Here in the Sacramento area and across the United States, mask mandates have mostly gone away, COVID-19 case counts aren’t a top news story, major events are happening as scheduled, and people are enjoying their summer vacations to the fullest.
While all of that may be true, it’s also true that we’re still in a pandemic — COVID-19 isn’t yet endemic, and newly identified, highly contagious Omicron subvariants (BA.4 and BA.5) are spreading quickly.
At American River Urgent Care in Orangevale, California, our team offers on-site COVID-19 testing, including molecular PCR tests and rapid antigen tests, to people of all ages.
Even if you screen yourself for COVID less often than you did in past months, there are still several situations that should prompt you to get tested. Here are four of the most important ones:
1. You’re experiencing possible COVID symptoms
Sure, that stuffy nose and sore throat might be a cold or your seasonal allergies — or it might be COVID-19. The only way to know for sure is to get tested. COVID can cause a variety of mild to severe symptoms, including:
- Fever or chills
- Shortness of breath
- Muscle or body aches
- Congestion or runny nose
- Sore or scratchy throat
- Loss of taste or smell
- Nausea or vomiting
Remember, Omicron subvariants now account for most COVID cases. While the vaccines still provide strong protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death, these subvariants are better able to evade immune system defenses and cause infection.
So even if you’re fully vaccinated and boosted, you can still catch COVID and spread it to others. Getting tested helps you know your status so you can put your mind at ease or notify your close contacts and begin your quarantine.
2. You’ve been exposed to COVID as a close contact
It’s important to get tested for COVID if you’ve been exposed as a close contact, meaning someone you very recently spent time with (on the job, at school, at a party, at a religious service, etc.) tested positive for the virus soon after you were together.
You’re considered a “close contact” if you were within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. It’s important to recognize that it can take anywhere from 2 days to 2 weeks to develop symptoms following a COVID infection, and some people never develop symptoms at all.
If you’ve been identified as a close contact, the CDC recommends getting tested at least 5 days after your known exposure, following quarantine guidelines as you wait to test.
If you develop symptoms before day 5, you may want to take an at-home rapid antigen test sooner. If early results are negative despite your symptoms, you should still follow up with a molecular PCR lab test on day 5 to be sure.
3. You’d like to spend time with a high-risk loved one
If you’d like to spend time with a friend or family member whose age and/or health status places them in the high-risk category for developing severe illness from a COVID infection, it’s imperative to take precautions ahead of your planned visit.
People who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19 — regardless of their vaccination status — include adults aged 65 and older, people who are immunocompromised, pregnant women, and anyone with a serious chronic health condition. Major health-related risk factors for severe COVID illness include:
- Heart conditions
- Lung disease
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
A couple of weeks before you visit a high-risk loved one, take extra precautions like masking in public and limiting your social interactions. Get tested within 24 hours of your get-together.
4. You’re going to — or coming from — a large event
Now that many people are attending large, unmasked gatherings or events, it’s as important as ever to use COVID testing as a tool to reduce or prevent community transmission. Getting tested right before you attend a family reunion or a wedding, for example, gives you peace of mind that you’re not bringing COVID to your loved ones.
Similarly, getting tested at least 5 days after you attend a reunion, wedding, concert, or other large event can help you prevent further spread if you happen to have gotten infected. It’s also recommended that you quarantine (or at the very least mask in public) while you wait to test.
Schedule your COVID test today
Whether you’ve got worrisome symptoms, you need to check your status after a close-contact exposure, or you’d simply like to be tested prior to a planned visit or following a large event, we can help.
Stop by our walk-in clinic or call 916-287-8569 to schedule a prompt PCR or rapid antigen test at American River Urgent Care today, or click online to book an appointment any time.