Sunday, December 26, 2021

CoViD-19: CDPH Christmas Scare | Rapid Tests, PCR Tests, and How Long To Isolate When Positive | RIP Tutu |

The Family on Christmas (Taken 12.25.21)

I've tried to believe that in this whole COVID-19 pandemic, that at least we're in San Diego, where it seems the County of San Diego and the State of California have enacted measures to keep us as safe as possible with the least disruption in our lives, but I'm not gonna lie here -- California Department of Health came very well close to ruining Christmas. 

Nova, Darren and I were all COViD-19 tested on Saturday, all with negative results by the next day. But then I told you I had a couple friends over, on Sunday night and Tuesday morning, and they were notified of close contacts with people who tested positive. So we went back in for testing on Wednesday, and even for December 23, it felt quick and efficient. And while the signs about results are always the same, it would've been nice to know we wouldn't have results by Christmas. 

But I was not really worried. Both friends who had the close contacts subsequently tested negative and we're all feeling fine and healthy over here, and if we were desperate, we had a few rapid tests on hand. We spent Christmas Eve at my parents' house with all the kids and watched movies and it was lovely. Nova stayed the night with the girls and Darren and I came home and had drinks while making deviled eggs and other apps for Christmas. 

On Christmas Day, we arrived in the afternoon to a spread of food and everyone feeling festive and I guess my mom and sister have figured out the hoist so my dad isn't confined to the hospital bed 24/7 but can be put in an upright chair and everyone was feeling the vibes. We ate, watched movies, and then we had a casino night. I was dealer and my dad taught everyone his tricks of the trade for playing blackjack. It was super fun and lifted his spirits in ways I haven't seen in a very long time, for once feeling like himself and not dependent on everyone around him. My godsister and her boyfriend are going to Vegas in the spring so my dad felt needed in imparting his knowledge upon them. We played for a couple hours before we exhausted and started to wrap things up. 

And then I got a text. 

"The CA Dept of Public Health was notified of your COVID-19 test. Tap here if you tested positive and are using CA Notify (Exposure Notifications) to anonymously alert people who make have been exposed. Your personal information is not shared with other users..."


"If you tested positive"?? How would I know? We haven't gotten results back. And, if this is a standard text to anyone who gets a test, why is this the first time getting the text after having been tested about a dozen other times in the past? Darren no longer has the app so he didn't get a text. But my heart was in my stomach. I clicked the link thinking maybe IT would tell ME if I had a positive result. But by doing so, I basically told the app that I had tested positive. And now there's no way to make it say otherwise, other than not finishing with the notification to close contacts. We hastily gathered all our things and kinda made a quick exit, rushing home so we could all do antigen tests. 

The rapid tests all came back negative. 

But I called my sister and mom to apologize anyway for our quick exit and explain what happened and then I spent Christmas Night googling everything I could about CA Notify. As far as I can tell, they don't actually know my result because it is a self-reporting tool. It only exists to ping others if I tell it to do so. But I still have questions. Was this even about my December 23rd test? Or are they catching up from my December 18th test? Or from even before then, when we tested on December 11th and December 4th? Why isn't this clear in the text? And I get that the County was closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (though, if the San Diego Zoo can be open, it seems, too, that emergency workers dealing with a surge in the pandemic should be, too) but now it isn't Christmas and I've gotten results on a Sunday before so why am I still waiting 4 days later? It is so frustrating. And I don't expect CA Dept of Health to target a text to every person who tests, but how about saying more clearly that THIS TEXT DOES NOT INDICATE IN ANY WAY YOUR ACTUAL TEST RESULT and maybe autfofill the date of the test it is in reference to. 

And this all lends to a greater problem of messaging which I've talked about a lot for the past two years. I know people who go get tested -- with symptoms no less-- who leave the testing site and go shopping or to restaurants or to shows or whatever. I mean, obviously we got tested on Wednesday, and with no results still joined family for Christmas Eve and Christmas. But if we had any symptoms and believed we had COVID-19, why isn't there clearer information about staying quarantined until you know your result, about resources available, about proper protocols until you get your result? And I wouldn't know but I hope and assume that if you do test positive, information on isolating is included with your result, but now I'm not even so sure or else why is this spreading so insanely fast? Are sick people just going about their lives? 

So yeah, I'm irritated. It's now Sunday night and we still never got results back, but I trust the antigen tests and am not really worried. But what about the 10,000 or so other people in San Diego who got tested on Wednesday and never got their results and didn't have the benefit of rapid tests on hands? I guess we'll find out tomorrow how three days of no reporting looks. And by Wednesday we'll start to know the ramifications of Christmas around the county and country. But by all accounts, know that we're still going up and aren't expected to peak until late January or early February. 

Stay safe out there.    

If you’re vaccinated, early data suggest omicron presents very little threat of severe illness, yet there’s still a risk of infection. That's where rapid tests can come in particularly handy: They aren’t fool-proof, but they’re a good way to detect Covid, even when people don't have symptoms. As such, rapid testing offers a potential middle ground between locking down entirely and abandoning all caution.

But rapid tests can also be confusing. For a little clarity on best practices, we turn to two of our favorite Sunday Covid Q&A experts. 

Jessica Justman, a Columbia University Medical Center epidemiologist, says it’s critical to set ground rules for testing and stick to them. She says that anyone who tests positive should leave a gathering immediately, and that everyone should keep their masks on until they test negative. The testing location is also important.

“Outdoors is great, but not if it’s cold or windy,” she says. “If it is cold or windy, find a quiet indoor corner away from the main gathering. You will need a space with enough horizontal surfaces (table tops, countertops) to set up the test kits during the incubation time.”

Organizing the testing process ahead of time can help prevent mistakes like sample mix-ups, Justman says. So she suggests keeping a permanent marker on hand to label test kits and lots of hand sanitizer to prevent contamination throughout the testing process. Also, she says, be sure to read the instructions carefully and use a timer with an alarm to know when the results are ready.

“You can’t wing this and hope for the best,” she says. “Pay attention to the description of which parts you can touch with your fingers and which parts you should not touch. Move slowly and carefully to avoid dropping the test kit components on the ground. Open up each component when you need it, not before.”

Rapid tests are best used as a screening tool for people without any symptoms of illness, says Vanderbilt University infectious-disease specialist William Schaffner. While faster than PCR tests, they’re not quite as accurate. So if you don’t feel well or know you’ve been exposed to the virus, it’s best to opt for a PCR test and stay home until you have a negative result. 

But if you’re vaccinated, feel fine and have had no known Covid exposure, rapid testing is a great way to add another layer of protection to holiday gatherings. 

”Rapid tests can add a level of reassurance to allow us to move to this new normal,” Schaffner says. 

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