Exposed to COVID-19 over the holidays? Here’s what to do

Coronavirus Updates

Indonesian Catholics wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, attend a Christmas mass service at a church in Bali, Indonesia on Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

(ABC4) — Getting together with family is a holiday tradition that people are likely to avoid more often this year due to COVID-19.

However, if you decided to take the plunge only to find you were exposed to someone with the virus, here’s what to do.

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ABC4 reached out to Jenny Johnson, Public Information Officer for the Utah Department of Health for information. She says most exposures at this point are happening at these types of gatherings.

“Of known exposures, many are happening either at home or with family and friends at informal gatherings because businesses and schools are taking precautions, the main one being wearing masks,” she says.

She said those who have been exposed need to:

  1. Quarantine
  2. Wait seven days after the exposure date
  3. Get tested

“That lets enough of the virus build up in your body to get detected by the test, especially if someone is doing the rapid test,” Johnson says. “You need to make sure that you are waiting that seven days after the exposure or you could very likely have a false negative test result.”

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Johnson says a false negative result could give people a false sense of security, which could be dangerous if they develop symptoms later on and think they are healthy.

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The exception to the seven day wait is if someone is experiencing symptoms, even mild ones, before the seventh day. In this case, people should get tested as soon as possible.

Visit coronavirus.utah.gov to find testing locations nearby.

The recommendation, Johnson says, is to quarantine if you are exposed. If you experience symptoms, get tested. If you receive a negative result, you can end quarantine on day seven.

For those who don’t get tested, end your quarantine at least ten days after exposure and monitor how you’re feeling for 14 days after the exposure date.

The reason for these numbers?

The incubation period of the virus hasn’t changed, Johnson says. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the length of quarantine to allow people to return to work if they need to.

She says that during the first ten days after exposure, people are most likely to develop symptoms and test positive. During days 11 through 14, it is possible but less likely.

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“If someone has been exposed, their employer really needs to let them quarantine because what’s going to happen is that employee is then very likely to expose a larger portion of the workforce and they’re going to have to shut down if they have too many sick employees.”

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Johnson says she thinks most business owners want to do the right thing and protect their employees because healthy employees, healthy customers, and healthy business all go hand in hand.

“That’s why we need businesses to enforce and encourage their employees to wear masks because it’s going to keep their employees safe, and it’s going to allow them to continue working,” she says.

Johnson stressed that those who are living with someone to tested positive must quarantine for a full ten days without exception because people are far more likely to get sick from housemates.

“Your risk of getting infected by someone who lives with you who has COVID is so high, and it is much higher than having exposure even in a workplace,” she says. “At home, you’re most likely not wearing a mask every time you’re around someone you live with. You have constant re-exposures that can happen, so that’s why if you live with someone with COVID-19, you have to quarantine for ten days, no exceptions.”

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