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Drew: Exposure to COVID-19 during Holidays–What’s Next Step?

By Samuetta Hill Drew

Travel and holiday gatherings in the midst of a pandemic with spiking COVID-19 numbers are two topics the medical and scientific experts have cautioned Americans about repeatedly for the past few months. Their caution was altered with the additions of safety steps for those who decide to travel or host/attend a holiday gathering. These additions of safety measures appeared to be necessary because seemingly many Americans still planned to travel or host/attend holiday gatherings. Why?
During my educational studies in both undergraduate and graduate school, I learned many proven facts through countless studies about how humans learn and their behavioral patterns. One of the many facts I learned about humans is that they are social beings. Isolation has the ability to be a detriment to a human’s physical and mental health state of being.
Therefore, during a pandemic many Americans opted to follow the various COVID-19 suggested safety measures as they traveled or attended holiday gatherings. I am sure many were more cautious than others. So, what should you do if you discover you have been exposed to COVID-19 during your travels or gatherings? Here is what some of the country’s top medical centers advise.
Determine your level of exposure before you decide to get tested or not. If your gathering was outside and everyone was wearing masks, then your exposure was much less than if your gathering was indoors with unmasked people within six feet for at least 15 minutes or more. If the latter applies to you, then you are a good candidate for getting tested. Watch for a fever of 100.4 or higher, cough, shortness of breath or other COVID-19 related symptoms. It is important to stay away from others, especially people who are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
If you were exposed but do not have symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes you should quarantine for ten days. People who test negative for COVID-19 can stop the quarantine after seven days past the time of exposure.  A 14-day quarantine remains the safest to reduce risk. Dr. Khalilah Gates, a pulmonary and critical care physician of Northwestern Medicine in Chicago says, “There is a false sense of security that if you aren’t symptomatic that you are not putting others at risk.”
If you traveled during the holidays and was exposed, you should delay your travel and self-quarantine for 14 days. If you get sick during yourself quarantine, then get tested for COVID-19 and delay your travel until it is safe to return home. The safest way to travel for medical care is an ambulance or private vehicle.
Even though there are two vaccines for COVID-19, medical experts continue to predict that our worst days are before us. So, make sure you continue to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines into 2021.