7 Things to Know About COVID-19

Everything you need to know to reduce your risk of getting and exposing others to COVID-19.

We are far enough into this pandemic that there really is no excuse that folks still don’t know about the importance of going into quarantine after being exposed or why you should practice social distancing and wear a face mask.

As usual, Del Bigtree gets this one wrong. Hedrich wasn't the first to talk about herd immunity.
As usual, Del Bigtree gets this one wrong. Hedrich wasn’t the first to talk about herd immunity.

And yet, cases are once again surging all over the country…

7 Things to Know About COVID-19

In addition to knowing that the pandemic isn’t over and won’t be over for some time, you should know that:

  1. you could have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 if you had close contact (less than 6 feet apart) to someone with COVID-19 (has symptoms or tested positive) for at least 15 minutes, even if you were both wearing masks (sure, there is much less risk if you were wearing masks, but to be safe, it still counts as an exposure). And with the latest guidelines, the exposure doesn’t have to for a continual 15 minutes, but rather “a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.” So if you were close to someone with COVID-19 for 5 minutes each hour for three hours, then that counts as close contact.
  2. you can develop symptoms of COVID-19 from one to 14 days after you are exposed to someone with COVID-19. This is the incubation period for the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the time you should be in quarantine after your exposure.
  3. testing negative soon after you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 doesn’t mean that you can’t develop symptoms later in your incubation period! Although testing is a very important part of containing this pandemic, you don’t necessarily need to rush to get tested right after you are exposed. You can, but understand that a negative test doesn’t get you out of your quarantine early. A positive test will shift you into a period of isolation, but know that some COVID-19 tests, especially the rapid antigen tests, are more likely to give a false positive result if you don’t have symptoms. If you are going to get tested after being exposed and don’t have symptoms, the optimal time is probably about 5 to 7 days after your exposure and remember to continue your quarantine if it is negative.
  4. you can be contagious for at least two days before you develop any symptoms of COVID-19 or test positive and will continue to be contagious for at least ten days, the time you should be in isolation (a stricter form of quarantine). If you had severe symptoms or have a severely weakened immune system, then you might be contagious for a much longer period of time though, up to 20 days. And remember that you can continue to test positive for weeks or months, long after you are no longer contagious, which is why repeat testing is no longer routinely recommended.
  5. you can be contagious even though you don’t have symptoms, which is why you should try to always wear a mask and practice social distancing when you are around other people. You don’t know who has COVID-19!
  6. if you continue to be exposed to someone with COVID-19 in your home, your 14 day quarantine period doesn’t start until they are no longer contagious, as you will continue to be exposed that whole time. That’s why some folks end up in extended quarantine for 24 days- the 10 days that the COVID-19 positive person was contagious + 14 days of quarantine, which started once the person was no longer contagious.
  7. we can’t count on natural herd immunity to end the pandemic, as that would mean millions and millions of people dying. But understand that there is a middle ground between the extremes of total lockdowns and doing nothing. Wear a mask, keep six feet apart from other people (social distancing), and avoid crowds until we get safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines!

Most importantly, know that the more people you are around, the higher the risk that you will be exposed to and get sick with COVID-19.

Avoid crowded spaces, wear a mask, and practice social distancing to decrease your risk of getting COVID-19.
Avoid crowded spaces, wear a mask, and practice social distancing to decrease your risk of getting COVID-19.

Is it really essential that you have a family gathering with 25 or 50 people right now, as cases begin to surge in your area? Will you be able to keep everyone six feet apart? Will they be wearing masks the whole time?

Do you want to keep schools and businesses open, even if they aren’t at full capacity?

Then wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, avoid crowds, and stop acting like the pandemic is already over or never existed in the first place!

More on COVID-19

When was the First Case of COVID-19 in the United States?

SARS-CoV-2 was not around last winter. COVID-19 truly is a novel infection.

Why do some folks continue to believe that COVID-19 has been around for a while and that it isn’t as novel a virus as the rest of us know it really is?

Jay Gordon thinks that he might have been seeing a lot of kids with COVID-19 in January, well before the first confirmed cases in the state.
Jay Gordon thinks that he might have been seeing a lot of kids with COVID-19 in January, well before the first confirmed cases in the state.

The usual suspects…

When was the First Case of COVID-19 in the United States?

While some are wondering if they were seeing COVID-19 in January, some think they were seeing in even earlier.

#COVidiots are spreading the idea that COVID-19 has been in the United States since December.
#COVidiots are spreading the idea that COVID-19 has been in the United States since December.

Were the first cases of COVID-19 here in December?

“Yeah, me too. I’ve been telling almost every patient I see that, well, you know it’s flu season, but it doesn’t seem like you have the flu, it seems like you have a really bad cough. And everyone I’m seeing, it’s like their coughs are worse this winter. And their coughs are lasting for 3 or 4 weeks, instead of 1 or 2 weeks. And something went around this winter that was not the flu. Flu went around too, but there was a really terrible cold going around and you’re right, it is really possible in hindsight that coronavirus has been here this whole time.”

Bob Sears

What do you think of when you hear Bob Sears talk about seeing kids with a “really bad cough” that lingers for a month?

Since he wrote a book pushing a non-standard, parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedule, my first thought is pertussis too…

That isn't the COVID-19 type of coronavirus they are talking about in the cold and flu reports from December!

This has been a fairly bad flu season though, and as early as December, there were high rates of flu in many parts of the United States.

That isn’t the COVID-19 type of coronavirus they are talking about in the cold and flu reports from December!

And since it was cold AND flu season, there were already high rates of other cold viruses, including RSV, adenovirus, rhinovirus, enterovirus, and non-COVID-19 types of coronavirus.

Still, that doesn’t prove that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 wasn’t around in December or earlier.

So what evidence do we have?

Well, we have the evidence that the first strains of SARS-CoV-2 emerged in Wuhan, China in November.

“From very early on, it was clear that the nCoV genomes lacked the expected genetic diversity that would occur with repeated zoonotic events from a diverse animal reservoir. The simplest parsimonious explanation for this observation was that there was a single zoonotic spillover event into the human population in Wuhan between mid-Nov and mid-Dec and sustained human-to-human transmission from this point.”

Trevor Bedford on Early warnings of novel coronavirus from genomic epidemiology and the global open scientific response
The first case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus was detected in Washington in January.

And we know that the first cases in the United States were seen in Washington in mid January.

Genomic epidemiological analysis traced the first case in Washington to a traveler from China in mid January.
Genomic epidemiological analysis traced the first case in Washington to a traveler from China in mid January.

Wait, how do “we” know that?

“The field of genomic epidemiology focuses on using the genetic sequences of pathogens to understand patterns of transmission and spread. Viruses mutate very quickly and accumulate changes during the process of transmission from one infected individual to another. The novel coronavirus which is responsible for the emerging COVID-19 pandemic mutates at an average of about two mutations per month.”

Trevor Bedford on Cryptic transmission of novel coronavirus revealed by genomic epidemiology

We know that because experts can examine the small mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 virus when it emerges in an area.

“We know that Wuhan went from an index case in ~Nov-Dec 2019 to several thousand cases by mid-Jan 2020, thus going from initial seeding event to widespread local transmission in the span of ~9-10 weeks. We now believe that the Seattle area seeding event was ~Jan 15 and we’re now ~7 weeks later.”

Trevor Bedford on Cryptic transmission of novel coronavirus revealed by genomic epidemiology

That has helped them track where and when the SARS-CoV-2 virus pops up in each part of the country.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus in each area is different enough that they can trace where it came from, but no, the differences aren't large enough to affect immunity.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus in each area is different enough that they can trace where it came from, but no, the differences aren’t large enough to affect immunity.

No we don’t have a time machine to test folks in November or December or even earlier, except to test those who submitted specimens in flu studies (which will be done as folks get caught up with testing new samples), but by examining the mutations in the virus, they can tell how long the virus has been spreading in each area.

And that has allowed them to create fairly detailed timelines of SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks in the United States.

Do any of these timelines show COVID-19 cases in the United States in December or early January?

Nope.

Is there any good reason you should be listening to the folks pushing misinformation about COVID-19?

Of course not!

Not surprisingly, these are the same folks who are well known to push misinformation about vaccines.

But why do they want you to think that SARS-CoV-2 has been around for awhile?

It’s propaganda to make you think that getting COVID-19 isn’t that serious.

Don’t believe them.

More on the First Case of COVID-19 in the United States

Getting a Covid-19 Test Before Going to Summer Camp

Who told your child’s summer camp to test all of their kids for COVID-19?

Are your kids among the 11 million kids who usually go to a summer camp or day camp each year?

Do you have any memories about summer camp from when you were a kid?
Do you have any memories about summer camp from when you were a kid?

Are they going this summer?

Did you plan for a COVID-19 test?

Getting a Covid-19 Test Before Going to Summer Camp

While many parents are likely thrilled that their kids can still even go to camp, they might be confused on why they need to get a COVID-19 test if their child hasn’t been sick.

Your pediatrician is likely shaking their head about it too.

Memories of summer camp this year might include a weekly nasal swab for COVID-19 testing.
In addition to pushing tests while staff and kids are at camp, some camps want to have kids tested before they arrive.

After all, there is no recommendation for general testing in the guidelines for opening up summer camps.

Instead, the CDC says to “screen children and employees upon arrival for symptoms and history of exposure.”

“He said that optimally camps would retest each camper upon arrival and several times more through the summer: six times for a seven-week session and four times for a five-week session.”

Summer Camp Kids Are America’s Coronavirus Test Subjects

The CDC guidelines on Youth and Summer Camps do mention testing.

“Some camps might have the capacity to conduct COVID-19 testing. CDC has guidance for who should be tested, but these decisions should be made in conjunction with state and local health departments and healthcare providers.”

CDC on Suggestions for Youth and Summer Camps

But still, that guidance isn’t to test everyone, but only those who are high risk, with symptoms, or with suspected COVID-19.

What’s the problem with testing everyone at camp?

It could lead these camps to rely too much on testing instead of cleaning and disinfecting and encouraging hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, cloth face coverings, and social distancing, etc.

Remember, COVID-19 tests can give false-negative results, so some people might actually be infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and have a negative test. Without a healthy environment at camp, that person might get many other kids and staff members sick.

And a true negative test just means that you are negative when the test was done. It doesn’t mean that you will remain negative until you have your next test.

Also, just because you aren’t testing everyone doesn’t mean that you can’t test those kids and staff members once they begin to show symptoms.

Are your kids going to summer camp this year?

Do they need a COVID-19 test before they go and while they are at camp?

More on COVID-19 Tests for Summer Camps

5 Things You Need to Know About COVID-19

5 things you need to know to protect yourself, your family, and your community until we finally get COVID-19 beat.

As cases start to rise again after our initial efforts to flatten the curve, you are either ready to throw up your hands, wondering what’s next, or are resigned to staying home for awhile.

“Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci

But what if you do have to go out?

5 Things You Need to Know About COVID-19

While a lot of folks are making mistakes, it’s certainly not time to throw in the towel.

“It is important to remember that anyone who has close contact with someone with COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days after exposure based on the time it takes to develop illness.”

When You Can be Around Others After You Had or Likely Had COVID-19

Here are 5 things you need to know to protect yourself, your family, and your community until we finally get COVID-19 beat.

  1. While people probably aren’t contagious if they don’t have symptoms, they can be contagious in the days just before they develop symptoms. Unfortunately, you don’t know when that might be, which is why it is important to self-quarantine after you have been exposed (or think that you might have been exposed) for a full incubation period.
  2. Understand that SARS-CoV-2 is typically spread through close contact with someone who is infected (again, this is also in the days before they show symptoms). That means you can likely avoid getting sick if you practice social distancing (stay 6 feet away from other people), wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face, etc. To protect others, you should also cover your coughs and sneezes and wear a mask.
  3. Protect yourself if you are caring for someone at home with COVID-19, limiting contact, shared spaces, and shared personal items, etc.
  4. Avoid other people if you have COVID-19 until you are fever free for 3 days AND your respiratory symptoms are improving AND it has been at least 10 days since your symptoms first started.
  5. Get a viral test for current infection (not the antibody test) if you think you are sick and want to get tested for COVID-19.

Why is all of this important?

You can reduce your risk of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing your hands, and watching your distance.

Because there are still no real treatments for COVID-19, so while we wait for a vaccine, our best hope is simply to keep from getting sick.

More on COVID-19

What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Folks need to understand that they should begin self-quarantine as soon as they learn that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Do you know what to do if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19?

Because they could have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, anyone who attended the party should self-isolate.
Because they could have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, anyone who attended the party should self-isolate.

Hopefully you already know that you shouldn’t go to a party and expose lots of other folks…

What to Do if You Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Unfortunately, lots of mistakes are being made that are causing COVID-19 cases to again rise.

“For COVID-19, a close contact is defined as anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before the person began feeling sick until the time the patient was isolated.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

One of them is that many people simply don’t understand the importance of self-quarantining themselves after they have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

In addition to watching for symptoms, it is important to self-quarantine for 14 days after a COVID-19 exposure, the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2, something the Florida Department of Health forgets to mention...
In addition to watching for symptoms, it is important to self-quarantine for 14 days after a COVID-19 exposure, the incubation period for SARS-CoV-2, something the Florida Department of Health forgets to mention…

What happens if you don’t self-quarantine?

You may expose others in the days before you start to show symptoms (presymptomatic transmission).

But can’t you just get tested after your exposure to see if you have it?

Sure, you can get tested, but if it is negative and you are early in your incubation period, it doesn’t mean that you still won’t become sick later on. For example, you could have a negative COVID-19 test four days after being exposed to the virus, but then develop symptoms of COVID-19 two days later.

“Yes, you are still considered a close contact even if you were wearing a cloth face covering while you were around someone with COVID-19. Cloth face coverings are meant to prevent someone from transmitting the disease to others, and not to protect someone from becoming infected.”

COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions

What if you’re not sure if you have COVID-19 and you are waiting on your test results?

That should be a no-brainer.

Self-isolate yourself why you are waiting for your COVID-19 test results!

Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.
Ideally, folks would be getting this information to self-quarantine after their COVID-19 exposure from a contact tracing team.

And if you think you have COVID-19, be sure to tell all of your close contacts, which includes everyone who was within 6 feet of you for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before you began feeling sick.

Of course, social distancing and wearing a mask are important too.

But folks need to understand that they should begin self-quarantine as soon as they learn that they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. That’s the easiest way to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the size of outbreaks.

More on COVID-19