Health experts are predicting an increase in COVID-19 cases during the upcoming holiday season, as reported by CNN. Similar to previous years, hospitalizations and emergency room visits related to the virus have risen after Thanksgiving. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted a 7% increase in COVID-19 emergency room visits from late September to November 11, indicating a potential case spike on the horizon. To prepare for this anticipated surge, the Department of Health and Human Services will be offering free COVID-19 testing kits delivered directly to people’s homes starting on November 20.
With the flu season overlapping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, distinguishing between the two illnesses can be challenging. Symptoms such as runny or stuffy nose, fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, and vomiting can be present in both COVID-19 and the flu. However, diarrhea and gastrointestinal symptoms are more common in the flu. Loss of taste and smell are more likely to occur with COVID-19 than with the flu. Additionally, there is also a rise in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections, which share similar symptoms with COVID-19 and the flu.
To determine whether you should get tested for COVID-19, it is important to consider the timeframe of symptoms. Symptoms can appear between two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. Those who know they have been exposed should take a COVID-19 test between four to five days after exposure, even if they are not experiencing any symptoms. If symptoms similar to COVID-19 manifest without known exposure, it is recommended to take a test. Testing before attending family gatherings or group events can help prevent the spread of the virus.
Free COVID-19 testing kits can be obtained by ordering them through the official HHS website, covid.gov/tests. In-person testing locations can be found at testinglocator.cdc.gov.
If you test positive for COVID-19, it is crucial to isolate yourself and follow the most recent CDC guidelines on quarantine. COVID-19 can spread for up to eight days after symptoms develop. Therefore, it is essential to continue isolating until symptoms improve or you have gone more than 24 hours without a fever (without using fever-reducing medication). Even without symptoms, individuals who test positive should still quarantine for five days, as they can still spread the virus during this time.
Protecting yourself and others during this season requires adherence to preventive measures. The latest COVID-19 booster shot is recommended for individuals aged six months and older, regardless of prior vaccinations. Regular handwashing, avoiding crowded areas, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and wearing a mask if feeling unwell are essential practices.
By staying informed and practicing precautions, individuals can help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and enjoy a safe holiday season.
1. What are the symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, and RSV?
Symptoms of COVID-19, the flu, and RSV can overlap, including runny or stuffy nose, fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, muscle pain, headache, and vomiting. Diarrhea and gastrointestinal symptoms are more common in the flu. COVID-19 may lead to a total loss of taste and smell.
2. When should I get tested for COVID-19?
If you know you have been exposed to the virus, it is recommended to take a COVID-19 test between four to five days after exposure, regardless of symptoms. If you develop symptoms similar to COVID-19 without known exposure, it is advisable to get tested.
3. How can I obtain free COVID-19 testing kits?
Free at-home COVID-19 testing kits can be ordered through the official HHS website, covid.gov/tests.
4. What should I do if I test positive for COVID-19?
If you test positive for COVID-19, you should stay home and isolate from others. Follow the most recent CDC guidelines on quarantine, which recommend a minimum of five days of isolation, even in the absence of symptoms.
5. How can I prevent illness during this season?
Apart from getting vaccinated and staying up to date with booster shots, it is essential to maintain good hand hygiene, avoid crowded areas, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, and wear a mask if you feel unwell.