PINEHURST, N.C. -- Concern over COVID-19 has reached a new peak in recent weeks thanks to the startling rise in cases fueled by the Omicron variant.
Vaccines, booster shots and masks are all proven ways to protect you and those you love from COVID-19, but with the extremely transmissible Omicron variant surging following the holidays, and the Delta variant still circulating, safety measures may not be enough to stop you from getting COVID-19.
Thousands of people who have been "following the rules" and taking suggested precautions are still likely to test positive for COVID-19 in the coming days and weeks. That's because the new variant may be able to slip past the body's immune defenses due to its many mutations.
But even though vaccines and boosters can't stop all breakthrough cases, they're expected to continue to do what they're supposed to do — protect you from serious illness, hospitalization and death.
What should you do if you think you have COVID-19 or were exposed to people who have it?
- Get tested. If you develop any symptoms that indicate you may have COVID-19 or were exposed to the virus, get tested and take positive results seriously. Common symptoms include cough, sore throat, muscle aches, nasal congestion, sneezing, loss of taste/smell and/or fever. If you test positive, tell anyone you've recently been in close contact with. Looking for more information on testing? Don't visit a FirstHealth emergency room. Visit our COVID-19 resources page to find out about testing locations throughout the Sandhills.
- Don't panic. It can be scary to test positive for COVID-19, but we've come a long way in being able to treat the virus. If you've been vaccinated and boosted, there's a good chance you may experience only mild to moderate illness or be completely asymptomatic. Even if you have conditions that increase your risk for severe illness, there are treatments that may help.
- Call your doctor. If you test positive, contact your health care provider to determine the next steps. Treatments that may be effective against developing serious illness typically need to be taken within a few days of getting the virus. The newest is an antiviral pill called Paxlovid, which was just authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before Christmas. The pill can be taken at home and will be available by prescription for people ages 12 and older who test positive for SARS-CoV-2 and are at risk of developing severe illness. It should be taken within five days of symptom onset, according to the FDA.
- Isolate. Stay away from other people if you test positive. As of Dec. 27, 2021, the CDC recommends you isolate for 5 days after a positive COVID-19 test. As much as possible, stay in a specific room of your home and away from other people. If possible, use a separate bathroom. If you have no symptoms after 5 days, you may leave isolation but should continue to wear a mask for another 5 days. The CDC has been periodically changing recommendations for isolation, so check the latest guidelines.
- Take care of yourself. Get rest, stay hydrated and take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as needed to help you feel better. Monitor your symptoms and call your health care provider if they get worse. If you have these warning signs — trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, inability to wake or stay awake, bluish lips or face, and/or newly developed confusion — get medical care immediately.
FirstHealth's COVID-19 Resources FirstHealth continues to provide exceptional care in a safe environment despite the rise in COVID-19 cases. We offer COVID-19 testing, vaccines and booster shots and have implemented robust strategies to keep our staff and visitors to our facilities safe. Visit our COVID Resources page for information on how to get a test, schedule a vaccine or booster and much more.
FirstHealth has also increased access to virtual care options during the pandemic. Our Primary Care and Convenient Care clinics are offering video, phone or curbside visits, and the FirstHealth On the Go app allows you to meet with a doctor anytime, anywhere on your smartphone. If you need in-person care for severe symptoms, FirstHealth primary care, convenient care or emergency departments are here to care for you.