Sorry to disappoint you, but Covid-19 is still a current and ongoing threat. The United States is amid months-long rise in confirmed cases — with no signs of leaders re-implementing mask mandates and two new, potentially more contagious omicron sub-variants rearing their ugly heads — just as summer party season is in full swing.
Among proven risk reduction efforts such as masking and ventilation, testing remains essential regardless of vaccination status, especially if you plan to meet in any capacity. (While the risk of infection is much lower for outdoor events, testing is important whether your party is indoors or out.)
“Testing is really important,” says Abraar Karan, an infectious disease physician and researcher at Stanford University. “The problem is that as time goes on and people get more tired, they may not think it matters.” Fatigue testing can happen during big events like concerts, Karan says, especially since you’re not likely to see other attendees as quickly. It is highly unlikely that you would ever know if other concertgoers got sick.
After years of postponed holidays and celebrations, Karan says people may be hesitant to test themselves for these important events for fear of missing the opportunity if they test positive. Add to that the potential cost of testing and logistical hurdles in finding a testing center and it’s no surprise that people might skip this precaution altogether. However, the mindset of ignorance is bliss causes more harm than good, as the chances of transmission are extremely high if an unknowingly contagious person attends a party.
Pre-meeting testing is fast, inexpensive, and relatively accessible compared to the 2021 and early 2022 ommicron wave. Here’s what to keep in mind when testing whether you’re attending or hosting a party this summer.
If you’re swabbing before a bash, test as close to the start of the event as possible, Karan says. This requires some planning as testing is no longer free for people without insurance — costs anywhere from $100 to $200 for PCR testing and $10 to $40 for quick tests – and a little test locations are closed† Because PCR tests take longer to process (and you’re more likely to be exposed to Covid in the interim between getting the test and the event itself), Karan recommends party-goers use rapid antigen testing. “Antigen tests are very good at detecting if you have transmission potential, especially early in your infection,” he says.
Every American household is eligible for: receive free home tests by email or can get reimbursed by health insurers for the costs of rapid tests† The government also holds a database of test locations offering free or low-cost tests; some municipalities are distributing home quick tests at libraries and community health centers†
Ideally, if you’ve been exposed to someone with Covid-19, test several times a week before your event. “That’s how you really pick up an infection and stop the spread,” Karan says.
As disappointing as it may be, if you get a positive result on your pre-party test, don’t come to the meeting. Tell your host that you’ve tested positive for Covid-19 and that you’ll have to miss the event, but that you’ll celebrate with them once you recover. “You have to be willing to say, ‘I’m not going,’ and that’s the problem we have,” says Donald Yealy, Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “We noticed that people, with symptoms or occasionally if they are positive, still want to try to have that social contact. And that just means you become a spreader.”
While testing before a party can help make sure you’re not spreading Covid to other attendees, your single negative test won’t have a major impact on the spread if no one else at the event tested it. In cases where hosts do not require guests to pre-test, or if you are unsure of the protocol, check the Covid-19 level of the community online and make the best decision based on personal risk assessment, says David Souleles, the director of the University of California Irvine Covid-19 Response Team†
For example, if the county where your cousin’s baby shower is held has a high transmission rate, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing masks indoors in public regardless of vaccination status and improving ventilation (where you’re likely to get very little). has control over). † For immunocompromised or high-risk people, the CDC recommends wearing an N95 or KN95 respirator and talk to your doctor about treatments such as oral antivirals†
“If you have been vaccinated and boosted and not at high risk, you can choose to test yourself and attend the event, then retest three to five days after the event. You can also decide that you want to wear masks while attending the event, even if your host doesn’t require masks,” says Souleles. “If you are someone at higher risk for serious illness, or if you live with or are often around someone at higher risk, you may decide to pass on a particular event to reduce your risk.”
Party hosts have the power to dictate Covid protocols at their event. If you need a Covid negative test from your guests before the event, it’s up to you to decide how to verify the results from the guests, Souleles says. While most revelers are likely to be comfortable with an honor system, confident that their guests have indeed tested and would stay home if they test positive, others may want to ask attendees to show a photo with a timestamp of their negative test. Another option, Souleles says, is to have guests take quick tests on arrival — although depending on how big your party is, this can get expensive if you’re paying $10 for a single test.
If you or another partygoer later tests positive and inquires, tell other guests as soon as possible, Yealy advises. Don’t tell the rest of the guest list who got Covid, but say, “Just wanted to let you know we had a guy who tested positive.” This way, guests can make a timely, informed decision about testing and whether or not to isolate it.
In addition to taking a Pap smear prior to an event, Souleles says everyone should retest three to five days after the meeting to be safe. If you’re traveling to a wedding and extending your stay after the wedding, bring some quick tests with you so you don’t have to search local pharmacies for tests, Souleles recommends.
If you test positive days after the party, tell your host or guests as soon as possible, Yealy says. “You won’t know the medical conditions and risks for a severe version of Covid-19 from all the other people you’ve come in contact with,” Yealy says. “The nice thing is to just let them know so everyone can judge how concerned I should be.”
While the process of informing your network can be “psychically very demanding,” Karan says, the sooner the people around you know they’ve been exposed, the more likely they are to isolate and test themselves and hopefully prevent further spread.
Testing is just one aspect of building a solid defense against Covid-19. If you’re not sure whether other party, wedding, or concert-goers have taken the same precautions as you, rely on other mitigating measures, Yealy says: vaccination, masking indoors or at crowded events, and improving ventilation. “Do the simple things,” Yealy says, “and do them well.”
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