Exposed to COVID-19 Over the Holidays? Now What?
The holidays are over, and we’re returning to normal life—or, what passes as normal during the time of a pandemic. Most of us are excited about the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, and hopefully we are continuing to follow the guidance of health experts to protect ourselves and others from exposure to the virus.
Though the holidays are usually all about crowds and closeness, this year we were strongly advised to avoid gatherings. But experts now report that many Americans decided to risk travel and gatherings, and this has fueled a spike in cases. Many people are now learning that family and friends with whom they visited have tested positive for the virus. They might be notified by the infected person, or they might be contacted by a public health worker to inform them of the exposure.
If you find out that you were exposed to COVID-19 during a holiday gathering, what should you do? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is sharing this guidance:
- If you learn that you’ve been exposed, protect others by quarantining yourself for 14 days. Stay home, and stay away from people who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including older adults, and people with underlying medical conditions such as heart or lung disease and diabetes.
- Be alert for symptoms, which include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and loss of taste and smell. Take your temperature twice a day. Also be alert for these symptoms among other people who are in your household.
- Consider getting tested—but remember, even if your test is negative, you should still quarantine for the full 14 days after your last day of contact with the person who has COVID-19. Sometimes symptoms are delayed, and you could be contagious even without symptoms. Don’t travel until the 14 days are up.
- If it’s not possible for you to completely quarantine for 14 days, increase your social distancing practices. Wear a mask at all times when you are with other people, even when you are at home. People who are in your “bubble” should be considered out of it until your risk has passed. The CDC says this includes pets, as well.
- If you develop any of the above-mentioned symptoms of COVID-19, or if you test positive, immediately notify the host of the gathering and if possible, everyone who attended. If you are unable to notify everyone, urge the host to do so.
- If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, a public health worker may contact you to learn who you’ve been in contact with and where you spent time. This information is confidential, but it is very important to help experts trace and control the spread of the disease.
- If you become ill or test positive and you live with others, isolate from them as much as possible. Stay in a specific room away from others and pets. Use a separate bathroom if possible. If you have questions, contact your healthcare provider.
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For the latest information about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, visit the CDC’s COVID-19 information portal.