On Friday, January 14, we hosted ThedaCare Connection: A Live COVID-19 Q&A Facebook Event. During this special online discussion, Dr. Zachary Baeseman, a physician in Family Medicine and Obstetrics, answered questions about COVID-19 testing and the current state of the virus spread in our community. We’ve pulled together a few highlights based on our conversation.
Why is COVID-19 testing still important?
Not only does taking a COVID-19 test help you to know if you have the COVID-19 virus, but it also helps healthcare organizations and local governments prepare for and understand the spread in our community.
As Dr. Baeseman explains, “The situation is very fluid. Changes happen day by day, hour by hour in terms of what we are seeing on the frontlines taking care of patients. It’s important that we are able to give the public real-time updates … Testing helps us to really know the depth and spread of COVID-19 in our area.”
When should I get tested?
“Generally speaking, you should get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms,” Dr. Baeseman says. He says the ThedaCare Symptom Checker is a great tool to help people see if their symptoms may match COVID-19. It is updated regularly to include new variants of the virus.
However, he notes that testing may be hard to find in coming weeks due to the current surge. If you can’t get a test and have symptoms or you were in close contact with someone with COVID-19, then you should assume you are COVID-19 positive.
How should I get a COVID-19 test?
There are two types of tests: a laboratory test (PCR) and a rapid at-home test (antigen). Dr. Baeseman encourages anyone who thinks they may need a COVID-19 test to visit www.doineedacovid19test.com. He says PCR tests are more sensitive and better at detecting the COVID-19 virus. But at-home test kits provide a quick result and can be used to help a person decide if they should go to work or school.
Dr. Baeseman also notes that at-home tests can be hard to find—or expensive. But as of January 15, private insurers will now help to cover the costs for at-home COVID-19 tests. You can learn more here.
Does a COVID-19 test show which variant I have?
A COVID-19 test result only shows if you are positive for having the COVID-19 virus. It does not show what variant you have, Dr. Baeseman explains.
What should I do if I am COVID-19 positive?
Dr. Baeseman says if you are generally healthy without underlying conditions, it is best to stay home and follow the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines:
- 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.
“With the Omicron variant, we are shifting to treat as many people as possible at home,” Dr. Baeseman says. He says the goal is to not “bottleneck” the system and have people with mild symptoms (for example, a sore throat or congestion) to end up in the emergency department.
Overall, Dr. Baeseman encourages people to stay informed on COVID-19 in our community—and to stay home and wear proper masks as much as possible for now. “We are looking at the most dangerous situation we’ve seen locally. Records are being broken regularly [in terms of hospitalizations] … Information will change rapidly in the coming weeks,” he says. However, he notes that we can all do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
If you would like to view the full Facebook live event, you can check it out here.