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COVID-19: Online Diagnosis and Screening

COVID-19 screening is an important way to slow the spread of the disease. While picking up a COVID-19 screening test at your local drugstore is relatively easy, you may need a proctored test to meet work or travel requirements or prefer a lab-based test.

COVID-19 test requirements for travel vary based on the current conditions. As of July 5th, 2023, travel to Russia, China, India, and several other countries is restricted based on demonstrating a negative COVID-19 test result. As of May 12th, 2023, the U.S. no longer requires non-citizens entering the U.S. to demonstrate a negative COVID-19 test or COVID-19 vaccination.

If you are questioning whether you have COVID-19 or need evidence of a proctored test, scheduling a consultation with a virtual doctor on the Telegra MD telehealth platform is simple and convenient. You will receive a diagnosis and your proctored COVID-19 test results. Telehealth for COVID-19 screening makes it easy to consult with a virtual doctor and receive a diagnosis, test results, and a doctor’s note to return to work or school.

What Is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a viral infection caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. The infection reached pandemic levels in 2020-2021, leading to millions of deaths worldwide. COVID-19 can cause mild-to-moderate symptoms in some people and severe, life-threatening symptoms in others. Some people who have recovered from the acute COVID-19 illness have developed a condition called “Long COVID.”

Long COVID is defined as “signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after initial COVID-19 or SARS-CoV-2 infection. The signs, symptoms, and conditions are present four weeks or more after the initial phase of infection; may be multisystemic; and may present with a relapsing–remitting pattern and progression or worsening over time, with the possibility of severe and life-threatening events even months or years after infection. Long COVID is not one condition. It represents many potentially overlapping entities, likely with different biological causes and different sets of risk factors and outcomes.”

A diagnostic test for COVID-19

Can COVID-19 be Diagnosed Through Telehealth?

Telehealth for COVID-19 screening and diagnosis is the perfect option for people who do not want to risk spreading their infection to others. You can schedule an online medical consultation with a virtual doctor using the Telegra MD platform and receive a diagnosis. Your virtual doctor can give you tips on symptoms to watch for and how to protect your family and friends from infection. Online doctors who screen and diagnose COVID-19 provide 24-hour appointment access, which means you can expect doctor access whenever you need it, leading to an earlier diagnosis and treatment.

How Do You Get COVID-19?

COVID-19 is a respiratory virus that spreads when an infected person expels droplets containing viral particles. People close to an infected person may breathe in these infected droplets, or they may land on their eyes, nose, or mouth. In some cases, touching a surface that is contaminated with viral particles and then touching your eyes or nose can also transmit the infection.

What Are the Common Symptoms of COVID-19?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 symptoms present anywhere from 2 to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Up to one-third of people with a COVID-19 infection never develop symptoms.1

Common symptoms associated with COVID-19 include the following:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

When Should You See a Doctor for COVID-19?

See a doctor for COVID-19 if you are unsure whether your symptoms are consistent with a COVID-19 infection or if you have any symptoms of a secondary bacterial infection, such as an ear infection, conjunctivitis, or sinus infection.

Seek emergency treatment for COVID-19 if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Undiagnosed or new confusion
  • Inability to stay awake or to wake up
  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in your chest
  • Pale, gray, or blue-tinged skin, lips, or nail beds as these may indicate decreased oxygen delivery to your body tissues
An older man wearing a face mask

Are Some People at Increased Risk for COVID-19?

As of June 24th, 2023, over 6 million people have been hospitalized for COVID-19 in the U.S., and 1.1 million people have died, according to the CDC data tracker. Older adults and people with chronic health conditions have been most severely affected.

Some noted risk factors for more severe COVID-19 infections include:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Diabetes mellitus, type 1 and 2
  • Heart conditions
  • Immune conditions
  • Obesity

Ethnic and racial groups have also been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, especially at the beginning of the pandemic. Hispanic or Latino patients with COVID-19 were most likely to be hospitalized.

How Do You Diagnose COVID-19?

The best way to diagnose COVID-19 is by using an approved COVID-19 test kit. While the steps for taking a home COVID-19 test are not hard, some people prefer to send their swabs to an approved laboratory for testing or need a proctored test to meet work, school, or travel requirements. If an at-home COVID-19 test is not done correctly, it will affect its accuracy.  

The steps to taking a COVID-19 rapid antigen at-home test typically include the following:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water.
  2. Open the test kit. You should see a collection swab, a test strip, and a small vial of liquid.
  3. Swab the internal surface of both nostrils. Rotate the swab inside your nostril at least five times.
  4. Insert your swab (where you collected the specimen) into the liquid in the vial.
  5. Stir the swab at least 15 times in the liquid.
  6. Squeeze the sides of the vial together and slowly pull the swab out, squeezing the liquid from the swab.
  7. Open the test strip. Squeeze three drops of the solution onto the test strip.
  8. Set a timer for 15 minutes.
  9. Read your test results.

There are two potential lines on your COVID-19 test strip at the end of the test.

  • C line: this is the “control” line. If this line is not visible, then the test is not accurate. You will need to retest. The control line provides reassurance that the chemicals in the COVID-19 test are reacting correctly. If you do not see the “C” line, your COVID-19 test may be past its usability date or defective.
  • T line: This line indicates whether your test is positive or negative. The test is positive if the “T line” is present, no matter how faint. If no line is visible at the “T,” the test is negative.

Making an appointment with an online doctor makes COVID-19 testing easy. An online doctor can walk you through the testing process, evaluate your symptoms, and provide an online diagnosis. Many people hesitate to make an appointment with an online doctor because they do not know how much a doctor’s visit costs. You will probably find that online doctor visits are much more affordable than you would have thought, especially if you do not have health insurance.

How do You Treat COVID-19?

Since COVID-19 is caused by a virus (SARS-CoV-2), in most cases, treatment is symptomatic. After you discuss your symptoms with your online doctor, they can advise you if any online prescription medication would help relieve your COVID-19 symptoms.

A child getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Can You Prevent COVID-19?

You can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. The most effective way is to get vaccinated. Two main types of COVID-19 vaccinations are available: mRNA and protein subunit. Only bivalent vaccines are available and recommended in the U.S. According to the CDC, vaccination is recommended for everyone ages six months and older. Check to see if you are eligible for a COVID-19 booster vaccination.

Other ways to reduce your risk of COVID-19 infection include the following:

  • Avoid crowded areas, especially if they have poor ventilation.
  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes and nose.
  • Clean high-touch surfaces in your home, car, and place of business.
  • Maintain social distance when possible.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Wear a mask in indoor settings and when you may be exposed to people who are ill.

The steps for treating an ear infection after seeing a doctor online through telemedicine are similar to seeing your local doctor. In both cases, you would:

  • Make an appointment: Typically, appointments to see virtual doctors through telehealth are much easier to make and are more convenient, as many telemedicine companies provide online telehealth services for ear pain treatment at any time, day or night.
  • Provide a medical history: Whether completing forms in your local doctor’s office or online before consulting with your virtual doctor, you will need to provide a medical history.
  • Consult with your doctor: After reviewing your medical history forms, your virtual doctor will determine whether your symptoms are consistent with a COVID-19 infection.
  • Treatment: If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, your online doctor can transmit any necessary prescriptions to your local pharmacy.
A person talking to a telehealth doctor

Telehealth for COVID-19 diagnosis and screening has many potential benefits, including:

  • Avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19 by traveling to a doctor’s office
  • Convenient
  • May meet travel requirements
  • Saves time
  • Test report emailed or faxed to you
  • Testing in the comfort of your home

On May 11th, 2023, the federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency ended. According to the CDC, this means that COVID-19 vaccines will remain available; insurance companies will no longer be required to provide free COVID-19 tests; treatment options for COVID-19 are expected to remain the same; and data reporting and analysis may change.

Disclaimer

While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.

References

1. Oran DP, Topol EJ. The Proportion of SARS-CoV-2 Infections That Are Asymptomatic: A Systematic Review. Ann Intern Med. 2021 May;174(5):655-662. Doi: 10.7326/M20-6976. Epub 2021 January 22nd. PMID: 33481642; PMCID: PMC7839426.

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