Though the federal government officially ended the Public Health Emergency status of COVID-19 in May of this year, the dangers of COVID-19 have not passed. Cases are surging nationwide as variants spread, leaving schools and businesses to implement infection control protocols without the universal guidance provided during the pandemic.
According to the CDC, Covid-19 variants will continue to occur, with no end in sight. Business owners must stay informed and remain diligent in creating and maintaining policies in preparation for upticks in COVID-19 cases.
Those who contract Covid-19 may experience a range of symptoms, some more severe than others. These include:
- Shortness of Breath
- Muscle Aches
- Loss of Taste
- Loss of Smell
- Sore Throat
- Congestion or Runny Nose
- Nausea or Vomiting
Symptoms of Long-Covid or Post-Covid
While the cause remains unknown at this time, some people experience symptoms long after the COVID-19 virus has run its course. These symptoms or conditions can last weeks, months, or even years.
- Difficulty Breathing
- Chest Pain
- Heart Palpitations
- Brain Fog
- Difficulty Sleeping
- Change of Taste
- Change of Smell
- Stomach Pain
- Body Aches/Pain
- Menstrual Cycle Changes
If you or one of your employees suspects that they may have Covid-19, they should take a test. Different types of tests are available, including PCR and antigen tests.
Antibody tests are not used to indicate if an active infection is present. Their purpose is to recognize whether or not your body has been exposed to the virus, prompting it to create virus-fighting antibodies.
PCR or Polymerase Chain Reaction tests are done in a doctor’s office. These tests are more sensitive than antigen tests but can take up to 3 days to produce a result.
Antigen tests, when taken at home, produce a result within 15-30 minutes. The results are reliable, but the margin of error is slightly higher than with PCR tests, resulting in occasional false negatives.
When to Test
Those having symptoms that may be COVID-19, even if they are mild, should take a test. If the test result is negative, but your symptoms continue, retest in 48 hours. If you still continue to experience symptoms but have a negative test result, take a third test 48 hours after the second.
Following an exposure to COVID-19, if you are not experiencing symptoms, wait for five days and then take a test. If the test is negative, take another test in 48 hours. Repeat a third time if the second test is also negative.
Where to Find Tests
Many local pharmacies and retail stores sell at-home Covid-19 tests.
Those with disabilities can call the Disability Information and Access Line at 1-888-677-1199 for assistance obtaining a test or finding a testing facility.
For FREE or low-cost testing, use this Health Center search tool to locate a center near you. Many offer services on a sliding scale, dependent upon your income level.
Test Reimbursement Through Insurance
Some insurance companies continue to reimburse patients for the purchase of COVID-19 testing supplies. You’ll likely be asked to complete a form and submit the receipt for purchase. The insurance company will limit reimbursement to a certain number of tests each month, and may take several weeks to provide reimbursement.
United Healthcare provides reimbursement for those who qualify. Members can download the form here.
Anthem Blue Cross ended its reimbursement program when the COVID-19 public health emergency ended in May. However, members who purchased tests before May 11, 2023, can still submit a claim for reimbursement.
KaiserPermanente no longer reimburses for self-test purchases but maintains a program that provides FREE COVID tests to members on Medicaid.
Humana continues its COVID-19 coverage, with minor changes since May of 2023. Visit their update page for more information.
Contact your insurance company for specifics on testing coverage and reimbursement programs. In most cases, tests completed by a physician are covered under insurance. Self-tests are typically not covered, and reimbursement programs ended in May 2023.
Quarantine & Isolation Guidelines
Even while the country returns to work and school, the CDC maintains the same isolation recommendations for those exposed to or actively ill with COVID-19. Isolating from others is one of the most effective ways to ensure the virus does not spread. Businesses should consider implementing policies that do not penalize employees for following the CDC’s guidance on isolation, even when remote work is unavailable.
Who Should Isolate
- Vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who have an active COVID-19 infection
- Individuals who have symptoms of COVID-19, but have not yet tested
What Does Isolation Look Like
- Wear a mask when around other people
- Avoid travel
- Stay home as much as possible
- Separate yourself from others in the home if possible
- Use a separate bathroom, if available
- Avoid sharing items such as towels, utensils, cups, etc.
- Maintain good ventilation in the home. Open windows if possible, use HEPA filters to clean the air, turn on exhaust fans, and turn your furnace to “ON” instead of “Auto” to provide continuous airflow and filtration.
If your home does not have a filtration system, contact an HVAC technician for assistance. You can create your own HEPA filtration system using a fan and filter that can be purchased at most home improvement stores.
How Long Should Isolation Last
Day 1 is the first full day after receiving a positive test result or the first full day after your symptoms started.
- If symptoms have subsided, and you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours (without using medication to reduce the fever), you may end isolation after Day 5.
- If you experienced a moderate illness (had difficulty breathing during the illness), you may end isolation after ten days if symptoms have subsided and you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours (without using medication to reduce the fever).
- If you experienced a severe illness (were hospitalized) or are immunocompromised, you may end isolation after ten days if symptoms have subsided, you’ve been fever-free for 24 hours (without using medication to reduce the fever), and your physician clears you to end isolation.
Regardless of which day you end isolation, continue wearing a mask around others and avoid contact with people at high risk of contracting COVID-19 for ten days.
The CDC currently recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive the COVID-19 vaccination. For up-to-date information on available vaccinations, where to find them near you, and current CDC recommendations, visit their Vaccine page. You can also call 1-800-232-0233 or text your zip code to 438829 to find a vaccination center near you.
Expected Covid-19 Vaccination Side Effects
If you choose to receive the vaccine, you may experience some side effects. These are usually mild. If you experience concerning or severe symptoms, contact your physician immediately. During an emergency, always call 911 for assistance.
- Pain in the injection site
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Loss of Appetite
- Muscle or Joint Pain
How to Treat COVID-19 Vaccination Side Effects
Most vaccination side effects can be treated at home with supportive care. Contact your physician immediately if you have specific questions or experience severe or concerning symptoms.
- Apply a cool washcloth to the injection site
- Stay well hydrated
- Ask your doctor about using over-the-counter pain and fever reducers
Covid-19 Workplace Guidelines 2023
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workspace for their employees. With this in mind, regular revision, development, and implementation of policies related to Covid-19 is imperative. OSHA offers the following recommendations for doing so.
Facilitate Employee Vaccination
Employers should allow employees time off to receive the vaccination and recover from side effects. When possible, employees should receive pay during this time.
Through collaboration with local healthcare organizations, employers can create programs that provide vaccinations in the workplace.
Exposure and Illness Policies
Consider policies that mandate employees exposed to the COVID-19 virus to stay home for 3-5 days. They should wear a mask indoors for 14 days after exposure unless they test negative. Employees who have an active COVID-19 infection should be instructed to stay home as well. They should mask for 14 days or until they receive a negative test result.
When possible, allow employees to work remotely, encouraging it when COVID-19 cases are high in the local area or building where they work.
For employees at high risk of contracting COVID-19, such as those with compromised immune systems or those who are unvaccinated, provide workspaces that allow for social distancing of 6 feet between employees.
Allow employees who choose to and can work remotely, whether temporarily or long term.
Create physical barriers between workspaces where possible. Ensure that airflow and ventilation are maintained.
Stagger employee arrival and departure times, as well as breaks.
Workers should be provided with Personal Protective Equipment, such as masks, face shields, or gloves.
Ensure appropriate hand washing stations are available throughout the workspace to facilitate proper hygiene.
Visitors to the workplace, including customers and clients, should be offered PPE and hand-washing accommodations.
Perform Ventilation System Maintenance
Keep all ventilation systems clean and well-maintained. Filters should be changed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and systems should be serviced regularly.
Consider the implementation of UVGI (Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation), a system that uses UV (ultraviolet) energy to kill COVID-19 and other bacteria and viruses. This relatively new technology is designed for use in areas where adequate air exchange is difficult and significant numbers of people pass through the site. The systems require a minimum ceiling height of 8-8.5 feet and must be installed by a trained HVAC technician. A $1,500-$2,500 per 500 square foot price tag is average.
Clean and Disinfect
Preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses requires regular cleaning and disinfection of all common areas. The COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for hours to days, leaving everyone who touches them at risk. High-traffic areas such as bathrooms, cafeterias and kitchens, locker rooms, meeting rooms, and workspaces should be a significant focus of disinfection procedures.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How long does Covid last?
Covid-19 affects each individual differently. Most will experience symptoms for a period of days to weeks. Some may experience COVID symptoms for an extended period.
How long are you contagious with COVID-19?
A person infected with Covid-19 is considered to be contagious for at least five days. Maintaining isolation for five days after symptoms have subsided is essential.
When did COVID start?
The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was confirmed on January 20, 2020.
Is Covid over?
While the federal COVID-19 public health emergency declaration ended on May 11, 2023, the COVID-19 virus has not disappeared. As we head into cold and flu season in the US, we are seeing an uptick in cases of Covid-19. New variants continue to emerge, indicating that much like Influenza, Covid-19 is here to stay.
Can I treat my COVID-19 symptoms at home?
If you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, whether you have received a positive test result or not, contact your doctor for care recommendations. Supportive care at home may be recommended, but it should be done with the guidance of a licensed physician.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Each person infected with COVID-19 may experience a different range of symptoms. We have listed the most common above.
How to treat COVID-19?
Depending on the severity of your illness, your doctor may prescribe treatments you can obtain over the counter at your local pharmacy. Some antiviral therapies are available at this time, but they require a prescription. These treatments must be started immediately after symptoms or a positive test is noted. If you believe you may have COVID-19, contact your doctor immediately.
What is the new strain of COVID-19 called?
A new variant of COVID-19, called BA.2.86, has been identified. The CDC has issued a statement noting that the strain is genetically different from previous strains. They still recommend the COVID-19 vaccination and boosters but cannot confirm if they will be effective against the current variant.
Where to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Vaccination centers are located throughout the country. In addition, some workplaces and schools hold vaccination clinics. Find a vaccination center near you above.
Can COVID-19 symptoms get worse suddenly?
Yes. A person experiencing mild symptoms may see an increase in severity fairly quickly. If this occurs, seek medical attention immediately.
Can dogs get COVID-19?
Yes. Cats, dogs, and other animals can become infected with COVID-19 after exposure to an infected human. Do not put masks on your animals or attempt to wipe them down with disinfectant. Isolate from your pets in the same way you would other humans while you are contagious. If your pet experiences symptoms of COVID-19, contact your veterinarian right away. Your veterinarian will provide guidance on caring for your pet during their illness, isolating your pet properly, and any necessary follow-up care.
Where can I test my dog for COVID-19?
Animals should be tested for COVID-19 by a licensed veterinary professional only. Contact your veterinary office if you believe that your pet requires testing.
Tammy McKinney, RN, creator of HelpfulHospiceNurse, is a healthcare writer and seasoned registered nurse. With experience in acute care, long-term care, rehabilitation, drug & alcohol, and hospice & palliative care, she combines her medical understanding with her love for writing to educate and inform the public on various health-related topics. You can view a snippet of her portfolio here or contact her directly on LinkedIn!