What should I do if I test positive for the coronavirus? – Los Angeles Times

The winter coronavirus wave is worsening, with case counts both in California and across the country rocketing toward some of the highest levels ever in the nearly two-year-old pandemic.

But as worrying as those raw infection totals are, some health officials say another metric is even more alarming: the test positivity rate.

That metric has more than tripled in Los Angeles County since mid-December, indicating surging transmission, officials said.

As of Tuesday, the seven-day average countywide positivity rate was 14.5%. Statewide, the seven-day average positivity rate has risen to 9.7%, up from 2.3% just two weeks ago.

With transmission this widespread, officials say its vitally important to take steps to avoid potentially infecting others.

These recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention apply to everyone, regardless of whether theyve been vaccinated:

If you have symptoms, the isolation rules are different.

According to the L.A. County Department of Public Health, if you have symptoms and test positive for COVID-19, or your doctor thinks that you have COVID-19, you must stay home until:

Health officials also say those who have tested positive should closely monitor their symptoms. If you do have to leave your house, officials say to avoid public transportation.

Here are some other tips from the public health department on isolating:

Local isolation rules can be stricter than federal guidelines. California has adopted the new CDC guidelines.

Federal officials this week reduced the recommended isolation and quarantine period for those who are infected with the coronavirus but have no symptoms from 10 days to five.

The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 transmission occurs early in the course of illness, generally in the one-two days prior to onset of symptoms and the two-three days after, the CDC said in a statement. Therefore, people who test positive should isolate for five days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for five days to minimize the risk of infecting others.

The CDC has faced criticism from some doctors for not requiring asymptomatic, infected people to test negative with a rapid test if they want to end their isolation five days after their first positive test.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, in an interview on CBS Mornings, said her agency did not recommend such a test to end isolation on the fifth day after the first positive test because its not clear whether a negative rapid test would provide meaningful information on whether a person is no longer contagious. She said a person can limit the small chance of infecting others by wearing a mask between the sixth and 10th day after the first positive test.

Using a PCR test, which requires a nasal or saliva swab to be sent to a lab to get results, is also not an option to determine if someone is no longer contagious, Walensky said. PCR test results are so sensitive they can show a person is positive for the virus for perhaps as long as 12 weeks after they are initially infected, long after they have stopped being contagious.

You should stay away from other people and pets in your home as much as possible. Health officials recommend staying in a separate room and using a separate bathroom, if feasible, and wearing a mask when around others.

Those who have recently tested positive should also tell their close contacts that they may have been exposed.

Additionally, if you work or study in a setting where you could have gotten COVID-19 or passed it on to others, you should inform your school or workplace so they can advise others to test and/or quarantine as necessary, according to the L.A. County Department of Public Health.

If youve been in close contact within 6 feet of someone for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period you should quarantine yourself for at least five days to see if you develop illness if you are unvaccinated or if you havent received a booster shot and had been eligible for one, according to CDC recommendations.

If you still havent developed symptoms, you can leave the quarantine if you wear a mask around others for five additional days.

If the five-day quarantine isnt feasible, the exposed person should wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days after the exposure.

The CDC says people who have received the booster do not need to quarantine after being exposed to the virus, but should wear a mask 10 days after exposure.

The CDC suggests anyone exposed get a coronavirus test on the fifth day after exposure. If symptoms occur, they should immediately isolate.

Local quarantine orders may be different from the federal recommendations.

Those who have or think they may have been exposed can find a testing site at covid19.ca.gov/get-tested. Many retail pharmacies also offer testing appointments.

This week, President Biden said his administration has also worked with Google, so you can now search COVID test near me on Google to find a location.

Many testing sites offer PCR tests, which entail collecting nose or saliva swabs and sending them to a lab for analysis. Results typically come back a day or two later.

Here is more information on getting tested in:

Many pharmacies and retailers sell over-the-counter antigen tests that can be taken at home and provide results in about 15 minutes.

Such rapid tests are highly recommended just before entering a holiday party or other gathering including among vaccinated people, who are at risk of breakthrough infections from the Omicron variant.

However, demand for those tests has surged along with cases, making the kits hard to come by during the holiday season and prompting some sellers to limit how many a customer can buy at once.

If a rapid test turns up positive, you must consider yourself infected and isolate immediately, said Dr. Dawn Terashita, associate director of L.A. Countys Acute Communicable Disease Control program, at a recent town hall.

Rapid tests may result in a small number of people getting a negative test result when theyre actually positive, Terashita said. If theres concern about the possibility of a false negative test, the test can be repeated 24 hours later, she said.

People who are symptomatic and get a negative rapid coronavirus test result should retest and get a [PCR] test to confirm that you do not have COVID, Terashita said.

PCR tests are often used to confirm the results of a rapid test and are less likely to result in inaccurate results, Terashita said.

Coronavirus cases are once again surging across the United States.

The CDC reported Tuesday that the nationwide average number of daily cases over the last week has climbed to 240,000, exceeding the peak of 160,000 during the summer Delta surge and approaching the all-time high of 250,000 reported last winter.

For the seven-day period that ended Monday, California logged 133,610 new coronavirus cases higher than in any seven-day period during the summer Delta surge, which peaked at 107,000 cases recorded in a week.

L.A. County has reported at least 6,500 new cases every day for the last week, including 9,473 on Tuesday.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also once again on the rise in California. As of Tuesday, 4,759 coronavirus-positive patients were hospitalized statewide a nearly 33% increase from a week ago.

While we all wish that 2022 would begin without the continued tragedy of serious illness and death associated with COVID, we are instead facing the prospect of an alarming surge that requires every person to act with intentionality: Get vaccinated and boosted, get tested, and please, always wear a mask around others, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. These are the tools we have to try to keep each other safe over the holidays.

Times staff writer Colleen Shalby contributed to this report.

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What should I do if I test positive for the coronavirus? - Los Angeles Times

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