COVID-19 testing and self-isolation

Go to an emergency department or call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency service) if you:

  • Find it hard to breathe
  • Have chest pain
  • Can't drink anything
  • Feel very sick
  • Feel confused
When to get tested

Testing is most needed for people who have symptoms of COVID-19 and

If you are unsure about whether to get a COIVID-19 test use the BC Self-Assessment Tool.

If you have mild symptoms of COVID-19, and you are not in one of the higher-risk categories above, you do not need a test. Stay home and away from others until you feel well enough to return to your regular activities and you no longer have a fever. Mild symptoms are symptoms that can be managed at home.

If you do not have symptoms of COVID-19, you do not need a test.

For more information:

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How to get tested

Complete the COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool to see if you need to be tested for COVID-19. Based on your symptoms and risk factors you could be directed to pick up a rapid test for home use or recommended for a PCR test.

If a PCR test is recommended:

COVID-19 testing locations are in communities across the Northern Health region. You must have an appointment for a COVID-19 test. Do not go to the emergency room for a COVID-19 test.

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Types of tests

Learn what types of tests are available including those for adults and children:

PCR testing:

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing is offered in Northern BC. Results are available within 24-72 hours depending on the distance between the testing site and lab.

Rapid Antigen testing:

Rapid Antigen tests can be used to rapidly test people for COVID-19. While they can be less accurate than PCR tests, results are usually ready in less than 20 minutes and they can be done at home. The BCCDC Rapid Point of Care Screening program provides rapid antigen tests to organizations, industries and other sectors for workplace screening programs and other indications.

Rapid antigen tests are available as take-home kits through public health at some testing locations for testing people with symptoms. Learn more about take-home Rapid Antigen Testing.

Asymptomatic testing:

Private testing/testing for travel:

There are some private pay clinics that offer testing for a fee to people who require asymptomatic testing for reasons that fall outside of BC public health recommendations such as for travel or employment.

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Take-home rapid testing

Some people referred for testing may get a rapid antigen test kit to take home. Rapid tests are available at Northern Health testing centres, and may be provided to individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and according to risk factors. You may also receive a rapid test kit through a health care provider interaction.

Rapid tests at BC pharmacies:

Only use a rapid test kit if you have symptoms of COVID-19.

How to use an at-home test kit:

  • Rapid tests are used by collecting a sample from each nostril, using a swab. The swab will only go a few centimetres inside your nose; it should not hurt. Use tests only as directed.
  • There are different types of at-home tests you may have received. Follow the instructions for the type of test that you received.

Test results:

What to do if you have a positive result:

All health care workers with COVID-19 symptoms should receive a PCR test. If you received a rapid test at the same time as a PCR test, the PCR test result is the most reliable result. Do not rely on the rapid test result to decide if you return to work.

Drop-in locations for test pick-up:

At this time, the following communities are offering drop-in hours to pick up rapid antigen test kits.

Note: you must screen yourself first using the COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool. Only use a rapid test if you have symptoms of COVID-19. Have someone who is well (no symptoms) pick up RAT tests from a local pharmacy.

Community: When: Where: Address: Details:
Hazelton Monday, Wednesday, Friday (11 am to 12 pm) Hazelton Community Health 2510 Highway 62, Hazelton
  • Ring white door bell to the right of main entrance (by the orange card). Please remain there and someone will bring a test to you.
Terrace Monday to Friday (1:30 pm to 3:30 pm) Terrace Health Unit 3412 Kalum Street, Terrace
  • Come to testing area.
  • Tests will be available in the COVID-19 testing area entryway (right side of the building when facing the entrance, marked with signage).
Kitimat Monday to Friday (8:30 am to 4:30 pm) Kitimat General Hospital (Cafeteria Doors) 920 Lahakas Blvd S, Kitimat
  • Please call Kitimat Community Services at 250-632-3181 ext 1, 2, or 3.
Prince Rupert Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays (11:30 am to 12 pm) Prince Rupert Health Unit 300 3rd Avenue W, Prince Rupert
  • Kits can be picked up in the COVID-19 testing room, main entrance of the Ocean Center Mall
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PCR test results

If you received a PCR test, get your COVID-19 test results online, by text, or by phone through one of the services listed on the BCCDC Test Results page.

The following are additional options for people who live in the Northern Health region:

HealthELife:

  • If you live in the Northern Health region and had a COVID-19 test at a Northern Health facility, you can check your COVID-19 test results online through HealthELife.
  • If you haven't signed up yet for HealthELife visit the Northern Health HealthELife page to get started. You’ll need government-issued photo ID, including your personal health number.
  • Technical support for HealthELife is available 24/7 at 1-877-767-1046.
  • Note: If your test was sent outside Northern Health for processing, your COVID-19 results may not appear in HealthELife yet. We’re currently working to address this issue. If you can’t see your results in HealthELife, check one of the other methods listed on the BC Centre for Disease Control test results page.

My Care Compass (formerly My eHealth):

  • Northern Health region residents can also use My Care Compass online service to receive test results if they are aged 16 or older. To use My Care Compass, you will need to provide your Personal Health Number (PHN) at the clinic or collection centre when you take your COVID-19 test. You can register for My Care Compass at 1-888-522-7758.

Find out what your COVID-19 test results mean:

If your test result is positive, visit: I have COVID-19.

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I have COVID-19

If you received a take-home rapid test and test positive, follow the guidance below.

If you have mild symptoms and testing is not recommended, stay home and away from others until you feel well enough to return to your regular activities and you no longer have a fever. Mild symptoms can be managed at home.

If you received a positive test result:

  1. Self-isolate
  2. Manage your symptoms
  3. Check if you are eligible for COVID-19 treatment
  4. Inform your close contacts
  5. For more information

Self-isolate:

  • Stay home and keep away from others to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Learn about how to self-isolate:
  • Self-isolation supports are available: COVID-19 self-isolation supports (PDF) - Northern Health
  • If you are managing your illness at home you can end isolation depending on your vaccination status and symptoms. Continue to isolate for longer if you have a fever or are not feeling better.
Vaccination Status: Conditions for ending isolation:

Fully vaccinated* (over 18 years old)

Under 18 years old and not fully vaccinated

  • At least 5 days have passed since your symptoms started, or from test date if you did not have symptoms.
  • Fever has resolved for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • Symptoms have improved.

NOTE: After ending isolation, you should wear a mask for another 5 days even in settings where a mask isn’t required and avoid higher risk settings (e.g. long term care facilities and gatherings).

Not fully vaccinated* (over 18 years old)

  • At least 10 days have passed since your symptoms started, or from test date if you did not have symptoms.
  • Fever has resolved for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication.
  • Symptoms have improved.

*Fully vaccinated means you received both doses of a 2-dose series (e.g. AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, or Moderna vaccine) more than 7 days ago, or have received a single dose of a 1-dose series (e.g. Janssen/Johnson and Johnson) more than 14 days ago.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Most people can safely manage their symptoms with home treatment, such as drinking plenty of fluids, rest, and using a humidifier or hot shower to ease a cough or sore throat. If you have a fever, you can use non-prescription medicine like acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) or ibuprofen (e.g. Advil) to help with some of the symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If you have questions or concerns about your health, call your Primary Care Provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner), the Northern Health Virtual Clinic at 1-844-645-7811, or HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1.
  • If your symptoms worsen, or if you do not improve after five or six days, call your Primary Care Provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner), an Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC), the Northern Health Virtual Clinic at 1-844-645-7811, or HealthLinkBC at 8-1-1 so they can determine if you need to be assessed again.
  • Go to an emergency department or call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency service) if you are experiencing any of the following:
    • Find it hard to breathe
    • Have chest pain
    • Can’t drink anything
    • Feel very sick
    • Feel confused

Inform your close contacts:

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may let your close contacts know so they can monitor for symptoms. Generally you should notify:

  • People you live with
  • People you had intimate contact with

Everyone in the household should monitor symptoms consistent with COVID-19 and stay home if they develop symptoms. 

You can direct your close contacts to: Close contacts and contact tracing - BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC)

For more information:

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COVID-19 treatment

If you test positive for COVID-19 you may be eligible for specific treatments if you:

  • Received a clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) letter
  • Are being actively treated for cancer
  • Have received an organ transplant
  • Have cystic fibrosis or severe renal disease
  • Are moderately or severely immunocompromised
  • Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people who have certain chronic health conditions or identify as Indigenous 

To access treatment:

  1. Contact your health care provider, doctor or specialist as soon as you know you are positive for COVID-19 and ask if you are eligible for specific treatments.
  2. If you do not have a health care provider, or you are unable to reach them, please do an online self-assessment. If you are unable to do the online assessment, call Service BC at 1-888-268-4319 (open 7:30 am to 8 pm daily).
  3. If you do not have a health care provider and still need assistance, call the Northern Health Virtual Primary and Community Care Clinic at 1-844-645-7811 (10 am to 10 pm daily PST including weekends and holidays).

For more information:

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I am a close contact

A close contact is generally someone who has been near a person with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes when health and safety measures were not in place or were insufficient.

At this time, close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19, do not need to self-isolate.

You need to monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 and avoid high-risk settings for 10 days. 

If you are in a First Nations community in the Northern Health region and your community leadership provides different direction, please follow local direction instead.

For more information:

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Returning to work

Returning to work after self isolation and/or COVID-19 diagnosis:

Return to work letters:

  • Public Health does not routinely issue return-to-work letters for people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or close contacts who are self-isolating.
  • Use the following information to determine if you are able to stop self-isolating and return to work.

If you had a COVID-19 diagnosis, generally you can return to work once you have met the conditions for ending isolation.

  • Refer to the self-isolation section on I have COVID-19.
  • If public health or your community provides you with different isolation instruction, follow those instead.

Negative test after COVID-19 diagnosis:

  • A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return to work following COVID-19 diagnosis.
  • Workers who were diagnosed with COVID-19 are able to return to work when they have met the criteria for ending isolation. Refer to the self-isolation section on I have COVID-19.
  • People should not be re-tested after a diagnosis of COVID-19, unless specifically advised to do so by Public Health. Evidence shows that the test may remain positive long after the risk of spreading COVID-19 to others has ended.

Negative test after self-isolation as a close contact:

  • A negative COVID-19 test is not required to return to work following self-isolation due to COVID-19 exposure.
  • Workers who were a close contact to a COVID-19 case are able to return to work when they have met the criteria for ending isolation. Refer to the self-isolation section on I am a close contact.

When is a negative COVID-19 test required to return to work?

  • Employees with new onset of respiratory or gastrointestinal (GI) illness that is not explained by another known illness should self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19. Use the BC Self Assessment Tool to determine if you need to get tested.
  • If this test is negative, employees may return to work after symptoms resolve.
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