JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – As the region prepares for a post-Christmas Covid-19 surge, health leaders are urging people to stay home as 2021 begins, especially if they gathered during the holiday.
“If you were exposed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and infected, you’ve been incubating. Even if you don’t have symptoms yet today, you may develop symptoms tomorrow or the next day which means that you would be infectious today,” said Jamie Swift, Ballad Health’s chief infection prevention officer.
While the virus has an incubation time of two to fourteen days, the average incubation time is five to seven.
“What we’re seeing a lot is that 5-7 days and so if you think back to Christmas, we’re really in that 5-7 day period,” Swift said.
If someone was exposed over the holiday, they are still in the “infectious period” for the virus.
“The infectious period for Covid-19 is 10 days from the onset of symptoms. So, from the time your symptoms started, you’re infectious for the next 10 days. So, even if you did test 2-3 days later, you really can go back to when your symptoms started,” said Swift. “If you’re asymptomatic and you never developed symptoms and you got tested because you were exposed or just wanted to know then it’s 10 days from the date of test.”
As community spread rises around the holidays, Swift is urging people to continue to get tested.
“That’s the only way we notify people, that we get people into quarantine: their contacts,” said Swift. “If you’re sick, we need people to stay home for that full infectious period.”
And if you have already had the virus and recovered, you should still be cautious.
“Literature is showing that we really do think people have immunity for at least 90 days. We expect that to be longer, most viruses do provide that longer protection. There are some recent studies showing that it may go out as far as six months,” said Swift. “Because it’s a new virus and we’re still learning about immunity and protection and viral shedding and what all this virus can do…CDC guidance is still ‘wear your mask, social distance, not be in large crowds.’”
But, there is no need to be re-tested for at least 90 days according to Swift.
“The test is very sensitive. It may pick up some viral particles that are still there but they’re not infectious. So, you may still have a positive test. It doesn’t put you back into quarantine, it doesn’t put you into isolation or anything like that,” she said. “You’re not infectious. It’s just that the PCR test is going to pick up any of those dead viral particles that are still there.”
Ballad Health has sounded the alarm since before Thanksgiving, going into the holiday season with record positive cases.
“We went into Thanksgiving at high numbers but we have seen those Thanksgiving admissions. Obviously, we’ve seen those numbers stay steady and keep going up,” Swift said.
Thursday, the system tied it’s highest number of in-patient Covid hospitalizations.
“If we start at that high and then we have another Christmas surge and then a New Year’s Eve surge, that’s when we really get into those ‘worst-case scenarios’ that we talk about every week,” Swift said.