COVID-19. States lags behind in informing those who test positive

The state has put Alaskans on notice that they have fallen behind in contacting those who have tested positive for COVID-19, as well as their close contacts. In an advisory Wednesday, the state Department of Health and Social Services said, due to a considerable increase in COVID-19 infections, contacts are not being made in a timely fashion – that it can take three to four days for public health staffers to contact patients. AKPHAN_20200723_COVIDUpdate 

Elsa DeHart, a public health nurse and a regular guest on KMXT’s “The Lowdown,” a public affairs program focused on COVID-19 prevention.

“In Anchorage, where they are getting a hundred cases a day, they can’t manage it,” Dehart said. “I hope we don’t get to that place where we can’t manage it ourselves.”

Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA) testing site at East Elementary School in Kodiak.











Elsa DeHart, a public health nurse in Kodiak, said it’s a different story in this region.

Most of the testing in Kodiak is provided by the Kodiak Area Native Association at no cost. KANA uses a rapid test, which gives same-day results. DeHart says KANA’s status as a tribal organization has been a big help, because it gets testing supplies from the federal government and hasn’t had any shortages.

If you test positive for the virus and have symptoms, you have to be isolated and monitored for ten days. The state has changed its guidelines for what happens at the end of that period. DeHart says you have to be fever free and improving for at least 24 hours at the end of the ten days. Previously, the requirement was three days.

“In order to get relieved from isolation, especially if you have been sick, it has to be ten days at least, ten days from the beginning of symptoms, whenever that started,” DeHart said, and “really, truly on the mend.”

So what what does the state mean by that?

DeHart says you have to feel much better, be fever free and not under medication that reduces fever. Also, your respiratory symptoms have to show improvement.

Many employers have been requiring their workers to test negative before they can return to their jobs — but health officials say that’s probably not a good idea, because it may take a long time for someone who contracted the virus to test negative again. DeHart says ten days is long enough for the virus to weaken to the point it’s no longer considered contagious.

“You can test positive with just parts of the DNA — not like an active virus, just the fragments. And those can remain for months,” DeHart said. “So now they’re suggesting that people not get tested again at least three months after they recover.”

DeHart says those who test positive, but never develop symptoms, can discontinue isolation after ten days. However, isolation periods can be longer. If you become severely ill after infection, your quarantine period could last for 20 days or more, depending on what your health professionals recommend. Also, if you live in the same household, or are a close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, you must self-isolate for 14 days.

So far the Kodiak region has only seen 16 infections. Currently there are no active cases.

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