Updated: Jan 4
I distinctly remember eight months ago, several of my friends took to social media asking if anyone knew of anyone infected with COVID-19. Fast forward to today, and now the question being posed is "does anyone NOT know of anyone that has been infected with COVID-19?" While we can't determine the case rate definitively, we can extrapolate from the ever-growing pool of data that there are [conservatively] 3,635 cases per 100,000 lives nationally. Meaning, at least 3.6% of the US has been infected with COVID-19 to date. Or nearly 4 out of 100 people. (I'm sure we all know 100 people, and therefore know at least 3-4 people that have been infected.)
And here we are in our second wave of COVID-19, watching the numbers surge as the weather turns colder and people are spending more time indoors. Continued tried and true public health practices - including social distancing and masking - will help keep the infection rate significantly lower than if these practices are not mandated. (If you don't believe me, Google "South Dakota and mask mandates". There are plenty of non-partisan data sources to substantiate the direct correlation between masking policies and COVID-19 case rates.)
Now, I cannot stress enough how conservative (read: "low") our current case rate numbers are. Why? Because typically, individuals are only getting tested if they are experiencing symptoms and/or believe they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. That leaves all individuals that are asymptomatic (infected with the virus, but not experiencing any symptoms), or possibly pre-symptomatic (infected with the virus, but not YET experiencing symptoms), out of the equation.
So, should we all go run and get tested? Well, no - that would just overrun our capacity to test effectively and efficiently. But here is who should get tested. And when. And where.
1) Anyone that has been exposed or thinks they have been exposed to an individual with an active COVID-19 infection.
2) Anyone who is experiencing symptoms.
3) Anyone who is planning to visit someone in a high-risk category, (i.e. older adult, individual living in an institutionalized setting, immunocompromised individual).
4) Anyone whose employer recommends it (i.e. teachers, service industry personnel, healthcare professionals providing direct patient care...). Follow the guidelines they have put in place, which will include access to free testing.
1) If you believe you've come in contact with someone/been exposed to COVID-19, you should *arrange to take a test 3 days from the date of exposure. Any sooner and your chances of a false negative are much more likely.
*if you are going to book an appointment, go ahead and schedule for it right away to ensure you can get a time slot on the optimal day
2) If you are experiencing symptoms, get tested as soon as possible.
3) If you are planning on visiting someone in a high-risk category, get tested 5-6 days before you visit that individual. This allows for ample time to get the result back, but not too much time to lapse in between, raising your exposure risk. You must also quarantine from the day you took your test up until your visit!
4) Employees should follow the recommended testing frequency guidelines set by their employer.
Most pharmacies and urgent care facilities offer testing, but typically require an appointment, and may run your insurance (but there will be NO charge/co-pay for the test). There are also lots of non-profit/community-based testing sites throughout the country, that do NOT require insurance. HHS has put together a wonderful database to help individuals locate testing sites near them:
We are all accountable, and we are all in this together. Please do your part.
In good health,