Get Your Free COVID Tests Now
While at-home tests for COVID-19 are still in somewhat short supply on drugstore shelves, the Biden administration has just made an additional eight test kits available to each American household at no cost. You can order yours here (https://www.covid.gov/tests) or by calling 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).
Our primary care doctors in Delray Beach encourage everyone to obtain these tests. If you got some in previous distributions, they may have expired, so check the expiration dates. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has extended the marked expiration dates on many at-home tests by three months. Check their website to see if your test is included.
Although deaths from COVID-19 have dropped recently, cases are surging again. Daily cases nationwide rose 26 percent over the last month, and this only counts cases that have been reported to the government. The prevalence of at-home testing means many cases aren’t being recorded.
Nevertheless, these tests are an important tool in the ongoing fight against the virus.
“As the highly transmissible subvariants of omicron drive a rise in cases in parts of the country, free and accessible tests will help slow the spread of the virus,” the White House said in a statement announcing the third round of distribution.
Though useful in helping prevent the spread of COVID-19, at-home testing also has a downside: if a person tests positive and doesn’t report it to health officials or confirm it with a PCR test, their positive status isn’t included in the current count.
So although the government recently reported that the country is seeing an average of 100,000 new infections a day, experts estimate that the actual count could be anywhere from five to 10 times higher than that.
“Any sort of look at the metrics on either a local, state, or national level is a severe undercount,” Jessica Malaty Rivera, an epidemiologist at the Pandemic Prevention Institute, told The Washington Post.
“Everyone knows someone getting COVID now,” she added.
That’s because each variant of the virus seems to have learned how to better infect humans. The current dominant strain in the U.S. is BA.2.1.21, an omicron subvariant. It’s the most contagious version yet, although it doesn’t seem to be any more deadly.
If you test positive
According to the FDA, different tests are authorized to be used with different types of samples. So be sure to carefully read and follow the instructions that come with your particular test. The FDA offers more detailed instructions on testing here.
So what should you do if you test positive?
First of all, if you have a weakened immune system or other chronic health conditions, let us know right away so we can prescribe the appropriate treatment.
Second, you need to isolate from others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a quarantine and isolation calculator to help you determine how long you need to isolate, quarantine, or take other steps to prevent spreading COVID-19.
In general, you need to isolate from others as much as possible. If you live with other people in your home, you should try to stay in one room, wear an N95, KN95, or KF94 mask if you need to enter a common area, and don’t leave the house for five days, or until you test negative.
Also, if possible leave the windows open and use HEPA air filters throughout the home.
After five days, if you don’t have a fever and your symptoms have improved, you can go into public spaces wearing a well-fitting mask for another five days.
The good news is that although COVID-related hospitalizations have increased 57 percent, that figure still represents the lowest level since the pandemic began. Experts credit the vaccinations for keeping people out of the hospital, along with wider use of such treatments as antiviral pills, monoclonal antibodies, and remdesivir.
Part of the problem with the success of the vaccines and more effective COVID treatments is that many individuals have become somewhat complacent. That, coupled with the universal desire for the pandemic to be “over,” has led to a loosening of preventive measures across the country. Authorities have rescinded mask mandates and many people have returned to pre-pandemic-style gatherings.
“It’s concerning in a public health crisis [that] we have moved away from practicing prevention,” Jayne Morgan, executive director of the COVID task force at Piedmont Healthcare in Georgia, told The Post.
“The best medical physicians always practice preventive health care,” she added. “It’s why you get mammograms. It’s why you get colonoscopies. You don’t wait for the cancer to develop.”
As we’ve said before, we may be done with the coronavirus, but it’s not done with us. And just because deaths are down doesn’t mean the virus can’t still wreak havoc with your body.
So it makes sense to keep taking the precautions you have in the past: avoiding crowded indoor spaces, not eating inside of restaurants, and wearing masks when out in public. And get vaccinated if you haven’t already and stay up to date on recommended boosters.
As always, contact us if you’re unsure about anything.