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COVID-19 Testing, Isolation, and Quarantine Answers

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, misconceptions and confusion surrounding the virus have also increased. As more individuals come in contact with COVID-19, questions regarding best practices for isolation, quarantine, and how to obtain testing have circulated. In response, the North Texas Medical Society Coalitions (NTMSC) has provided answers for the most commonly asked questions.

Q. Does an individual need to get tested if he or she has COVID-19 symptoms?

A. Persons with symptoms of potential COVID-19 infection, including the following, should consider getting tested to confirm COVID-19. Always talk with your physician about the necessity and best method for obtaining a test:

  1. fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, new loss of taste or smell, vomiting or diarrhea, and/or sore throat;
  2. anyone 65-years-old or older;
  3. anyone with chronic health issues (diabetes, asthma, heart issues, etc.);
  4. first responders or essential workers; and
  5. persons without symptoms who have been actively engaged in large group settings, such as public gatherings or congregations of people, within the past 15 days.

Q.  Does an individual need to get tested if they were exposed to someone who is COVID-19 positive but are not showing any symptoms themselves?

A.  Probably not. Persons who have been exposed to someone with confirmed COVID-19 but who are not symptomatic do not need to obtain a test unless it is required by an employer, school, or other third party. In all cases the person who was exposed should quarantine themselves for 14 days to ensure they do not develop symptoms. Even if the person obtains a test and it comes back as negative, it is important to complete the 14 days of quarantine since tests may give false negatives if the virus has not fully developed in infected individuals.

Q. What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

A.  Individuals who are confirmed positive for COVID-19 but who are not sick enough to require admission to a hospital should isolate themselves to one room in their home and avoid all interaction with family members and pets. Individuals who have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 but do not know if they contracted the virus should quarantine themselves inside their house for 14 days to ensure they do not develop symptoms.

Q. If someone has COVID-19 and has symptoms, at what point can the individual stop isolating themselves?

A. The individual should remain in isolation until three days after a fever has subsided, respiratory symptoms have improved, and it has been at least 10 days after the first on-set of symptoms. Some employers may require two negative COVID-19 nasal swab tests done at least 24 hours apart before allowing isolated individuals to return to the workplace.

Q. If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, but does not have any symptoms, how long should he or she isolate themselves?

A. Anyone who is confirmed COVID-19 positive without symptoms should isolate for 10 days. 

Q. If someone has contact with an individual who tests positive for COVID-19, do they need to quarantine themselves? If so, for how long?

A. Anyone who has been exposed to, or in close contact with, an individual who tests positive for COVID-19 needs to quarantine for 14 days, as it may take that long for symptoms to develop.

Q. What does being in “close contact” mean?

A.  Close contact means:

  1. Being within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for 15 minutes or longer;
  2. Taking care of someone who has COVID-19;
  3. Having physical contact with someone who has the virus;
  4. Sharing eating or drinking utensils with someone who has COVID-19; and
  5. Being sneezed on or coughed on by someone who has the virus.

Q. Where can I get tested?

A. Individuals who need COVID-19 testing should contact their physicians for recommendations; if further resources are needed, they should check to see what options are available.

Individuals are always encouraged to talk to their doctor first about the appropriate steps to take to keep themselves and their family safe in regard to COVID-19. Physicians can also provide the best advice about managing COVID-19, such as if a test is necessary or where to obtain a test.

Knowing how to respond when encountering COVID-19 is an important part of reducing the number of cases in North Texas. Combining this information with the proactive measures of masking, hand washing, maintaining physical distance, and staying home when possible empowers individuals in the community to protect themselves and others. 

About North Texas Medical Society Coalition: 

The NTMSC represents more than 11,500 physicians in the communities of Collin-Fannin, Dallas, Denton, Grayson, and Tarrant County. Founded in 2020, NTMSC works with community healthcare partners, including public health departments, hospitals, and business leaders, to advise on medical recommendations to serve the health care needs of the residents of North Texas. 

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