TAMPA, Fla. — With many children back in brick-and-mortar schools and more adults returning to the workplace, there is a higher likelihood you or a loved one will be exposed to COVID-19. Now, leading doctors are weighing in on when you need to self-isolate, how long you need to quarantine for and at what point you should get tested.
Many people have come to ABC Action News confused about what the best procedures are for quarantining and who needs to be screened for COVID-19.
"I understand where everyone's coming from," said Dr. Nishant Anand, the BayCare Health Chief Medical Officer. "This has been incredibly confusing and that's probably the understatement of the year."
Anand said if you or a loved one tests positive for COVID-19, you and your entire immediate family group needs to self-isolate, or quarantine, for at least two weeks. That means no one in your immediate family group goes to work or in-person school.
It's best to wait the 14 days AND have no symptoms for 24 hours before returning, Anand said.
Additionally, Anand said it's best if the COVID-19 positive person stays in their own room, preferable with their own bathroom. They should wear a mask if they have to interact with others, he said.
But things get tougher to figure out when someone was exposed, or may have been exposed, but has no symptoms.
Doctors say in that case, you have a little bit more liberty to go to work, or depending on your district, school.
"If you want to be extremely cautious, everyone in your household can stay home," Anand said. "If you have to go to work, and we understand people have to go to work in that situation, you just have to be mindful and watch for any symptoms that develop."
Those symptoms include cough, fever, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, and many more, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, keep in mind, many people who test positive have no symptoms.
Additionally, if you know you or a loved one were exposed to COVID-19, Baycare physicians tell ABC Action News a COVID-19 test is need within the 10-to-14 day window following exposure if you are having symptoms.
However, doctors said some workplaces and schools are requiring that people get tested for COVID-19 on day five, all the way up through day 10, following exposure to COVID-19.
But doctors say if you test negative during that quarantine period, you still need to complete your full self-isolation period before it's safe to go back to work or be around others because symptoms could still develop.
"Wait the 10 days and 24 hours free of symptoms because this virus is extremely contagious," Anand said. "You don't want to give that to your family members or to a friend or co-worker at work."
But as Anand said, all of these questions can be confusing and each family situation is unique to them. So, if you have questions, there are free resources out there, including:
The Florida Department of Health's dedicated COVID-19 Call Center that can be reached at 1-(866) 779-6121. The Call Center is available 24 hours per day. Inquiries may also be emailed to COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Baycare also has a COVID-19 Nurse Triage Service that answers questions or concerns about COVID-19. You can call 1-800-BayCare and press one seven days a week to reach BayCare's COVID-19 Nurse Triage Service. Nurse triage is available Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm.