With the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading quickly, many people have questions and concerns about how the virus may affect themselves and their families. What’s more, updated CDC guidelines have some people confused about the new “rules” for quarantining and testing.
Zachary Baeseman, M.D., a physician at ThedaCare, says one of the most important things you can do right now is to know your own health and to pay attention to your symptoms.
“We encourage people to know the symptoms of COVID-19, so they can try not to spread it if they do have it. There are some signs like muscle aches that may not be noticed at first, but it is important to pay attention to your body. By catching symptoms early and taking steps like staying home and wearing a mask, you can help to lower your chance of giving it to someone else,” he says.
Dr. Baeseman also says that while there can be a lot of fear during the pandemic, most people fully recover from the virus—typically at home.
“While many news headlines focus on case counts and hospitalizations, we see that most people who get COVID-19 either have no symptoms or mild symptoms that they can manage at home,” says Dr. Baeseman.
As an example, a 2021 study out of Indiana found that the infection-hospitalization ratio (IHR)—which is the percent of people with COVID-19 who are hospitalized—was 2.1%. That number varied more by age than by race or sex. The IHR estimates ranged from 0.4% for people younger than 40 years to 9.2% for those older than 60. Additional studies report consistent infection-hospitalization ratios regardless of virus variant or vaccination status.
So, what should you do if you think you have COVID-19 or you were around someone who has it? Here are a few tips and guidelines to keep in mind.
- Check your symptoms. Have a sore throat? Feeling achy? Use an online symptom checker like this one from ThedaCare or the CDC to see if your symptoms may be COVID-19. If you have been vaccinated, there is a good chance that your symptoms will be mild enough that you can simply treat them at home (such as sore throat or runny nose).
- Stay home and mask up. Were you around someone with COVID-19? If you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms but you were in close contact with someone who has it, then you are encouraged to stay home and to wear a mask around others.
- If you are unvaccinated, stay home for five days and wear a mask for another five days. If you can’t quarantine, then wear a mask for 10 days. Take a test on day 5.
- If you are vaccinated, then you should wear a mask around others for 10 days. Test on day 5, if possible.
- Get tested. If you think you may have COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus, then taking a test is recommended. To schedule an in-person PCR test, visit www.doineedacovid19test.com. Don’t want to leave the house for a testing appointment? No problem! Self-tests can be used anywhere, are easy to use, and give rapid results. As of January 15, private insurers and group health plans must cover COVID-19 at-home testing, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Now, a person can buy an at-home test at a retailer or pharmacy and be paid back by their insurer. This covers up to eight tests per month. There is not a limit on the number of tests covered for people whose doctors have ordered COVID-19 tests.
- Seek emergency care for severe symptoms. When facing a medical emergency, immediately call 911.