North Central Public Health District (NCPHD) receives numerous calls daily regarding COVID-19. Here are some of the common questions and the answers to them.
Q. “Can I get tested at the health department?”
Yes, if you don’t have a primary care provider and you are a close contact of someone who has COVID-19 or you have symptoms of COVID-19. (Close contact means being within six feet of a person with COVID for at least 15 minutes, with or without a mask.)
Testing is advised if you had close contact with a COVID-positive or presumptive COVID-positive person at any point from two days before they developed symptoms to 10 days after they got symptoms. A presumptive positive case is someone who had close contact with a tested positive case and developed COVID symptoms.
If you had close contact, get tested and quarantine yourself, meaning stay home and away from others in the household, whether or not you have symptoms.
Q. “I’ve been exposed to someone at work (or at home, or at Thanksgiving). What do I need to do?”
NCPHD staff evaluates risk level by considering a variety of factors: Frequency and duration of exposure, what sort of protective equipment such as masks was being used, whether they were inside or outside, in a well ventilated or poorly ventilated area, and when the person they were in contact with became sick.
Q. “I was exposed to a positive case yesterday, can I come in today and get tested?”
No. It is best to wait at least three days, because that allows enough time for a detectable viral load to develop, and presents the best time frame to have a true negative result.
Q. “If I’m under quarantine and I get tested and I’m negative, can I come out of quarantine?”
The federal and state government just issued new guidance on quarantine. Although a 14-day quarantine is the safest option to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to others, quarantine can end earlier for close contacts that have not developed symptoms. It can end after 10 days of quarantine without testing, or after seven days with a negative test result within the last 48 hours of the end of quarantine. People should continue to monitor daily for symptoms for all 14 days. The health district generally will not retest a person who has already tested negative just to get them out of quarantine early. Generally the only retesting done is after a person with a negative test then develops symptoms.
Q. “If I’m a contact of a contact, do I need to get tested?”
The health district does not recommend, or do, testing for a contact of a contact.
Q. “Do employees need to get a negative test before going back to work?”
The health district does not recommend, or offer, testing before returning to work.