Frequently Asked Questions

Top 10 Questions

  • If I get a negative test, does my quarantine end early?

    You may be able to shorten your quarantine

    • If you stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19
    • After 10 days without a test, if you have isolated for the entire 10 day period
    • After day 7 after receiving a negative test result (test must occur on day 5 or later)

    Please refer to the CDC's page on quarantine and isolation for more information.

  • An employee’s child has been put in quarantine because someone at their school tested positive. Can my employee still work?

    If a child is in quarantined because of a potential exposure at school, their parent is considered a secondary contact and isn’t required to quarantine. The parent (your employee) would only need to quarantine if the child develops symptoms or tests positive. In either of those situations, the parent would become a household contact and would be required to quarantine.

  • An employee has symptoms, when can they return to work?

    If the employee tests positive for COVID-19, they may return when they meet release from isolation criteria for those with COVID-19. If they are tested while they have symptoms and the result is negative, they may return to work when symptoms are improving and they have not had a fever for more than 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

    If an employee has symptoms and is NOT tested for COVID-19, you should assume they are positive. The employee should not return to work until they have isolated for at least 10 days since symptom onset; not had a fever for more than 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicine; and other symptoms have improved.

  • When a family member is positive, when does quarantine end for everyone else in the house?

    If the person that tested positive can truly stay isolated from everyone else in the house (separate room and separate bathroom, does not eat in a common area), quarantine starts on the last day of contact with the positive person. Otherwise quarantine starts when the COVID-positive person’s isolation period is over. See CDC calendar scenarios here.

    The investigator that interviews the COVID-positive person will help the household with these timelines.

    However, it’s important to note that, in most cases, the quarantine period for household contacts who are not sick or have not tested positive begins when the isolation period for the person who tested positive ends. Because of this, it is possible that household contacts may be in quarantine for at least 24 days from when symptoms first appeared in the person who tested positive. There may be exceptions to this if strict isolation can occur.

  • An employee has traveled out of state. Do they need to quarantine?

    Please refer to the CDC’s up-to-date travel guidance for more information.

  • I have been exposed. When should I get tested?

    If you were in close contact with someone who tested positive, you MAY have been exposed. If you do not have symptoms, we encourage you to wait at least five days after the date of contact to get tested.

  • I have had close contact with someone who tested positive. Why haven’t I heard from the health department yet?

    The health department may have you on a list to call about quarantine. It is also possible that the person who tested positive did not identify you as a close contact during their interview with the health department. Talk with the person that tested positive to ask about your need to quarantine, and whether they’ve given your contact information to their investigator.

  • I live with someone who was exposed. Should I also quarantine?

    If you did not have close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you do not have to quarantine. However, since your household member may be contagious without knowing it, that person should wear a mask when in close proximity to others and should stay away from others in the house as much as possible, especially those with pre-existing conditions or of an age that puts them at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19.

  • I live with someone who tested positive, but I tested negative. Why is this?

    You may not have been exposed to the virus, or you may have the virus but at a lower level that didn’t show up as positive on the test. Regardless, you should quarantine for 14 days from date of last exposure which starts on the last day of contact with the positive person. Otherwise quarantine starts when the COVID-positive person’s isolation period is over. See CDC calendar scenarios here.


  • What is COVID-19?

    COVID-19 is a new virus strain that was first discovered in December 2019 in in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

  • How does COVID-19 spread?
    • The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
    • Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
    • Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks.
    • These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
    • Some recent studies have suggested that COVID-19 may be spread by people who are not showing symptoms.
  • How long does COVID-19 live on surfaces?

    Data shows that virus can survive on certain surfaces for a number of hours or days, depending on the material. WebMD posted an article listing how long coronaviruses can survive on various types of surfaces.

  • What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

    The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever or chills, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include tiredness, body aches, runny nose or congestion, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, headache, nausea or vomiting, or diarrhea.

  • How long does it take for COVID-19 symptoms to appear?

    According to the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms may appear in as few as two days, or as long as 14 days after exposure

  • How do I get my vaccine counted as part of Michigan’s data if I was vaccinated in another state?

    Show your vaccination record card to your primary healthcare provider (your regular doctor), and they can report it to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry (MCIR), Michigan’s system for recording vaccine information. If you do not regularly see a doctor, you can visit the Kent County Health Department located at 700 Fuller Ave NE in Grand Rapids and present your vaccination record card. The health department will report your vaccine to MCIR. That’s all it takes for your vaccination to be added to the doses administered on Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard.

At Home Testing

  • What is the difference between the types of tests available for COVID-19?

    There are two types of tests - diagnostic tests and antibody tests. Diagnostic tests - Molecular and Antigen- will tell you if you have an active COVID infection. These tests rely on samples that are collected using a nasal or throat swab or saliva that is collected by spitting into a tube. Antibody tests will identify if your immune system has produced antibodies in response to the virus. An antibody test should not be used to determine if you have an active case of COVID-19. Samples for antibody tests typically come from blood that is drawn by a medical professional.

  • How long after COVID-19 exposure should I take an at-home test?

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends you should be tested five days after exposure or as soon as symptoms appear. If you have symptoms, you should immediately isolate until a negative test confirms what you are feeling is not COVID-19.

  • When should I get a COVID-19 test?

    You should isolate and get tested anytime you have COVID symptoms no matter how severe the symptoms.

  • How accurate are at-home COVID-19 tests?

    Rapid antigen tests, the most widely available of home tests, are very accurate. However, antigen tests may return false negatives in people who are infected but do not yet have symptoms. Different brands of tests will have different procedures that must be strictly followed to guarantee the most accurate result possible.

  • Do at-home COVID-19 tests detect the Omicron variant?


  • I tested positive. Now what?

    You should stay home and isolate for 5 days and wear a mask if others could come into contact with you. If you do not have symptoms or your symptoms are improving after 5 days, you can leave isolation if you always wear a mask from days 6 to 10.

    Also, tell your healthcare provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them. If your illness becomes severe, seek medical attention. If you have an emergency warning sign (including trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately. To avoid spreading the virus to others, follow CDC recommendations.

    Tell your close contacts that they may have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. A person with COVID-19 can begin spreading it starting 48 hours (2 days) before the person has any symptoms or tests positive. By informing your close contacts they may have been exposed, you are helping to protect your friends, family, and colleagues.

    If you think your test result may be incorrect, contact a healthcare provider to determine if additional testing is necessary.

  • I tested negative. Now what?

    A negative test result means the virus that causes COVID-19 was not found in your specimen, and you may have a lower risk of transmitting the disease to others. If you took a home antigen while you had symptoms and followed all instructions carefully, either your illness is not COVID-19, or you have a false negative result. It is possible for a test to give a negative result in some people who have COVID-19. This is called a false negative. You could also test negative if the specimen was collected too early in your infection. In this case, you could test positive later during your illness. If you have symptoms and get a negative antigen test, please get a PCR test to confirm the result.

  • My test result says “invalid” or error.” Now what?

    Invalid tests are rare, but they do happen. These messages my show up for a variety of reasons. If this happens re-read the instructions and contact the test kit manufacturer for help.

  • What are some other home testing resources?


  • I was tested by the Kent County Health Department, through a partnership with my school. How will I be notified of my test result?

    You will receive a text message to the phone number that you provided at registration within 24 - 48 hours. If you do not, please call the Customer Service line for the project at (616) 747-0307.

  • Who should be tested?
    • Anyone 6 months of age and older can get tested. Please Note: Anybody younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
    • Anyone who has had a suspected exposure to someone with COVID-19.
    • Anyone who has had a confirmed exposure to someone with COVID-19.
    • Anyone who is symptomatic.

    Visit the CDC website for additional information on the priority levels for COVID-19 testing.
  • What should I do if I suspect I have COVID-19? Do I need to be tested?
    • Anyone 6 months of age and older can get tested. Please Note: Anybody younger than 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
    • Anyone who has had a suspected exposure to someone with COVID-19.
    • Anyone who has had a confirmed exposure to someone with COVID-19.
    • Anyone who is symptomatic.

    Visit the CDC website for additional information on the priority levels for COVID-19 testing.
  • How do I get tested?

    You can look up Kent County testing locations and register for a free COVID-19 test here.

  • How long does it take to receive test results?

    Test results are typically provided within 72 hours from the date the test was performed.
    Please Note: The timeline in which test results are typically provided following a test are dependent on the volume of tests being analyzed by the lab and are subject change.

  • How is the Health Department involved in positive cases of COVID-19?

    When we are notified of a positive case of COVID-19, a member of our staff contacts the patient to identify individuals with whom the patient has been in contact during the time they were symptomatic (including the 48 hours prior to the onset of symptoms) to determine who is a high-risk contact. In order for a person to be considered a high-risk contact to a person with COVID-19 and thus require a 10-day quarantine from the date of their exposure to the positive case, they must meet one of the following criteria:

    1. Live in the same household as a person with COVID-19
    2. Have direct physical contact with a COVID-19 case (e.g. shaking hands)
    3. Have unprotected direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g. infected person coughed or sneezed on them)
    4. Spend at least 15 minutes within six feet of a person with COVID-19.

    Our staff collects the telephone number for those individuals identified as a high-risk contact and will call these individuals to notify them of their contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19 and provide instructions for the recommended 10-day quarantine period. A high-risk contact will be instructed to stay at home and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 and take their temperature twice a day if a thermometer is available.

    After the initial notification, our staff may touch base with the high-risk contact to ensure the individual is free of symptoms. Once the high-risk contact has completed the 14-day period and they are free of symptoms, they will receive verbal notification of their release from quarantine.

    If a high-risk contact develops symptoms of COVID-19, they will be treated as a case requiring isolation (see below) and their close contacts will be treated in the same manner as described above.

    In addition to identifying high-risk contacts, the positive case is also instructed to isolate themselves in their home until the following three criteria are met:

    1. The patient is fever free for 72 hours (three days) without the use of fever-reducing medications
    2. The patient’s other symptoms (e.g. cough) have improved without the use of symptom-reducing medication
    3. It has been at least ten (10) days from the first onset of the patient’s symptoms.


  • How can I best protect myself?

    Practice the following:

    1. If you are sick, even with very mild symptoms, stay home.
    2. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others
    3. Take reasonable measures to stay at least 6 feet apart from other people.
    4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
    5. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing.
    6. Wash your hands frequently with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
    7. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    8. Monitor your health daily.

See COVID-19 Vaccine FAQs