So you have COVID. What now? Here’s what to do if you test positive – NBC Chicago

What is the protocol for those who are contracting COVID for the first time or who have tested positive under updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer?

If you have previously had COVID and followed the relevant guidance, you must take note as the current recommendations are not the same as before. The CDC changed its quarantine and isolation guidelines in August.

First of all, for those who have been exposed or are showing symptoms, you should make sure you get a COVID test, or in some cases multiple tests.

“First and foremost, you need to make sure it’s COVID,” said Dr. Chicago Department of Health Commissioner Allison Arwady on Tuesday.

However, she noted that while a positive test suggests you have COVID, a negative result may not mean you don’t.

“What I’m telling people is that if you test negative at home, you’re probably negative unless you test too early – which means the virus hasn’t had a chance to build up in your body yet,” Arwady said. “The good news is that if the virus hasn’t already built up in your body you are not yet spreading COVID, but nonetheless it means the test can remain negative and this Omicron variant is moving so fast that sometimes we people see, it can take a day or two for those tests to turn positive. But I’ll still take any positives…we don’t see any false positives on the home test, just to be clear. So everything positive is a positive.”

For those who have tested negative but have symptoms and have been exposed, “you have to mask yourself until you’ve proven otherwise,” Arwady said.

So what to do when it’s positive?

According to CDC guidelines, anyone who tests positive should isolate themselves from others, regardless of vaccination status. Isolation is also recommended if you feel ill and think you may have COVID but have not yet received your test results.

After a positive test, you should stay home and isolate from others for at least five days, with the first day of symptoms being Day 0. The five-day window is when those who have the virus are thought to be the most contagious, so wearing a quality mask is recommended at times when you need to be with others, health officials said.

Those with symptoms may want to contact their doctor, Arwady said, adding that some treatments like Paxlovid need to be given within the first five days of infection to be effective.

If, after five days without taking any medication, you are fever-free for 24 hours and your symptoms are improving or you have never had symptoms, you can end isolation. However, you should wear a quality mask until day 10.

“Once you have a positive COVID diagnosis, you have to stay home for at least five days – to isolate COVID, not spread it,” Arwady said. “Those are the times when it’s most likely to be spread. Then, if you’re feeling better by day six through ten, you can be out and about as long as you’re wearing a mask — and that means a mask on all settings.”

What if you’re still not feeling well? Arwady said those not feeling well should stay at home as long as they don’t feel well during those 10 days.

“After 10 days, it’s not very likely that you’re potentially spreading COVID at that point,” she said.

For those who test positive, the CDC recommends isolating for the first five days after symptoms appear, because you’re likely to be the most contagious. After that, a well-fitting mask should be worn until the 10th day.

For those who don’t currently have COVID, experts are pushing for the new bivalent COVID booster shots.

The booster shot, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration and recommended by the CDC in early September, is designed to target both the Omicron variant and the original strains of COVID. Unlike previous booster shots, anyone over the age of 12 who has had a first series of shots is eligible for the new shot.

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