ATLANTA – As Americans flew and gathered over Labor Day weekend, microbiologist Amber Schmidtke says, the coronavirus was on the move, too.
“That mixing, that traveling, it gives the virus fresh opportunities to move around and infect new people,” Schmidtke says.
Chair of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at University of Saint Mary, Schmidtke has spent the last 18 months writing an online newsletter about the pandemic in Georgia.
She says the state may be at a critical point.
The number of new infections appears to be dropping, although, Schmidtke cautions, it is too early to predict if the surge has peaked.
She is nervous about how the holiday weekend gatherings and travel could impact the state in the weeks ahead.
“Anytime you’re indoors with people you don’t know, and you don’t know whether they’re vaccinated, that is considered a high risk event,” Schmidtke says.
So, you think you may have been exposed, she says, one of the best things you can do is get tested.
“We recommend waiting about 3 to 5 days after a high-risk exposure before you get that test,” Schmidtke says.
You have a couple of testing options.
“You can find at-home antigen test through your local pharmacy,” she says. “Those run a little bit like a pregnancy test at home. You have results within about 15 minutes, and they’re pretty user friendly.
Schmidtke says you could also go to a drive-thru testing site, your local health department or your doctor’s office for a PCR, or molecular, test, which is considered the gold-standard for detecting an active infection.
It is possible to be infected but not have any symptoms.
“So, it’s really incumbent upon all of us to take care and make sure that we’re not inadvertently spreading disease, not aware that we might be infected during this time period,” Schmidtke says.
You want to wait 3 to 5 days after a potential exposure to give the virus time to replicate and become detectable.
“In that early part of your infection, it’s in that sort of ‘hiding out’ stage,” she says. “It takes about 3 to 4 days for it to really get going, so that you have sufficient virus that we can test for it with the test methods we have available.”
If you’re concerned enough about a possible exposure to get tested, Schmidtke says, behave as if you are infected.
“So, that means staying home, lying low, avoiding unnecessary contact with others, until you get that test (result).”
If you test positive, the CDC recommends staying home and isolating for 10 days.
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