December 31, 2021
It seems appropriate to provide a public service announcement as we prepare for one of the busiest celebration nights of the year. Last year many chose to isolate during the holidays, but the vaccines have provided new confidence this year. Contrary to Thanksgiving and Christmas where we gather around family or close friends, New Year’s Eve is the traditional time to get out and mingle with unknown crowds. This celebration comes as the Omicron variant continues to spread around the country, meaning more people, including those who have been vaccinated, will test positive for the virus. For many, taking a self-test or being tested at a recognized center may give more confidence to not risk spreading the virus. The CDC tells us 74% of the US population has received at least one dose of the vaccine and 63% have been fully vaccinated with the highest rates among elderly and nursing home residents. This population will probably not be out socializing on New Year’s Eve. Even at best, one in every three people is at risk, and as we have found with the latest variant, we all may be vulnerable.
When I watched the news this week it mentioned despite major surges and record numbers of cases, the reality is much worse. Like many others, Melissa, and I self-tested (negative) prior to visiting family over Christmas, but many who self-test positive do not report their case and are not counted in the numbers. I looked online at USA Facts to find out what to do if you test positive. If you are in public or around people when you get the test news, immediately put on a mask, and isolate yourself as quickly as possible, even if you do not have symptoms. The CDC now recommends isolating for five days if you are asymptomatic or if you do not have a fever and your other symptoms are improving. Isolation should be followed by five days of wearing a mask when you are around people. If you have a fever, the agency advises you to stay home until the fever ends. That means isolate for the short term.
Over the last year I have encountered several businesses who inexplicitly closed and never said why. While I have assumed the answer was covid, I also know that is the default answer for everything now (went on vacation and forgot to post info?). The real question becomes, who should you tell? You do need to contact your employer so they can follow their protocols for contact tracing when an employee tests positive. You may also want to alert anyone you have spent significant time with over the last two days before the test or when the symptoms started. If you took a self-test, you should also inform the local department of health. It is not numbers; it is about accurate numbers to ensure safety.
Thoughts: It may feel overwhelming to tell people about your positive test. Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said “A lot of people think it’s some failure if you get infected. This is an incredibly contagious variant. A lot of people are going to get it. That is not a moral failure.” Several scientists have publicly stated there is a good chance that everyone (at least most of us), will end up contracting the virus before the pandemic is over. That is why the vaccine is so critical. When/if you get sick, the chance of anything more than a mild case is significantly reduced. If you get the virus, it is safest to isolate to protect others. Until then, we need to adhere to the guidelines for the same reason. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.