It is the notification that no one wants to receive at this time: “you have been exposed to an individual that has tested positive for COVID-19.” The fluid, seemingly ever-changing, situation created by this current pandemic can cause confusion and stress. The circumstances that you may find yourself in can change the response needed if you discover that you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. To help clear up some of this confusion, the CDC has created a special task force and website to address the current pandemic. The bulk of the information that they have compiled can be found at: CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov .
If You Have Been In Close Contact With Someone Who Tested Positive For COVID-19
The Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) defines close contact as, “someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic cases, someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person 10 days prior to positive specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.” SRHD is recommending that individuals identified through their contact tracing program take the following considerations:
- Avoid physical contact with others as much as possible (this is known as isolation for those who are ill and quarantine for those who were exposed to a disease and may become sick)
- Follow guidelines for household cleaning and personal hygiene to prevent the disease from spreading (for example, hand washing and cleaning high-use surfaces like door knobs)
- Ensure they are prepared with a supply of basic necessities such as groceries, prescription refills, and cleaning supplies while they are under isolation or quarantine
- Identify new or worsening symptoms, and safely seek care from a health care provider (by calling ahead) if needed
- Follow guidance until isolation or quarantine has ended (14 days after the last day the individual was in close contact with a confirmed case)
If Someone In Your Household Tests Positive
The CDC advises that most people who test positive for COVID-19 can safely recover at home. However, doing so can expose family members and caregivers to the virus. If someone in your immediate household tests positive, it is important that you take the following measures during that time:
- 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 before/after touching your face, using the restroom, or eating/preparing food.
- Provide sick individuals with clean disposable face masks to wear at home and consider wearing one while you are in the home
- Stay at home for at least 14 days, unless seeking medical care
- Frequently clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces like tables, counters, door handles, etc.
- Be alert for symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath
- Take your temperature daily
- If your temperature raises and/or you develop symptoms, reach out to your medical professional and visit a testing facility if advised to do so
When To Seek Emergency Care
While most individuals who contract COVID-19 can and do recover at home, there are situations that require advanced and even emergency medical care. The CDC recommends getting additional help if you or someone in your household experiences the following symptoms:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
When seeking emergency care, the CDC asks that you, “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.”
As scientists continue to test, study, and develop treatments for COVID-19, the information available will continue to change during this learning process. It is important to stay aware and informed by local, regional, and national health agencies. Below is a list of agencies that are providing up to date information on COVID-19 treatments and guidance.
What To Know About Testing
There are currently two different types of tests available for COVID-19: a viral test collected through the nasal passages that looks for current infection, and an antibody test requiring a blood draw that looks for past infection. “It can take 1–3 weeks after infection for your body to make antibodies.” (CDC.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html) which makes the antibody test the least effective in identifying current, contagious cases of coronavirus. As a result, the viral test is the most commonly administered test for COVID-19.
At the beginning of the outbreak, most of the viral tests were being performed at the Spokane County Fairgrounds. Spokane Regional Health District has updated their testing sites to include:
- Select CHAS
- MultiCare (Rockwood and Indigo)
- Native Project
- Kaiser Permanente and Franklin Park Urgent Care clinics.
However, SRHD is still advising that, “Due to a limited number of testing supplies nationwide, current protocol requires that only those meeting testing criteria be tested.” Those exhibiting coronavirus symptoms will be considered for testing and, “patients without symptoms who have been exposed to COVID-19 will be considered on a case-by-case basis”. (SRHD.org/covid-19-drive-through-screening-clinic)