Just before Memorial Day weekend, the number of new Covid-19 infections was over 100,000 a day, five times higher than the same point last year. According to experts, immunity from the record winter outbreak, which infected a quarter of Americans, doesn’t provide protection against the latest variants, fueling concerns that as people gather this weekend, it could be the start of a summer surge. The current strains are the most contagious so far.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that over half of the population lives in areas with current Covid-19 levels that are medium or high. While hospitals aren’t overrun yet, there are worries that they will be as the virus continues to spread. Experts point out that vaccines are still protecting people from severe illness, which will help keep some out of the hospital. It’s essential to realize that the burst of antibodies that occurs after a shot or previous infection does fade after several months.
For many, the pandemic is fading into the background. A survey done last month by Monmouth University found that half of the participants say they aren’t too concerned or not at all concerned with the coronavirus. A Washington Post-Schar School poll discovered close to three-quarters said they hope to vacation this summer.
As more people are traveling and cases are spreading, new information is coming to light regarding how long you can remain infectious and spread it to others. The CDC states that anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 should isolate for a minimum of five days from when they first start to reduce the chances of spreading the virus to others.
However, some people test positive ten days later and after their symptoms have resolved. As the result of new variants emerging and more people building up immune defenses, scientists aren’t sure when or how long individuals might be contagious. As a person’s viral load drops, rapid tests are a good indicator of who is no longer infectious because they only turn positive when a person is carrying large amounts of virus.
Since at-home tests have become more widely available, some public health officials encourage people to use them to determine if they’re infectious. It’s key to realize that this isn’t a guarantee that an individual isn’t going to transmit the virus to someone else. In fact, it supports the CDC’s recommendation that people take precautions until at least day ten after they’re diagnosed.
Dr. Emily Landon, University of Chicago Medicine’s executive medical director of infection prevention and control, puts it best, “These tests aren’t perfect. They underestimate contagiousness in the beginning of illness and overestimate at the end…but not by that much.”