There’s a lot of uncertainty around Covid-19 and the ever-changing pandemic. Our knowledge continues to evolve right along with the virus. With new strains and access to vaccines and at-home testing, the answers to many questions get a bit more complicated. So when you learn that you’ve been exposed to Covid, it’s hard to know exactly what to do. Based on current guidelines from the CDC, here’s what you need to know if you’re exposed to Covid.
An exposure is a cumulative 15 minutes in a 24-hour period spent within six feet of someone who has Covid. This goes for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated people. But your next steps vary depending on your vaccination status.
If you are up to date with your Covid vaccines or you had a confirmed case of Covid within the last 90 days (meaning you tested positive using a viral test), you do not need to quarantine following close contact. You should still follow the testing procedure below. If you are not vaccinated, you should quarantine for five days from the time of contact.
If you know for sure you’ve been exposed to someone with Covid, taking a test right away might not give you helpful information. The CDC recommends waiting five days from exposure before you take your first test—if you don’t have symptoms. If you develop symptoms, get tested as soon as you can.
In Southwest Montana, you have a few options when it comes to testing. You can always opt for a self-test at home. Take advantage of the four free tests that the federal government is providing each household. All you have to do is go online to Covidtests.gov and order your free tests to be shipped to you. That way you have them on hand if you need them. At-home tests are also available free to Montanans through the CareStart program. Find convenient pickup locations in Gallatin and Park counties. CHP will also likely have home tests available for pickup. Contact your nearest clinic in Bozeman, Belgrade, Livingston or West Yellowstone to check availability.
You can also go into several walk-in and drive-sites for testing. Increasing Community Access to Testing (ICATT) is a federal program with a testing site at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds in building 4. It’s a free self-administered PCR test under observation. There’s also drive-up testing at the Park County Fairgrounds, Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
After a confirmed exposure, your test might still be negative after five days. If that’s the case, you want to take another test one or two days after your first test. This is called serial testing. Even if you continue to test negative, you should wear a tight-fitting mask for 10 days following your close contact.
If your test comes back positive, isolate according to CDC guidelines. You should also let anyone you’ve come into close contact with know so they can test too. If you have health concerns that make you more at-risk for complications, contact your primary care provider for treatment options. If you experience emergency warning signs like shortness of breath, seek emergency services immediately.
CHP is dedicated to bringing affordable medical care to Southwest Montana, both during and beyond the pandemic. Get in touch with your nearest clinic to make an appointment or seek more information.