Isolation, Vaccination and Changing Recommendations: FAQs Regarding Current COVID ClimatePublished: Feb. 14, 2022
As new COVID-19 variants emerge, it can be difficult to keep up with ever-changing information, recommendations and guidance. And as the pandemic wears on, it can feel overwhelming to make plans or do much of anything, knowing that everything carries some level of risk. You may have a lot of questions regarding what’s safe – or what’s overkill – and whether any precautionary measures at this point will truly protect you from new variants.
In an effort to provide some clarity – and perhaps a little peace of mind – here are answers to some of the most recent frequently asked questions regarding testing, traveling, vaccination and more.
Testing and Isolating
Q: Those at-home COVID-19 test kits seem so convenient. But I’m hearing of a lot of false-negative results with those. Should I even trust them?
A: Compared to PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, the at-home rapid antigen tests are not as sensitive at picking up COVID-19 and have a smaller window of yielding a positive result. Furthermore, self-administered tests come with greater opportunity for user error, as we tend to be more timid when we’re testing ourselves or a loved one.
If your at-home test was negative and you have symptoms, were exposed to COVID-19 or have participated in an activity that would increase your risk, I recommend following up with a PCR test.
Q: I was showing symptoms, so I went to get a COVID-19 test. While I’m awaiting those results, is it necessary for my family to stay home from work/school if they’re not showing symptoms?
A: While your test is pending, your family may continue going to work, school and activities with judicious masking as long as they’re not showing symptoms. If anyone develops symptoms, they should leave work/school and get tested.
Q: I tested positive. Do I really only need to isolate at home for five days?
A: Five days is merely a starting point. Yes, isolate at home for five days, starting from the day you first noticed symptoms or received a positive test (if asymptomatic). If you’re asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms that are improving, you may come out of isolation on day six. However, if you have ongoing symptoms or a fever after five days, continue isolating at home until symptoms improve and your fever is gone. Once you’re out of home isolation, continue masking around others for an additional five days.
Q: My child tested positive. Can I still go to work?
A: If any member of your household tests positive for COVID-19, you may go to work as long as you are fully vaccinated, don’t have symptoms and have arranged child care if necessary.
Q: I was exposed to someone with COVID-19. Do I need to quarantine?
A: If you’re not fully vaccinated – or three months have passed since you tested positive for COVID-19 – you should quarantine at home for five days after exposure. If you are not showing symptoms, you may come out of home quarantine, but you should continue strict masking for at least the next five days. Regardless of vaccination status, everyone should mask for 10 days.
Q: Pfizer is claiming “neutralization” against Omicron after three doses of its vaccine. What does this mean exactly? And is it safe to assume the same kind of protection from Moderna’s booster?
A: In this context, Pfizer is saying that three doses of its vaccine produces a good amount of antibodies against COVID-19 – and specifically, the Omicron variant. This is likely also true for the Moderna vaccine.
Q: If you can still contract Omicron after being boosted, why is that third dose so important?
A: The vaccines were approved not because they always prevent COVID-19 infection, but because they are so good at preventing serious COVID-19 infection, hospitalization and death. With new variants and waning immunity over time, a booster is needed to improve that protection. Although the majority of COVID-positive patients being hospitalized are unvaccinated, we are starting to see more partially vaccinated – or unboosted – COVID-positive patients being hospitalized.
Q: So even though I’m boosted, it’s likely that I’ll still contract COVID-19? Especially with Omicron still circulating?
A: While it’s true that Omicron is much more contagious than prior COVID-19 variants, this doesn’t mean you’re a sitting duck waiting to get it. You can significantly minimize your risk by masking and taking other various precautions when going out in public or gathering with friends. Here are the rules my family follows when getting together with friends and loved ones:
- Everyone planning to participate is feeling well.
- Everyone planning to participate is “vaxxed to the max,” as my family says (meaning boosted if eligible).
- None of the participating individuals have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the past 10 days.
Q: After waiting two years, my family finally booked an international trip. We’re all fully vaccinated, and everyone eligible to be boosted is. Should we still consider masking around the resort even when outdoors?
A: No matter where you’re going, I recommend masking in indoor common areas. This includes hotel/resort lobbies, gifts shops, restrooms and bars and restaurants when you’re not eating or drinking. Masking outdoors is really a matter of personal preference. I’d consider outdoor masking in crowded areas or when you’re packed tightly with other people.
Q: My fully vaccinated family is long overdue for a vacation, but I’m still apprehensive about traveling. Are there safer trips we should consider?
A: There are thoughtful ways to travel even if you – as an individual or family – are more cautious and risk averse.
Consider renting an RV – go camping! Or look into rental properties instead of hotels or resorts. These options allow you to have your own space, away from others. You’ll also have a private kitchen to prepare and eat food, so you can avoid eating at busy restaurants.
Q: Even if my family tests negative before coming home from a trip, would it still be a good idea to stay home/work from home for a few additional days to make sure we don’t develop symptoms?
A: If you’re not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends that you quarantine at home for five days after returning. If you are fully vaccinated, you do not have to quarantine, but you should get tested three to five days after returning.
Before traveling internationally, be sure to look into the requirements for getting to your destination and coming home. These requirements vary between countries and change often.
The Best Pieces of Advice
If you still have COVID-related questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider. And if you’re still feeling overwhelmed by all the information that’s out there, remember: When it comes to COVID-19 and all its new variants, you already have the best possible tools to help protect yourself – vaccines, masks and tests. And they all work best when used together.