website.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 but test negative with an at-home test, you should get a PCR test or test yourself at home a few days after the first negative test.
How do I get the best results with an at-home test?
At-home tests are most accurate when used correctly. If you need an instructions or a tutorial on how to use one, you can find videos in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole from the City of Boston on their website.
Are at-home COVID-19 tests accurate?
At-home COVID-19 tests can be a great way to help you make decisions for your health. False positives are rare, so if you test positive on an at-home test, you should assume you have COVID-19. Please do not come to get another test to “confirm” a positive at-home test.
These tests work best if you have COVID-19 symptoms. If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, you should wait three to five days after the exposure to test, especially if you don’t have symptoms.
I think I might have COVID-19. What should I do?
If you tested positive on an at-home test and have mild symptoms or no symptoms, please stay home and isolate for at least five days, or until your fever or other symptoms go away, whichever comes later. Also wear a mask if you’re around other people for ten days if you can’t isolate, or five days after you’re done isolating.
Do not come to the BMC Emergency Department for further testing, as we are experiencing exceptionally long wait times.
If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to be seen by your doctor, please call your primary care team’s office to schedule an appointment. Be sure to tell them that you have symptoms of COVID-19 before your appointment.
What if I need urgent care for a problem not related to COVID-19?
Our Emergency Department is experiencing exceptionally long wait times and is very busy at this time. If you or your child is ill and needs medical attention but does not have a life-threatening emergency, it’s best to avoid a visit to the emergency room. We have same or next day in-person and telehealth appointments available for new and established Pediatrics, Adult Primary Care, Geriatrics, and Family Medicine patients.
Please call us first for minor illnesses and injuries such as back pain, low-grade fever, minor allergic reaction, cough, cold, earache:
- Adult Primary Care: 617-414-5951
- Family Medicine: 617-414-2080
- Pediatrics: 617-414-5946
- Geriatrics: 617-414-4639
What is the Omicron variant of COVID-19?
When a virus mutates (changes its form), that’s called a variant of the original virus. Sometimes variants disappear quickly, while others begin to spread among populations. Omicron is a variant of COVID-19 that is spreading quickly.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about the Omicron variant, because it’s so new:
- Currently, it seems like Omicron spreads more quickly than the original type of COVID-19.
- More data is needed to know if Omicron causes less serious illness than other variants of COVID-19 and to know how quickly people get sick after being infected with Omicron.
- Vaccines are still very good at preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death in people infected with Omicron. However, it is possible to get infected even if you are fully vaccinated. Getting a booster dose will reduce your chances of getting a breakthrough infection.
What are the symptoms of the Omicron variant?
If you’re vaccinated, Omicron may cause more mild illness, more like a regular cold. However, this might not be true for everyone. Common symptoms of Omicron include:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain, especially in your lower back
- Runny nose
- “Stuffy” or congested nose
What are the symptoms of the Delta variant?
The Delta variant is another variant of COVID-19, and was the most common variant before Omicron arose. Symptoms of the Delta variant are similar to the Omicron variant, but are more likely to include respiratory (lung) symptoms. Common symptoms include:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Sore throat
- Loss of smell or taste
- Muscle pain
- Trouble breathing
How do I know which COVID-19 variant I have?
Some of the symptoms of each variant are different, and might help you figure out which variant you have. In most cases, testing won’t tell you which variant of COVID-19 you have.
However, if you test positive for COVID-19, you should take the same steps no matter which variant you may have:
- Stay home and isolate for at least five days, or until your fever or other symptoms go away, whichever comes later.
- Wear a mask if you’re around other people for ten days if you can’t isolate, or five days after you’re done isolating.
- Tell anyone you were recently in contact with that you tested positive.
- Call your doctor if you start to feel very sick.
How can I get treatment for COVID-19?
Depending on your age, risk factors for developing severe COVID-19, and other criteria, you may be able to get treatment. These treatments can significantly reduce your chance of getting very sick or having to be hospitalized from COVID-19.
They work best when you take them 1-7 days after your first symptoms, so it’s important to call your provider as soon as you have a positive at-home (antigen) test result.
If you got a PCR (lab) test at BMC and are eligible for COVID-19 treatment, someone will call you to follow up.
You can get treatment for COVID if you have mild to moderate COVID-19 and:
- Are unvaccinated
- Are 65 years old or older
- Are immunocompromised
- Have a BMI over 30
- Are a current or former smoker
- Have a substance use disorder
- Have had a stroke
- Have certain conditions, including cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, chronic kidney disease, chronic liver disease, diabetes, mental health conditions, or neurodevelopmental disorders
Talk to your doctor to learn more and see if you are eligible for treatment. You can also learn more about COVID-19 treatments on Mass.gov (information available in many languages here).
In addition, Massachusetts now has free telemedicine service to see if Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment pill taken by mouth, is right for you. You do not need to have a primary care physician or have insurance to use this service. You can find more information on Mass.gov.
Is BMC giving oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19?
Oral antiviral medications are available to treat COVID-19. Please talk to your doctor to see if this treatment is right for you and learn how to access it.
These medications can be taken at home if prescribed to you.
Is BMC offering IV (intravenous) antivirals?
IV antivirals are available to treat COVID-19. Please talk to your doctor to see if this treatment is right for you and learn how you can get it.
If you are able to get IV antiviral treatment, you will need to come to BMC once a day for three days. BMC will help with transportation if needed.
Is BMC giving monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19?
The strains of SARS-COV-2 that are currently causing most cases of COVID-19 do not respond (are resistant) to treatment with monoclonal antibodies. Therefore BMC is no longer using this treatment, following new guidelines from the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
How can I get COVID-19 treatment if I don't have a primary care physician?
If you do not have a primary care physician, you can schedule a free telehealth visit to see if Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment pill taken by mouth, is right for you. This visit is covered by the state of Massachusetts. You do not need to have insurance to use this service. You can find more information on Mass.gov.
How do we know these new treatments are safe or that they work?
These medications are new to treat COVID, but they’re not new for treating viruses. They have been proven effective to help with preventing any mild COVID-19 symptoms (such as shortness of breath, fatigue, chills, fever, muscle aches, etc.) that are also seen in other viral infections. And they’ve been tested specifically in people with COVID-19 and have been shown to work.
If I have COVID-19, can I wait and see if I get worse before being treated?
No. The sooner you start treatment, the more effective these medications are, and your chances of avoiding serious illness from COVID-19 are much better. Treatment is most effective when oral antivirals are started between one to five days after your first symptoms and when monoclonal antibodies are started one to 10 after your first symptoms.
In addition, every case of COVID-19 is different, and you can become very sick very quickly. If that happens, you might not be able to get any of these treatments.
COVID-19 isn’t that bad. Why should I get treatment?
Many people only have mild symptoms of COVID-19. But if we offer this treatment to you, it’s because you’re at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19. If you get severe COVID-19, you could get very sick, be hospitalized, and have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
Do these medicines even work on the Omicron variant?
Some approved medications for COVID-19 don’t work very well against Omicron. But the medications BMC are effective against the Omicron variant. These include Paxlovid (an oral medication), Remdesivir (given by IV), and molnupiravir (also an oral medication).
Should I get vaccinated even if I have COVID-19 or after COVID-19 treatment?
Yes! Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect yourself against getting COVID-19, even if you’ve had COVID-19 before. If you get monoclonal antibodies, you’ll need to wait 90 days after your treatment to get vaccinated.