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Understanding Test Results

Find out what your COVID-19 test results mean. 

  • If you get a positive test result, you and everyone in your household should self-isolate now. Public health will contact you in 2 to 3 days with further instructions.
  • If you get a negative test result and your symptoms are gone, most people can stop self-isolating. You must continue to self-isolate if you are a contact of someone with COVID-19 or recently arrived from outside of Canada.  
  • No one should return to work, school or regular activities unless they feel well enough to be there.

Self-isolate if you test positive

If you get a positive COVID-19 test result, you need to self-isolate.  Please tell the people you live with that they should also self-isolate. That means: 
  1. Stay home
  2. Do not go to work, school or public places. 
  3. Do not have visitors to your home.  
If you live with other people, avoid contact with them if you can. Stay and sleep in a separate room and use a separate bathroom if possible. Find more information about what to do if you have COVID-19 or information if you are caring for someone with COVID-19.

People with COVID-19 will need to self-isolate for at least 10 days. Public health will tell you when you can end isolation.

Someone from public health will contact you in 2 to 3 days. Please answer the phone. They will give you more information on what to do, monitoring your health, and further direction about contact tracing and the notification process. Unless you are a health care worker, you do not need to tell people outside your household that you tested positive. You can begin to think about who you spent time with and where you've been in the week before you started feeling ill. Write down a list with as much detail as possible to share with Public Health when they call. 

Special instructions

Health care workers should notify their employer of a positive result.

If you are a First Nations citizen and/or family member, please phone 1-855-344-3800 to connect with the First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., 7 days a week, for additional information and support. Please also visit the First Nations Health Authority website for further information and resources about COVID-19 testing and what to do if you have COVID-19.

If you are unable to isolate safely or do not have access to a place where you can self-isolate from others, contact Services BC at  1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).

‎If you live in the Fraser Health region, learn what to do next if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19


Pay attention to your health and the health of your household while you isolate

  • Pay attention to how you and the people in your care are feeling. Most people can manage their symptoms at home. If you have a fever, stay hydrated and you can use non-prescription medicine like acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, or ibuprofen, such as Advil to treat it. You can call 8-1-1 anytime to talk to a nurse at HealthLinkBC, available in 130 languages.
  • If you or someone in your care finds it harder to breathe, can't drink anything or feel much worse, seek urgent medical care. Go to an urgent care clinic or emergency department. 
  • Call 9-1-1 if you or someone in your care has chest pains, difficulty breathing, confusion or severe bleeding. It could be a life-threatening emergency. 
  • If leaving your home for medical care, call ahead and tell the clinic that you have COVID-19. 

Ending isolation if you test negative 

After a negative COVID-19 test result, most people can stop isolating if their symptoms are gone. If you still have symptoms, continue to monitor how you feel. If your symptoms get worse, contact your health care provider or call 8-1-1.

Some people will need to continue to self-isolate after a negative test result. If you are unsure, contact your health care provider or call 8-1-1. Continue to self-isolate if:
Health care providers should check with their employer about self-isolation after a negative test and reporting of any symptoms. 

Other possible test results 

Indeterminate: Results do not provide a clear result for COVID-19 infection.

Sample invalid/rejected: Sample could not be tested (e.g. leaked sample, error in labelling/requisition). You will need to recollect another sample for testing.

SOURCE: Understanding Test Results ( )
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