COVID FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTONS
What constitutes an exposure?
A significant exposure was defined by CDC as one where you spent at least 15 minutes at less than 6 feet distance from a person with COVID or someone who was diagnosed with COVID less than 2 days after your exposure. However, newer strains like Delta present in our community require less time for a significant exposure, 2 minutes in some estimates. Other exposures such as handshakes, hugs, brief talking do not require isolation, but should put you on alert.
What about vaccination?
At present vaccines with their side effects are much safer than the risk of major side effects and death from COVID. They are not associated with infertility and offer major protection from the newer more contagious variants but are not perfect and are not fully effective until 2 weeks after the last dose. One can still contract covid after vaccination so any suspect symptoms should be evaluated for that possibility. Vaccination protects much better than having had prior COVID.
I think I may have been exposed, what do I do?
Try to determine if you had a significant exposure as above and beware of the short exposure time needed with the Delta variant. If not, continue to follow social distancing and masking guidelines.
Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other symptoms of COVID.
Take your temperature and follow CDC guidance if you have symptoms.
I had a significant exposure, should I get tested and when?
That’s a tough question. Because of the incubation period, you may become positive anywhere from 2-14 days after exposure. A negative test during that time doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. An early positive test might help you to notify others that you have been around that they have been exposed so they can notify and protect others. On the other hand, testing too early can mean you might get a false negative result and would need to repeat the test later. Recently there has been advice that the best period might be 3-6 days after exposure. Newer guidance from CDC allows resumption of routine precautions after exposure if one remains asymptomatic and has a negative test on or after day 7 since the last exposure.
Where can I get tested?
CARES is doing test as a drive-up test after you have registered into the system and a nurse has called you. An associated provider encounter will give you guidance on treatment advice.
I was exposed, and my test was negative, what next?
If you had a significant exposure as defined above, you should continue to self-isolate until at least 14 days after your exposure because of the incubation period. If your exposure was less than that, maintain normal precautions and be on the lookout for illness, checking your temperature daily. Try to stay away from vulnerable people. If you test negative on or after day 7 and are asymptomatic, you may resume routine precautions.
I tested positive, what do I do now?
If you are asymptomatic, you must do self-isolation until 10 days after your test was taken, or if you become symptomatic, until symptoms of cough, shortness of breath are resolved for at least 3 days and fever is gone for over 24 hours. See also “What if I get sick?” You may return to work 10 days after your positive test or onset of symptoms AND your symptoms have improved for 3 days and fever has been gone for 2 days. Repeat testing is not recommended.
Many sources recommend daily zinc 225 mg daily for 5 days and Vitamin D 2,000 units daily. Most people can take Tylenol or Advil for pain and fever, and an over-the-counter cough syrup. If you are in a high risk group or are quickly getting worse, intravenous monoclonal antibody treatment is very effective and can prevent the need for hospitalization. This can be arranged through NEARMC outpatient, but should be started as early in the illness as possible.
While in your quarantine period, stay in a separate room that is well ventilated (open window if practical) and does not share air circulation with others as much as possible. When there, you may remove your mask to avoid rebreathing the viral particles you exhale but continue to mask if others are present. Your doctor may recommend other prescription medications. If you feel wheezy, severe coughing or are getting worse, buy or borrow a pulse oximeter and measure your oxygen level and let your doctor know your condition as other medicines may be needed.
An employee tested positive, what do we do as a company?
We recommend you remove the employee from work immediately. They/you should determine if anyone had a significant exposure as mentioned above. If so, those exposed should follow the significant exposure recommendations. Those without a significant exposure should follow routine precautions including social distancing and masking when not distanced. It is not recommended to require everyone in the department who did not have a significant exposure to get tested before returning to work because a negative test does not mean they will not become positive, and may give a false sense of security. In addition, getting tested may result in unnecessary delays and testing. CDC says the positive employee may return to work 10 days after their positive test (or symptom onset) AND their symptoms have improved for 3 days and fever has been gone for 2 days. Repeat testing before return to work is not recommended.
When can I go back to work, see family, ect?
Depends on whether you have symptoms or a positive test, see questions above. If you have symptoms, remember the test can be falsely negative. You should self-isolate until the later of 10 days after symptoms began or 3 days after symptoms improve and fever gone. If test is negative and symptoms are explained by another diagnosis, your doctor may allow return to work sooner.
What about an antibody test?
The antibody test is good for determining how much COVID has been in a community, but is not very helpful for telling if you have immunity or had a past infection because the test may not remain positive for very long, and even then, a positive test does not totally mean you could not get re-infected and still have to isolate if you have a repeat exposure.
What should I do if I get sick or someone in my house gets sick?
If COVID is suspected they should isolate pending testing. All other members of the house who fit the definition of significant exposure should do the same. Because exposed individuals may be asymptomatic, if the sick person’s test is positive, it is prudent to have all household members get tested, and notify their significant contacts including work, school or daycare.
Certain people with risk factors should be considered for early treatment with outpatient iv monoclonal antibodies to prevent the need for hospitalization. Those risk factors include age>65, marked obesity, Diabetes, immunosuppression, age over 55 and heart disease, high blood pressure or chronic lung disease. Severe asthma and other debilitating conditions may also be considerations. If you have these conditions and seem to be getting unusually sick in the first 7 days or so, please let us or your physician know as early as possible.
Most people who get COVID-19 will be able to recover at home. CDC has directions for people who are recovering at home and their caregivers, including:
- Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care.
- Use a separate room and bathroom for sick household members (if possible).
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
- Provide your sick household member with clean disposable facemasks to wear at home, if available, to help prevent spreading COVID-19 to others.
- Clean the sick room and bathroom, as needed, to avoid unnecessary contact with the sick person.
However, some people may need emergency medical attention. Watch for symptoms and learn when to seek emergency medical attention.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Attention
Look for emergency warning signs* for COVID-19. If someone is showing any of these signs, seek emergency medical care immediately
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
- Repeated oxygen saturation less than 92% or a drop of more than 4% from your baseline level.
Call 911 or call ahead to your local emergency facility: Notify the operator that you are seeking care for someone who has or may have COVID-19.