As the pandemic enters the second half of its third year, highly transmissible, immunity-evasive Covid-19 strains are fueling another spike in infections. While Covid-19 fatigue and official case data may indicate a: modest wave of positive casestest results at home are largely not mentioned in published data. Just as the infrastructure of testing is largely focused on the individual, given the closure of many public test sitesSo has contact tracing. In the event that someone tests positive for Covid-19, the responsibility has now fallen on that person to inform their network.
“These conversations are not only much more accepted compared to a few years ago,” says Donald Yealy, Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, “more is actually expected of them. It is an act of kindness to share that.”
By telling those you’ve been in contact with recently that you’ve gotten sick, you’re giving them the knowledge to get tested and isolate, hopefully to prevent further spreading — especially to older or immunocompromised people.
Who to tell?
You don’t have to warn everyone in your contact list that you are infected with Covid-19, but you do need to inform the people most likely to have picked up the virus from you, Yealy says: People you were within six feet of indoors — masked or unmasked — as well as people who were out of reach during the two-day period before you started showing symptomsor the two-day period before taking a test, if you have no symptoms.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say to inform anyone you’ve been around for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, “the virus is now getting a foothold more easily,” Yealy says. “Think about how close I was and for how long? If you’re really close, within a few feet of each other or in physical contact, you don’t even need that 15-minute period.” Think: intimate partners, roommates, live-in relatives, co-workers, friends you’ve seen recently, your child’s teacher (if your child tested positive), hosts of a party or wedding you attended.
Party organizers or event organizers with more than a few people should tell as many attendees as possible if they’ve had Covid-19 or another guest. “We often don’t know all the health conditions of [other attendees]Yealy says. “We can have a really hard time quantifying how much and how close the contact is. I would advise sharing the information more widely.” For example, when etiquette expert Lizzie Postco-president of the Emily Post Institute and author of a number of etiquette books, tested positive for Covid-19 after attending a friend’s Fourth of July party, she texted her host the news, who then informed the rest of the informed attendees.
If you were at the same event as someone who was older, or who you knew had underlying health conditions, even if you didn’t necessarily hang out with them, “I would let them know, as their risk of getting infected is higher.” Yealy says. say.
Sure, there are people you might not know — servers at a restaurant, friends of friends at a party — but you should do your best to contact every person you were close to, Yealy says.
If you feel sick enough to warrant a test, should start to inform your network that you could possibly have Covid. Given the relative accessibility of rapid tests, you should be able to make a diagnosis fairly quickly after developing symptoms. But if you’re waiting for an appointment or results from a PCR test, you can still tell your roommates that you’ve been exposed, for example, or are busy in the meantime. Yealy cautions anyone against attending social events, work, or school if they have respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms of any kind.
Of course, once you’ve received a positive diagnosis, whether it’s a rapid or PCR test, you’ll need to work your way through your list of close contacts. The sooner you notify your network, the better, as available treatments and antivirals are often the most effective early in infection.
How do you inform your network
When it comes to the actual message and delivery method, communicate with your contacts the same way you normally would. Prefer texting over calling? Go for it. Do you usually email book club members? Choose email. “Contact people the way you normally communicate with them because that’s probably what they’re going to pay the most attention to,” says Post.
Be as clear as possible in your delivery and stick to the facts: Tell them when you tested positive and if you had any symptoms. Post suggests saying something along the lines of, “I just wanted to let you know that I tested positive for Covid-19 today. It seems like the last time we last saw each other was in the window when I could have picked it up and spread it to others. The same approach applies to everyone from friends and family to your boss or the kids’ school. “I would keep it very factual and direct,” Yealy says.
While we may be tempted to apologize for exposing others, remember you didn’t plan on getting sick, says marriage and family therapist Abby Krom. Accidents happen. “We tend to blame ourselves because it’s hard to recognize that we’re not in control,” she says. “So it’s almost easier to feel in control, even if you’re blaming yourself.” For example, if you’ve made plans to eat inside despite your friend’s preference to eat outside, you could say something along the lines of, “I minimized the risk and I realize that was wrong,” Krom suggests.
If you’re notifying guests of your event on behalf of another guest who has become ill, don’t mention them by name and say, “I just wanted to let you know that another guest tested positive.”
While a Covid-19 diagnosis is much less embarrassing than it was two years ago — an estimated 82 percent of people in the United States have been infected with the virus at least onceFinally – some people may get less than positive reactions when sharing the news. When people are angry or scared, their reflexive response may be to react harshly; “How could you be so careless?” or ‘I was going to my cousin’s wedding. I can’t believe you would jeopardize that.”
Take a moment to consider whether what they’re saying is true: Were you careless? Are you knowingly endangering their health or travel plans? “Our instinct is to apologize or take the blame, but that’s not a healthy instinct because it may not be our responsibility,” Krom says. You may need to give the person room to cool down. To pick up the conversation later, say, “I can see you were really mad at me. Do you still feel that way? Can we talk more about that?” suggests Krom.
Another response could be genuine curiosity: a friend asking where you think you contracted Covid-19 or to describe your symptoms. Post says it can be helpful for your network to have access to this information so they can determine when to test and whether to inform their networks of a potential exposure. However, you are not obliged to reveal everything, says Krom. Try responding with “I’m a little overwhelmed myself and I’m still processing the news,” if you’d rather not share.
The reality, Post says, is that most people will be understanding and grateful for the insight. Of the nearly two dozen people she informed about her Covid diagnosis, none were upset. “I felt absolutely guilty about the party I went to and the fact that I had to tell these people, ‘I may have exposed you to Covid,’ and they were very kind about it,” says Post. “So have mercy if someone tells you they have it. Don’t go into fear-first mode. Go to information and questions. Get curious, do your research.”
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