BY DR. LAUREN HANA- What should I do if I have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?
This is a question we are hearing more often these days as COVID-19 continues to work its way around every corner. Although Florida’s numbers are down slightly, COVID-19 is still here.
Overall case numbers and percent positivity of new cases are down to a daily new case average, around 2,600 for the week ending September 12 from a peak of over 15,000 on July 12.
According to the Florida Department of Health statistics, cases just off island in the Placida zip code of 33946 continue to inch up every couple of days to 26 as of September 14. And our own zip code of 33921 that had less than five cases since mid-March. Our total increased on August 20 to five cases and remains at five as of September 14.
Holidays like Labor Day, school being back in session and the approaching return of our seasonal residents, visitors, tourists and guests all bring a population influx – and an increased chance of additional risk and exposure will also come across the causeway bridge.
Below is information and guidance summarizing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) most recent recommendations if you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone that tested positive for COVID-19 or someone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
The CDC lists the following as symptoms to watch. Remember, symptoms can be varied and range from mild to severe and this list may not be all-inclusive as this virus continues to show us new things every day.
Symptoms include: Fever or chills; cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; Fatigue; Muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea or vomiting; diarrhea.
If you think you may have been exposed to COVID-19 or have symptoms, follow the CDC’s guidance:
1. Call 911 or have someone call 911 for you if you have chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion or blue lips or fingertips.
2. STAY HOME and ISOLATE/QUARANTINE. These two things are basically the same thing, just different terms depending on if you are sick (isolate) or have been exposed (quarantine). Here’s what you should do for BOTH isolation and quarantine: Stay in your own room and away from others in your own home; use your own bathroom if possible; wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose if you have to be in common spaces in your home and others in your home should do the same when they are in contact with you; avoid sharing food, dishes, towels and bedding with others; leave your home only for medical care – not for a haircut, not to get groceries, not to go to the post office. Get someone else to help with those things during this time.
Note: If you are sick and isolating, the others in your household should quarantine since they have been exposed.
3. Notify your healthcare provider of your symptoms or that you have tested positive for COVID-19 so you can be monitored in case your condition changes. If you do not have a healthcare provider, call the Boca Grande Health Clinic (BGHC) at (941) 964-2276.
4. Monitor your temperature and symptoms TWICE daily and keep a record. (A self-monitoring log to print can be found on the Clinic’s website at bghc.org.) Check in with your healthcare provider every two to three days to give an update. If at any time you develop chest pain, shortness of breath, confusion or blue lips or fingertips; call 911 or have someone call 911 for you.
5. Rest and stay hydrated.
6. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least a 60 percent alcohol base frequently.
7. Clean common surfaces in your home regularly with a disinfectant approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to kill the Coronavirus.
8. Review your activities back to two days PRIOR to testing positive or two days PRIOR to developing symptoms. If you were in close contact with anyone during that time (close contact is defined as within six feet for more than 15 minutes, especially if one of you was not covering your mouth and nose, but even if both did have face coverings), you should notify them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 so they can take the appropriate steps and quarantine.
When can my isolation/quarantine end?
If you tested positive for COVID-19 or had symptoms of COVID-19, you may end isolation when: You have not had a fever for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen … AND … whatever symptoms you had are improved … AND … it has been at least 10 days since you developed symptoms or if you never developed any symptoms (were asymptomatic), it has been at least 10 days since you tested positive.
If you were exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 or someone with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you may end your quarantine when:
• 14 days have passed since your last contact with the person, as long as you did not develop symptoms or test positive yourself.
The BGHC is available for you if you have further questions or are in need of care. Stay healthy and safe and thank you for helping our community to do the same.
What if my child was exposed?
If my child was exposed to COVID-19 and has to quarantine, do I also have to quarantine? Technically, no, since you didn’t actually have an exposure (unless your own child tested positive or you are ill). However, this depends on a lot of things related to how easily and consistently your child is able to quarantine in your own home. If you have young children that require care and supervision, it’s best to err on the side of being cautious and quarantine yourself as well.
If I or my family member was exposed to COVID-19, should I get tested?
Recent guidance has left testing for asymptomatic exposure up to the individual or advises you to consult with your healthcare provider for appropriate guidance according to your own level of risk.
When should I get tested?
If you would like to get tested, there are a few important things to keep in mind. The best time to test is around five to seven days after the exposure. We know that most people will develop symptoms by about seven days after an exposure, though it can be as long as 14 days after exposure in a few cases.
In order to minimize the chance of a false negative test, the virus needs to have some time to replicate in order to allow for detection by the testing, so testing too early has a higher likelihood of a falsely negative test when the person is actually infected. If you develop symptoms, then you should be tested one to three days into your symptoms.
Where can I get tested?
If you would like to get tested, there are multiple options in the area, depending on the day, including local CVS pharmacies, the BGHC, State Department of Health testing sites and even options for self-testing at home.
Please call the BGHC or your own healthcare provider to review your personal situation and get specific guidance on what is the best option in your individual case.
Dr. Lauren Hana is a physician with the Boca Grande Health Clinic