Dr. Sarabeth Hartlage, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness’s associate medical director, says increasing access to testing is a great step for the community.
“You can get a test at home just so you know if you're positive and that can guide your actions in terms of going to visit with family members or whether you're attending school or work, things like that,” says Hartlage.
Hartlage says these at-home tests provide results in about 15 minutes, but they are less accurate than PCR tests that take a day or multiple days to produce results.
She says people who are symptomatic produce more accurate results as well as those who test repeatedly. She advises people to complete a test 3 to 5 days after exposure.
“Leaning toward that five-day mark can increase the accuracy of the home tests as well. They are more accurate as you go a little bit deeper into the timeline of infection, so if you have no symptoms you may want to get tested about five days after an exposure,” says Hartlage.
The CDC recommends that people who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed to the virus, or planning to gather with a group of people.
Hartalge says the White House providing 400 million N95 masks for free through pharmacies, grocery stores, and community health centers is another great step.
“It's really important to have a high-quality mask and it's not always accessible for everyone. If you're going to be in public or dealing with the public in your work or school setting it's a great advantage as we layer those strategies to get maximum protection,” says Hartlage.
Hartlage says given how contagious omicron is, it is a virtual certainty that everyone will be exposed to the variant.
“But that does not mean that we have to accept that everyone's going to be infected by this variant,” says Hartlage. “Even though most people will get through COVID, an infection fine you don't want you don't want to be the one that winds up in the hospital, especially when a hospital's on crisis staffing. Things are going to be tight in health care, so you want to take every precaution you can to make sure you stay out of their way so they can take care of other folks.”
Hartlage says no protective measure is perfect.
“If you get vaccinated you're very unlikely to get infected but it's not 0%. If you are wearing a mask, you're unlikely to get infected but it's not 0%. If you layer all those things together if you're vaccinated, if you're wearing your mask if you're getting tested regularly all of those things together can create the best chance of success for avoiding infection.
COVID-19 tests can be ordered at covidtests.gov. The website says orders usually ship in seven to twelve days.
Details on how to obtain the free masks have not been released yet.