Updated Jan 12, 2022 - COVID

Here's what to do if you test positive for COVID-19 in the DMV

Covid positive symbol

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

With many public health experts predicting that the current wave of Omicron will peak later this month, it’s not a time to let your guard down. Get vaccinated and boosted and encourage your loved ones to do the same to protect from severe illness and hospitalization.

And, if you do test positive, here’s what to know:

For D.C. residents:

Start by reporting. If you used an at-home rapid test, whether one you bought or you picked one up from the library, you should report your results in D.C.’s portal.

  • This will allow contact tracers to get in touch with you.
  • There’s no need to report if you took a PCR test at a public testing site, dropped a PCR test off at a library, or received a test at a doctor’s office. Those will be automatically reported to DC Health (and don't worry if you did both, DC Health accounts for duplicates).

You can also self-report via DC CAN, D.C.’s contact tracing app, to let others know.

  • To self-report, you either need a code from DC Health or you can request a code by filling out a form in the app. By doing so, other users who have been in close contact with you in the past two weeks for more than 15 minutes will be notified that they had a potential exposure, but they will not be told your identity.

Then, isolate:

If you live with other people who are not positive for COVID-19, health authorities say to isolate yourself to a different room and wear a mask. Surgical, KN95, or N95 masks are better than cloth masks, but if you don’t have those, try a double mask.

  • COVID-19 positive people should isolate for 10 days and may leave isolation only if they have had no fever for 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medications) and have improving symptoms, per DC Health guidance.
  • DC Health tells Axios that this guidance is currently being revised in accordance with the CDC’s new isolation guidance, but residents should follow the current guidance in the meantime.

DC Health’s guidance for people with COVID-19 does not include information on accessing food and other necessities, although contact tracers may ask you if you have access to food and can isolate. D.C. has a portal to streamline applications for SNAP, TANF, and other medical benefits.

  • Amazon, Instacart, Giant, Safeway, and Aldi all accept EBT payments for eligible products if you are in quarantine or isolation.

D.C. residents can expect an initial outreach interview with a contact tracer and a follow-up call at the end of the isolation period.

If you’re seeking monoclonal antibodies:

  • This infusion treatment authorized for emergency use by the FDA may only be available to certain people after federal health authorities wrote last month that the Omicron variant may be associated with resistance to the treatment.
  • Both MedStar Health Systems and Johns Hopkins Medicine have small allocations of the treatment. Per Johns Hopkins Medicine’s website, they have stopped administering the treatment. MedStar says it is prioritizing the treatment for unvaccinated and immunocompromised people.
  • Maryland residents seeking monoclonal antibodies can learn about their options via the covidLINK website, but supply is currently being prioritized for the most medically vulnerable.

For Maryland residents:

  • Maryland’s health department currently asks people with COVID-19 symptoms to isolate at home for 10 days from when symptoms started, and until they’ve gone 24 hours without fever (without fever-reducing medications) and have other improving symptoms.

Maryland residents who test positive using at-home antigen tests can report their results using the NAVICA app available in the app store on smartphones.

For Montgomery County residents:

  • Those in need of short-term housing if they cannot isolate themselves away from other household members can reach the COVID-19 call center at 240-777-2982.
  • Those in need of food assistance (and not just during an isolation period) can reach out to the Food Access Call Center by dialing 311.

For Virginia residents:

  • Virginia’s health department asks COVID-19 positive people who perform at-home tests to contact their health care providers with the results.
  • Virginia residents who pick up a free rapid test from a local library will be guided through the test via an online proctor, who will then report results to the Virginia Department of Health.
  • Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax County all follow the CDC’s updated isolation guidance for asymptomatic people and those with improving symptoms.

For Arlington County residents:

  • Arlington residents in need of food or other social services can call 703-228-1300.
  • Arlington residents also in need of other financial assistance, whether to account for lost jobs or lost wages, can sign up for assistance online.

For Alexandria residents:

  • Alexandria launched a website Tuesday night to help residents who are sick.
  • Alexandria does not yet have a mechanism to report positive at-home tests, but a city spokesperson told Axios they are looking at developing one.
  • People in need of resources can call 703-746-4988.

For Fairfax County residents:

  • Those in need of rental, food, or medical assistance can call Coordinated Services Planning at 703-222-0880 to get connected, or the Health Department’s Community Health Worker Program for a referral at 703-267-3511.

This guide will be updated as more information becomes available.


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