What MedStar Health is doing
The health of our patients, physicians, staff, and visitors is our top priority. Our clinicians are well prepared to accurately screen for risk of COVID-19, respond effectively to prevent further spread, and offer the most appropriate and up-to-date treatments. We follow the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) so patients affected by COVID-19 can receive the care they need while protecting the health and safety of our associates and the community at large.
Visitor policies and guidance
Click here to read MedStar Health’s current visitor policy.
What is the face mask policy for patients and visitors?
Given reduced regional COVID-19 transmission levels and the end of flu season, MedStar Health, in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Departments of Health, will move to the following face mask optional guidance across all MedStar Health locations, effective April 10, 2023:
- Face masks (N95 respirators or procedure masks) are optional for all asymptomatic associates, patients, and visitors, including those in clinical areas.
- Anyone with symptoms (including patients and visitors) must continue to mask in our facilities.
- Providers may still order masking in a patient’s room, especially for those patients at higher risk of infection.
- Patients may request that providers and associates wear a face mask in their room or treatment area.
- Face masks will be available onsite for patients, visitors, and associates.
Associates who test negative for COVID-19 but continue to experience cold or flu-like symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing or sniffles, are required to wear procedure masks at all MedStar Health locations. This approach to protecting the safety of our patients, visitors, and associates aligns with our responsibility as healthcare professionals.
Our brand promise, It’s how we treat people, reflects our commitment to treat our patients, visitors, and associates with respect and dignity. Our masking guidelines are subject to change based on transmission levels of infectious diseases and/or direction from the CDC or Departments of Health.
Is COVID-19 still a concern?
Thanks to vaccination, testing, treatments, and prevention measures, hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID are low. However, the virus is still active because of community spread and the development of new variants. The majority of people recover from this infection. Most people will have mild or moderate symptoms. However, some COVID-19 infections can lead to long COVID, serious illness, and in some cases death. If someone develops a more serious illness from COVID-19, they may be admitted to the hospital. Older people and those with pre-existing medical conditions have a greater risk for serious illness. Examples of pre-existing conditions are: cancer, diabetes, heart disease, underlying lung disease, or other conditions impacting the ability of the body’s immune system to fight germs.
The first and best step you can take to prevent getting sick or spreading COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. In addition, everyday preventive steps that are always recommended to slow the spread of respiratory illnesses, like colds and flu:
If you do have symptoms, get tested as soon as possible and isolate at home for at least 5 days if your results are positive. Discuss the details of isolation (how long to isolate, how long to wear a mask around others, etc.) with your healthcare provider. You can also refer to the CDC’s isolation and symptom tracker.
Vaccines and boosters
COVID-19 vaccinations are FDA-approved for anyone 6 months of age and older.
Multiple vaccines are currently authorized for use by the FDA to prevent the spread and complications of COVID-19. A primary series of vaccines, which provides essential protection against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. The number of doses in this series varies based on vaccine manufacturer and a patient’s individual medical history and risk factors. Booster doses are also available to enhance the body’s immune response against the SARS-CoV-2 virus for everyone 5 years and older. The interval between primary series and booster doses varies based on manufacturer and individual medical history and risk factors. Talk to your healthcare provider or visit the CDC website for the most up-to-date information regarding your personal recommendations for vaccination.
In general, vaccines designed to prevent COVID-19 are well tolerated, with side effects similar to other vaccines that prevent flu or pneumonia, including: low-grade fever, soreness and/or redness at the injection site, fatigue, and body aches. These typically resolve on their own within 1 to 2 days and can be treated with rest, fluids, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories. If you are experiencing a prolonged or abnormal reaction to vaccination, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
All COVID-19 vaccines are safe to administer with other vaccines, including the flu vaccine. Individuals who were recently sick with COVID-19 may receive the vaccine as soon as they recover, even if treated with medications like Paxlovid or a monoclonal antibody infusion. It is recommended to delay COVID-19 vaccination for two weeks after receiving pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment with Evusheld. Your healthcare provider can discuss individual recommendations for COVID-19 vaccination and booster timing, or you may visit the CDC’s website for more information.
Vaccine and booster frequently asked questions
Where can I receive the vaccine or a booster?
MedStar Health is pleased to vaccinate residents of any state and the District of Columbia, ages six months and older.
Most MedStar Health primary care practices are offering the COVID-19 vaccine same day, on demand. If you are a current MedStar Health primary care patient, please contact your primary care provider’s office or send a message via the myMedStar patient portal.
If you are not a current MedStar Health primary care patient, visit MedStarHealth.org to find one of our expert primary care providers to partner with you in meeting your health needs.
District of Columbia
D.C. residents can also register for a vaccine appointment at the D.C. government website or call 855-363-0333.
Maryland residents can visit the Maryland government website or call 855-634-6829.
Virginia residents can also visit the Virginia Department of Health website or call the Virginia Department of Health hotline at 877-275-8343.
Residents from any region can also find a convenient location by using Vaccine Finder at vaccines.gov.
Where can I get a record of receiving the vaccine?
Your immunization record can be printed via the myMedStar patient portal. If you don’t already have an account, you can enroll by visiting myMedStar.org and clicking “Enroll in myMedStar.” Once enrolled, go to the Health Record on the left navigation bar and click the option for “COVID Center.” MedStar Health is pleased to offer the COVID-19 vaccine SMART Health Card. In the COVID Center, you will be able to print your vaccine SMART card or take a screenshot of it. Then, you can present the QR code to any entity that accepts SMART Health Cards. When the entity scans your personal QR code, it will receive your COVID-19 vaccination information. It receives only your COVID-19 vaccination information and no other health information about you.
Where can I get more information about the COVID-19 vaccines?
The CDC and FDA websites have good information about the vaccine and the pandemic. Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson also have fact sheets about their vaccines.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include: fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include: congestion or runny nose; fatigue; sore throat; loss of taste and/or smell; nausea or vomiting; headache; diarrhea; and body aches.
What should I do if I am experiencing symptoms of a respiratory illness (cough, fever and shortness of breath)?
Please consider the following actions:
If you are experiencing a medical emergency (such as severe shortness of breath, chest pain, or altered mental status), please call 911 and request an ambulance.
Moderate or mild illness:
MedStar Health also offers easy-to-use telehealth options to help screen and treat your illness. We have clinicians available 24/7 through MedStar eVisit, our virtual urgent care platform. Enroll at MedStar-eVisit.com or download the free iOS or Android mobile app, MedStar eVisit, from the App Store.
If you are experiencing mild or moderate symptoms and do not wish to utilize MedStar eVisit, please do not go directly to your doctor’s office or emergency department without calling first. A phone call allows our team to determine the best location for you to be evaluated. In some cases this phone call may allow you to avoid an in-person evaluation, which helps minimize exposure to the public from those with less severe symptoms.
You also can visit one of more than 30 MedStar Health Urgent Care locations. When you need convenient medical care for an illness or injury that is not life-threatening, MedStar Health Urgent Care is here for you. Reserve your spot in line with online check-in.
If you have an existing routine appointment in one of our outpatient offices and you have respiratory symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, you should call your physician office prior to the appointment to discuss how your care will best be served.
I am currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need to be tested.
I am not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms but need to be tested.
Testing for those with COVID-19 symptoms
MedStar Health Primary Care
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and want to establish care with a primary care provider, many MedStar Health primary care locations are offering evaluations with COVID-19 testing by appointment.
Visit Access.MedStarHealth.org to schedule. Find a MedStar Health primary care location near me.
MedStar eVisit (Telehealth)
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, MedStar eVisit providers are available for telehealth visits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help manage symptoms, understand quarantine, and review options for testing. Start your appointment with a MedStar eVisit provider now.
MedStar Health Urgent Care
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, please book online ahead of time at one of our MedStar Health Urgent Care locations. Find a MedStar Health Urgent Care location near me.
If you are experiencing a medical emergency (such as severe shortness of breath, chest pain or altered mental status), please call 911 and request an ambulance.
Click here for at-home testing information
Testing for those without COVID-19 symptoms
Are you without symptoms but just need COVID-19 testing? Please consider these testing options:
Please click here to reserve a spot at a MedStar Health Urgent Care location near you. Please note that when patients do not have symptoms, rapid testing is not always available and results may take a few days to come back.
At a local state-based testing location: Maryland, Virginia, or Washington, D.C.
State Testing Resources
Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., have detailed information about COVID-19 testing options on state's sites. For COVID-19 testing locations throughout each state, please click below to view your state's site information.
Find a testing site near me.
Find a testing site near me.
Find a testing site near me.
MedStar eVisit (Telehealth)
MedStar Health offers telehealth video visits with Urgent Care, Primary Care, and ER providers. During your eVisit, the provider will discuss testing options, including the decision to defer testing in favor of quarantine when appropriate. Testing options include MedStar Health testing locations, state-based facilities, and at-home testing options. Start your appointment with a MedStar eVisit provider now. MedStar eVisit providers may determine that you need to see an in-person provider for certain types of illness or symptoms and will help navigate you to the most appropriate next step at a MedStar Health Urgent Care or emergency department.
MedStar Health Urgent Care
Please click here to reserve a spot at a MedStar Health Urgent Care location near you.
At-Home Testing Options
Currently, there are two ways to test at home for the virus that causes COVID-19: molecular testing (PCR) and antigen testing. PCR testing has been used since the pandemic began and is considered to be the “gold standard“ by the CDC.
COVID-19 antigen tests are designed for the rapid diagnoses of active infection primarily by detecting the nucleocapsid protein antigen of the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) from nasal swabs or similar clinical specimens. After collection, point-of-care antigen tests take approximately 15 to 30 minutes to finalize a result.
Antigen tests are generally less sensitive than PCR tests. Because of the lower sensitivity, it is generally recommended to repeat these tests 2 to 3 times, with 12 to 24 hours between tests. Testing is most accurate when there is a high pre-test probability of SARS-CoV-2 infection like high prevalence of infection in the community or a patient who showing symptoms of COVID-19. In addition, viral carriage is highest early in infection; therefore, antigen tests are more likely to detect a true positive early in infection.
Please contact your medical provider or refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate time window for the test being used.
Many companies offer at-home polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 testing options. Please check for minimum age requirements. Any patient can order these tests online and they will be shipped to your home within 24 hours*, with results often faster than our Urgent Care centers. Most insurance plans and FSA/HSA will cover these tests.
Testing Frequently Asked Questions
When should I do a COVID-19 home test?
COVID-19 home tests (or self-tests) are available over the counter or online for use without the order of a medical provider. These convenient tests can be used to rapidly determine whether you have COVID-19 and should self-isolate prior to gathering indoors (especially with those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised) or after exposure or developing COVID-19 symptoms.
Make sure to purchase a home test that is currently authorized for use by the FDA and always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions when testing. Do not use if the test is past the expiration date. Note: The FDA has extended the expiration dates for some test kits. You can visit the FDA’s website to verify the expiration date of your home kit.
If you test positive, isolate immediately and inform your school, employer, and any close contacts. Stay home for at least 5 days from onset of symptoms and get in touch with your healthcare provider to help determine when your isolation period can end. Please report your positive test to your local department of health. Most home tests have information on how to do this.
If you test negative, you may still have COVID-19, especially if you did not have any symptoms at the time of the test. Testing again within 24 hours increases the sensitivity of the test for those without symptoms but can still provide false-negative results. If you are worried that you might have COVID-19 or have ongoing symptoms despite a negative test result, contact your health care provider right away to discuss next steps.
What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?
Current recommendations for those who test positive are to complete a period of self- isolation to avoid spreading the infection to others. Contact a healthcare provider to review your symptoms and determine how long your period of self-isolation should last and whether treatment is indicated. This will vary based on your symptoms and whether you are living with others who also tested positive.
I (or my loved one) have COVID-19. When should we return to work/school/day care?
Individuals should not return to work, school, or daycare until their isolation period has ended. Typically, this is no sooner than 5 days following a positive COVID-19 test or onset of symptoms. Certain individuals, such as those who work in health care, may be able to return to work sooner if they test positive but do not have symptoms. Consult with your local health department, employer, school, or day care center, as guidance may vary based on employer, school district, or local rules and regulations.
Do I need to be retested after testing positive?
The CDC does not currently recommend repeating a test after testing positive. Under certain conditions, for instance testing positive with a rapid test when you do not have any symptoms, a follow-up swab may be sent out to the lab to confirm the results. However, you may end your recommended isolation without repeating a swab following a positive result. You may need a repeat test if required by school, your employer, or local rules or regulations.
Does MedStar Health offer antibody tests?
Yes, MedStar Health offers blood-based antibody tests. However, there are still no recommendations for the use of antibody tests to assess individuals, as these tests cannot effectively determine immunity to COVID. If you had the COVID-19 vaccine, it is most likely you will produce antibodies that are detected in laboratory tests. This may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. However, the antibody tests do not measure the amount of antibody present. Nor do these tests guarantee the detected antibody neutralizes the SARS-COV-2 virus to prevent infection.
Despite the production of antibodies after receiving the vaccine, we still recommend protection of yourself and others through appropriate use of masks and physical distancing. Remember, the best vaccines are still only 95 percent effective. And, while a vaccine might prevent you from developing severe disease, you may still pass the virus on to others.
To request a test, please contact your primary care provider’s office. Your provider will arrange for you to receive the necessary referral orders for bloodwork at an approved lab. Testing will be performed at MedStar Health or a reference laboratory that uses a similarly rigorous testing system, such as Quest or LabCorp, as designated by your insurance provider.
Our primary care and urgent care sites will offer pre- and post-test counseling so that you understand your results and what they mean.
Are my antibody results being reported or shared anywhere?
Individual results will not be shared with anyone, but de-identified (meaning you are not personally identified) aggregate data may be used to inform our epidemiologic studies; as an academic health system, we use de-identified test data to better understand the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and how to improve the testing, diagnosis, and treatment of COVID-19.
Can an antibody test be used to determine if I'm currently infected with COVID-19?
No. Antibody tests look for antibodies that the body makes after exposure to the virus. Because it takes time for your body to make antibodies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not recommend using an antibody test to diagnose COVID-19.
Most individuals with COVID symptoms don’t require anything other than over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. However, if your symptoms are more severe, call your doctor for guidance.
There are several outpatient treatment options for the treatment of COVID-19 for patients at high risk for severe disease. MedStar Health is proud to offer all currently available treatments for COVID-19 infection. Treatments must be started within 5-7 days of the start of COVID-19 symptoms.
To better understand the available treatments and which treatments are appropriate for you, we encourage you to seek guidance from a healthcare provider:
If you have a MedStar Health Primary Care Provider, contact your provider and notify them that you have symptoms of possible COVID-19 (or a positive COVID-19 test if applicable).
If you do not have a MedStar Health Primary Care Provider but would like to see one for an evaluation of your COVID-19 symptoms, click here to find a provider.
MedStar Health Urgent Care locations also offer COVID-19 testing and evaluation for available treatments. Click here to find Urgent Care center near you.
MedStar eVisit providers are available for telehealth visits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help manage symptoms, understand quarantine, and review options for testing. Start your appointment with a MedStar eVisit provider now.
MedStar Health is working with local and federal health officials to provide the most current treatments for patients diagnosed with COVID-19 who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19 disease. More information on COVID-19 therapeutics, as well as the Federal COVID-19 Therapeutics Locator may be found at the links below:
COVID.gov (patient-facing information on COVID-19) - Pharmacy and Test-to-Treat Locator
COVID recovery program
If you are at least 6 weeks from the start of COVID-19 symptoms, MedStar Health is offering a COVID Recovery Program to help you return to normal activities as soon as possible.
To learn more, click here.
Support our healthcare workers
This is a critical time for caregivers and patients. Share your gratitude for our team by supporting our Coronavirus (COVID-19) response efforts.