Over the next several weeks, many Marylanders will test positive for COVID-19, according to forecasts from mathematical modelers and Maryland officials. Based on a Baltimore Sun analysis of Thursday’s numbers, 1 in every 135 Marylanders has been infected in the past three weeks alone, a result of the rapidly spreading omicron variant and still-prevalent delta strain tearing through the population.
Even if you’ve already contracted COVID-19 since March 2020 or have been fully vaccinated against it, scientists and researchers say the omicron variant may be particularly adept at evading the protective shields afforded by immunizations and natural immunity. It is seemingly much more transmissible, too, making the likelihood of infection higher, though it is likely to be mild in those who are immunized.
Should you test positive, here’s a roundup of recommendations and guidance from physicians on next steps.
How long am I considered contagious?
You can spread the virus to someone else up to 14 days after infection. An infected person can start spreading the virus to others 2 days before they develop symptoms.
Scientists are still studying the omicron variant and how it may spread differently compared to prior variants.
If you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, get tested. If you test positive for COVID-19, it is very important to stay home from school and/or work and isolate from friends and family to prevent spreading the virus to others. — Dr. Kendra McDow, Baltimore City Health Department
Should I take anything for my symptoms?
The best defense against severe COVID are the vaccine’s antibodies. So if you have the antibodies, let your system do the work. Notify your physician. Stay home. Isolate. Monitor your symptoms, especially shortness of breath. And stay well hydrated.
If you haven’t been vaccinated, talk to your doctor about what potential therapies they may offer. — Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, Johns Hopkins Medicine
What about the newly authorized antiviral pills?
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There are going to be shortfalls in the pills, at least initially, but there’s enough vaccine right now that will make it unlikely for you to get into that situation where you need them in the first place. Until the pills are available or the monoclonal antibodies are put back on the market, there is no real outpatient intervention, and that’s poorly timed. — Dr. Theodore Bailey, Greater Baltimore Medical Center
I can’t find a test. What should I do?
There are concerns that people will go to emergency room for testing, but that is an inappropriate use of the emergency room. For people who are symptomatic, they will need to quarantine. If there’s no access to a test, you will have to be extremely cautious — masks and hand washing.
If you are infected, we’re looking at fluid intake, Tylenol or similar medications to control a fever. We’re concerned about overrunning the ER, so don’t go unless you have a significant medical emergency or you are short of breath. — Dr. Barry Meisenberg, Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center
Should I get tested if I was exposed to someone with COVID-19 but am not showing symptoms?
People who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. However, fully vaccinated people should get tested 5-7 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms, and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative. — U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quarantine and isolation guidance
What if I’m not sure if I need hospital care?
Talk to your doctor about next steps. The emergency department will still prioritize emergent issues to save lives. But the best way to assure COVID does not become severe: get your vaccine. — Dr. Galiatsatos
Should I get vaccinated after testing positive?
There should be a waiting period, one month to three months. If you’ve been infected with COVID, you should get vaccinated on top of that, because it does reduce your risk significantly. A person who gets vaccinated will be of lower risk of reinfection compared to a person who doesn’t get vaccinated. — Dr. Bailey
If I test positive, how far away should I stay from others inside my immediate household?
Stay in a separate room from other household members, if possible. Use a separate bathroom, if possible. Avoid contact with other members of the household and pets. Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils. Wear a mask when around other people. — CDC quarantine and isolation guidance