October 4, 2023

California’s COVID positivity charge has topped 10% and remains to be on a steep upward path, practically tripling since June, in accordance with new information from the state’s Division of Public Well being.

“Anecdotally, I really feel like everyone I do know has been getting COVID,” mentioned Dr. Errol Ozdalga, a medical affiliate professor of medication at Stanford.

However except your social circle has been hit by the virus just lately, this wave might need caught you without warning. The general public well being emergencies are over, testing has turn into tougher to seek out, and information monitoring has been largely deserted. However the virus remains to be amongst us, and extra so now than in Might or June.

As soon as once more Bay Space residents are scrambling to do the precise factor when a member of the family exams constructive, or they begin feeling a tickle of their throat. What are the perfect practices today for dealing with this persistent virus? What have we realized with three years of pandemic apply beneath our belts? We checked in with the consultants.

Q: I’m feeling sick. Is it COVID?

A: If you happen to’re feeling sick, “it’s affordable to imagine it’s” COVID, mentioned Dr. Bob Wachter, UCSF’s medical division chair.

The state’s positivity charge, one of many few metrics that may assist us evaluate present virus ranges to earlier surges, is reaching ranges we’ve seen solely in the course of the notable COVID waves of the previous a number of years, suggesting your probabilities of encountering it proper now are considerably increased than just some weeks in the past.

So when you’re feeling any signs, like a sore throat, a cough, or uncommon fatigue, “do a fast take a look at,” Wachter advises. “If it’s constructive, you’ve gotten COVID. If it’s detrimental, we don’t know and you need to do one other (take a look at) in a single to 2 days,” he mentioned.

Even you probably have two detrimental at-home exams, you wouldn’t have a inexperienced gentle to proceed as regular. If you’re feeling sick, “it’s affordable to remain dwelling or put on a masks … since you most likely have an infectious illness,” mentioned Wachter. “It’s contagious.”

Q: I’ve been uncovered to somebody who has COVID. Ought to I take an at-home take a look at?

A: Many households are coping with this situation proper now: Somebody in your house has examined constructive. Now what? “You need to instantly isolate … to extend the percentages that you just gained’t get it,” Wachter suggests. “It’s in no way particular that you just’re going to get it,” he mentioned, citing a family an infection charge of nearly 50%.

When you’ve got been uncovered and you feel sick, you most likely have COVID. Nonetheless, taking an at-home take a look at and figuring out the virus early might be particularly vital for individuals from higher-risk teams to allow them to search therapeutic therapies.

What when you had a minor publicity, however will not be feeling sick? “The important thing factor is to be careful for first signs,” mentioned Wachter. If you happen to by no means discover any signs, two detrimental exams taken a couple of days after publicity and some days aside can convey some peace of thoughts.

Q: Can I nonetheless get a free at-home COVID take a look at?

A: When the federal and state public well being emergencies ended earlier this yr, many of the free testing alternatives ended with them, however some insurance coverage suppliers nonetheless cowl the price of exams. It depends upon the place you reside, you probably have insurance coverage, and what kind of insurance coverage you’ve gotten.

Attain out to your insurance coverage supplier to ask about free at-home exams, and when you do find yourself paying for them out of pocket at your native pharmacy, keep in mind it’s a certified expense for a well being financial savings account, you probably have one.

Q: What about that pile of outdated COVID exams I’ve mendacity round: Can I nonetheless use them?

The reply might be, even when the expiration date appears to have handed. So don’t throw them away simply but!

Many individuals stocked up on fast at-home exams when you may order from the federal authorities for gratis. Now a few of these expiration dates have come and gone, however for lots of the in style at-home exams, the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration has retroactively prolonged the expiration dates. You may examine the FDA web site to see when your at-home exams really expire.

Q: What ought to I do if I’ve COVID? How lengthy ought to I isolate?

A: The principle query is whether or not to take Paxlovid. “I feel it’s the precise factor to do for somebody who’s older, most likely older than about 50, or has medical comorbidities,” advises Wachter. However it’s important to get the treatment inside 5 days of the beginning of signs.

Whereas the at-home exams aren’t at all times nice at catching infections early on, they’re our greatest out there device to measure infectiousness. Wachter and Ozdalga each used a detrimental take a look at to mark the top of their isolation, which may take anyplace from a couple of days to 2 weeks sometimes.

Suggestions from the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention counsel 5 days of isolation for many who had no signs or had minor signs and are enhancing and fever-free.

Q: What variants are presently circulating?

A: The latest dominant variant, EG.5, nicknamed Eris, is the one which the CDC is watching.

It’s believed to be extra immuno-evasive, which means vaccinations and former infections are much less efficient at stopping an infection than for the opposite current omicron subvariants.

Fortunately, Eris doesn’t appear to be extra harmful, even whether it is spreading extra effectively.

Regardless of lots of the individuals round him catching the virus, and an apparent wave occurring, Ozdalga has not seen a notable enhance in sufferers hospitalized with the virus at Stanford. Statewide there was a gradual enhance in hospitalized sufferers since a low in June.

Q: When am I due for a brand new vaccine?

A: Solely a fraction of adults within the U.S. are updated on their COVID vaccines. Some well being consultants are advising those that are due for a brand new booster would possibly take into account ready a couple of months till a newly formulated booster is developed and approved in late September or October. The reformulated booster seemingly will present higher safety from the most recent variants.

Q: When will this be over? When will we cease listening to about new COVID waves?

A: “By no means,” answered Wachter, merely. “It’s a bummer of a solution, no one likes that.”

Even with out eliminating the virus, the prognosis shouldn’t be doom and gloom. The ebb and circulate of COVID waves is likely to be right here to remain, however an evolving virus, plans for annual vaccinations, and excessive inhabitants immunity has introduced COVID extra according to the colds and flus we’re used to, by way of its prevalence and the danger it poses.

“Individuals merely aren’t getting as sick,” Ozdalga mentioned.