Fairfax Co. health official shares what to do as the COVID-19 public health emergency ends

At-home COVID-19 tests. (WTOP/Anne Kramer)

For many people, spring is the time of year to go through homes, removing anything old and outdated. And with the COVID-19 public health emergency coming to an official end Thursday, it is also a good time to check the status of pandemic supplies.

The Food and Drug Administration extended the shelf-life of some at-home COVID tests. However, using old or expired tests could mean an inaccurate result.

“If your tests have expired and it’s been several months, they may not be reliable. So when you go ahead and take a test and it shows negative, it could be that the test is no longer valid,” said Dr. Parham Jaberi, deputy director for Medical Services at the Fairfax County Health Department.

Jaberi said the tests also won’t be as reliable if they have been sitting in the closet for over a year, or in the garage, where temperatures can fluctuate. He suggests using the information on the FDA website to double check the expiration dates, to see if it can be used past the date printed on the back of the box.

Jaberi adds that free tests can still be ordered from the government before the May 11 cutoff date.

Currently, he said, COVID transmission levels in the community are low. He added that COVID-19 is beginning to pick up somewhat of a seasonal pattern, like the flu, but there are still cases of people getting exposed to the virus.

So, Jaberi said that it’s important to still have supplies and a stock of tests on-hand.

“For those who are at higher risk or who may be going into health care centers and interacting with elderly folks who have immunocompromised conditions, they may want to go ahead and order some additional tests,” Jaberi said.

With the end of the public health emergency, there will be fewer places to get a test, but you should still be able to find where tests are being offered, Jaberi said.

He said that there is still testing being done at free clinics and community health centers. Those who have insurance should check with their provider or doctor’s office to find out where to get tested for COVID.

Jaberi also said everyone should get vaccinated against COVID, and if you are ill with symptoms of COVID, don’t take it lightly, because you may not get severely ill, but you could pass it along to someone else who could. That’s why it is important to isolate and stay home if you test positive, he said.

Additionally, Jaberi said, there are resources available if you think you have caught the virus and need to get tested.

WTOP's Anne Kramer speaks to Dr. Parham Jaberi, Deputy Director for Medical Services Fairfax County Health Department.
Anne Kramer

Anne Kramer first joined WTOP as a freelance news anchor in 2022 before taking on the afternoon drive. Before coming to the Washington area, Anne spent 25 years working as a news anchor and reporter for WBAL Radio in Baltimore.

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