COVID-19 Testing

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 Rapid Test Instructions and
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Book a COVID-19 Test Appointment (rapid test pick up or PCR test)

Nova Scotians who have symptoms of COVID-19 must complete testing. Those who have an exposure in their household but have no symptoms are recommended to complete testing. Most Nova Scotians qualify for Rapid Antigen Testing, while those at increased risk of severe illness, or who meet other criteria listed in the FAQ below, qualify for PCR Testing.

If you are using a rapid test and your result is positive, you may choose to either complete the full self-isolation requirements or have a confirmation PCR test. In the case of confirmatory testing, the PCR result will be taken as most accurate.

To determine if you require a PCR or Rapid test, or to book a confirmatory test, complete the online assessment.

You should complete the COVID-19 Report and Support Screening if:

  • You have tested positive on a rapid test
  • You are booking a PCR test (if your results are negative, your information will be deleted)

This form is being used to help quickly identify people who are eligible for and may benefit from COVID-19 medications and treatments to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization. Call 1-833-797-7772 if you require assistance completing the form.

If you test positive for COVID-19, please visit this page for more information on what to do next: nshealth.ca/testedpositiveforcovid

Who should get tested

1. If you have symptoms of COVID-19. 

If you use rapid antigen tests it is important that you have 2 negative tests 48 hours apart before leaving isolation. One negative test is NOT adequate. If you are a household close contact and you have symptoms follow the testing and isolation instructions here.

2. People who are at risk of severe disease.

Those at risk of severe disease are encouraged to increase protection through regular rapid testing, even if there are no symptoms.  If symptoms develop get a PCR (lab) test as soon as you can. This is important because, if you test positive, some people may be eligible for early treatment to prevent severe disease. Continuing other precautions like wearing masks, practicing good hand hygiene and physical distance, and carefully choosing your activities and social groups also help protect you and the vulnerable people in your circles.

3. People who spend time with others at risk of severe disease.

If you live with or spend time with people who are at risk of severe disease (see list below) consider rapid testing if you’re going to spend time with them, even when you have no symptoms.Reducing Risk in Shared Living Spaces (.pdf)

4. Household contacts

A household contact is anyone who lives in the home with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 (positive case) while that person was infectious. This includes any guest(s) staying in the home overnight.

COVID-19 Testing FAQs

Am I eligible for a PCR test?

There are three categories of eligibility for PCR testing in Nova Scotia.

1. People who have symptoms or have been identified as close contacts AND are one of the following:

  • 50 years and over
  • Unvaccinated (less than full vaccine series) and age 12 or older
  • Live or work in the following congregate settings:
    • Long-term care home
    • Residential care facilities
    • Corrections
    • Shelters and transition houses
    • Acute care settings
    • Entering a Disability Support Program facility
  • First Nations 
  • African Nova Scotians (18 and over)
  • Front line and community Health Care Workers with direct patient care and First Responders.  Frontline and community healthcare workers who work directly with patients include: doctors, nurses, paramedics, other hospital employees and continuing care assistants who provide direct patient care, dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and denturists, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacy assistants. Please bring your staff ID to your testing appointment.
  • Adults 18-49 year with one or more risk factors for severe disease:
    • Obesity (BMI >30 kg/m2)
    • Type 1 or 2 diabetes mellitus     
    • Chronic lung disease, including poorly controlled asthma (e.g. on medication or hospitalization within the past 12 months)
    • Chronic kidney disease, including those on dialysis
    • Down Syndrome
    • Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis, Huntington’s Disease
    • Immunocompromised or receiving immunosuppressive therapy
  • Children and youth under age 18 with any of the following conditions:
    • history of prematurity < 29 weeks
    • Chronic lung disease including chronic lung disease of prematurity, cystic fibrosis, and severe asthma
    • Down Syndrome
    • Motor Neuron Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Myasthenia Gravis
    • Obesity (BMI >30kg/m2)
  • Pregnant
  • Individuals who cannot perform a rapid test at home and require help due to a developmental, intellectual or physical disability.

2. Testing required for medical procedure

3. People who test positive on a take-home rapid antigen test (optional confirmation PCR test).

All other people who have symptoms or a member of their household has tested positive, are asked to complete the online assessment to determine the best test for you. This includes booked appointments for a take-home (rapid) test pick up at a COVID-19 Testing Centre. Drop-in appointments are not available.  

Anyone who is booked for a PCR test or tests positive on a take home (rapid) test is asked to complete the online COVID-19 Report and Support screening form when booking their PCR test or reporting a positive rapid antigen test: https://c19hc.nshealth.ca/self-report. The form will collect information to help quickly identify people who are eligible for and may benefit from COVID-19 medications and treatments to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization. It will also be used to identify people who may need additional support from Public Health.

Who is considered high risk?

The evidence around individuals who are most at risk for severe disease continues to evolve, and this list may be updated as evidence unfolds. The greatest single risk factor for severe disease is advanced age. Individuals who have certain medical conditions, especially if they have multiple medical conditions, are also at increased risk. Healthy children are not at increased risk for severe disease.

The following people, particularly if unvaccinated or vaccinated but not boosted, are at increased risk of severe disease:

  • Older adults (increasing risk with each decade, especially over 60 years)
  • Any age and living with:
    • lung disease
    • heart disease
    • diabetes
    • kidney disease
    • liver disease
    • dementia
    • cancer
    • neurodevelopmental conditions (such as Down Syndrome)
    • sickle cell disease
    • neurological conditions (e.g., epilepsy, stroke)
    • immunocompromised status, including those taking medications which lower the immune system, such as chemotherapy
    • obesity (BMI equal to or greater than 30)
  • Pregnant persons

What do I need to know about self-isolation?

Directions for self-isolation may vary slightly for each person, based on their personal situation.

Learn more about when you need to get tested and when you need to self isolate here.

What if I need help arranging transportation to or can't get into the testing appointment?

If you have symptoms and are getting tested you can walk, drive or cycle to your testing appointment. Do not take the bus or ferry. 

In some cases Nova Scotia Health can arrange transportation, testing in the parking lot of the testing centre for people who have no other means. If you need help with this, please call Nova Scotia Health at 1-844-996-0694 to book your appointment. Nova Scotia Health will work with you to reduce the barriers for testing. 

How do I prepare my child for a gargle test?

 

 
Children or youth between the ages of 4 and 18 years old may be able to have the gargle test if able to:
  • swish salty water in the mouth for 5 seconds, then
  • gargle with the salty water for 5 seconds, and repeat both steps 2 more times (total time of 30 seconds), then
  • spit the salty water into a container
There are steps they need to complete BEFORE having the test. 
 
Children or youth must not: eat, drink, chew gum, brush teeth, smoke or vape for at least one hour before the test. 
 
Younger children do best when they practice the steps at home with water; just make sure if you do choose to have your child practice that it is done at least two hours before the test. 
 
For detailed preparation instructions, please view the gargle instruction sheet (PDF) 
 
It is extremely important that children and youth who are using the gargle testing method follow these guidelines, as failure to do so will require them to have their COVID-19 test via swab collection. 
 
During the procedure, the child and youth must wear their mask while swishing and gargling.
 
Note that if a child or youth does have difficulty completing the gargle test, the test cannot be repeated that day – they would have to be tested via swab collection or rebooked for a gargle test at a later date.

What happens after my COVID-19 test?

Once you complete a COVID-19 test, you must continue to self-isolate until you receive a negative test result.

For instructions on how to self-isolate please see https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/symptoms-and-testing/#testing 

When you receive your test results, you need to follow the instructions based on WHY you got tested:

If you took a rapid COVID-19 test because you live with or are visiting someone who is at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, you do not need to isolate unless you develop symptoms.

How do I receive my results?

When individuals come for their testing appointment at a COVID-19 testing centre or mobile testing unit, they will be asked at registration for their email and phone number, as well as a health card or student identification number.

If you have a valid provincial health card, you’ll be able to receive your results in the following ways:

E-mail auto-notifications

Email results may be received 24 hours a day. Please check your “Junk” and “Other Inbox” folders for your test results. Look for an email from noreply@nshealth.ca.

Auto-call notifications

Auto-calls may occur daily between noon and 5 p.m. It’s important that people keep their phones with them and on if they are expecting a test result. The caller ID may indicate unknown name, unknown number or a long-distance/out-of-province number; please answer those calls.

Online at https://c19results.nshealth.ca/

If you do not have a provincial health card or a student ID, you will receive a phone call from Public Health.

In most cases, Nova Scotians will receive their test result within 24-72 hours. If you have been waiting for COVID-19 PCR test results for more than 72 hours please call Public Health at 1-844-996-0694.

Nova Scotians who have been tested should have their health card or identification number ready. They will be asked to enter the last four digits to receive their result. Those with an Ontario health card should enter the last four numbers that appear before the letters on their card.

Learn more

COVID-19 medication and Report and Support online screening tool FAQs

Updated: Feb. 28, 2022

When should I complete the Report and Support online screening tool?

You should fill out the Report and Support online screening tool when you book a PCR test, waiting for your PCR results or have received a positive result on your rapid test.

 

How do I complete the Report and Support form?

Complete the form online at https://c19hc.nshealth.ca/self-report  If you are booking a PCR test by phone through 811, they will complete it for you. If you test positive on a rapid test and do not have access to the internet, you can call 1-833-797-7772 and a staff member will complete the form on your behalf.

 

Who will the information be shared with?

The information collected in this form will be shared with Public Health, the Infectious Diseases COVID-19 care team and the COVID-19 Community Virtual Care Team to support management and follow-up of priority cases.

If I fill out the form, does this guarantee that I get medication to treat COVID-19?

Medications for early and mild COVID are not appropriate for everyone, and people should be aware that filling out the screening form does not necessarily mean they need or should take medication. Duration and severity of symptoms, vaccination status, certain medical conditions and organ dysfunction, or some medications may deem therapy inappropriate.

Information from the form is also used to determine eligibility for other supports, such as from the COVID Community Virtual Care Team, or Public Health.

 

How will I know if I am eligible for medication/treatment?

This tool enables those who may be at risk and may benefit from medication/therapy to identify themselves. While not all people who complete this form will need a follow up phone call or treatment, those who do may receive a phone call from an unknown number, so please consider answering if you receive such a call.

 

If I complete the Report and Support online screening tool, what will happen to my information if I get a negative result?

If a person tests negative on a PCR test, their information will not be used, and will be deleted. If you have another PCR test in the future, you need to complete the web form again.

Can I wait until I get a positive PCR result to fill out the form?

Completing the form before a person’s PCR appointment and test result may seem premature, as the information will only be used if the person tests positive. However, there’s good reason for collecting the information early. Medications for early and mild COVID are recommended within 5 to 7 days of symptom onset. Providing information in the report and support form in advance will allow timely assessment for medication/treatment for those with a positive PCR result.

Can I get a prescription for medication from my family doctor/walk-in clinic/pharmacy?

An inhaler that contains budesonide (Pulmicort) may be appropriate for some patients with mild and early COVID. Any primary care provider can write a prescription for inhaled budesonide (Pulmicort).

A team of designated prescribers are responsible for writing prescriptions for sotrovimab and nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid) that are also used for mild and early COVID in Nova Scotia. They cannot be initiated by prescribers who have not been identified as designated prescribers. The report and support tool screening tool is the way that these designated prescribers can determine if a person is eligible for medication.