COVID-19 Stories: What To Do If You Find Out You’ve Been Exposed

Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) saw an uptick in demand for COVID-19 tests immediately following the July 4th holiday. Our country’s birthday is an annual time of celebration, and the associated risk of COVID-19 exposure varied, depending on how the event was commemorated. Some Mesa County residents celebrated locally, following gathering guidelines and taking precautions to minimize the likelihood of spreading the virus. Others traveled out of the region or out of state, both of which come with increased risk, and returned with concerns about possible exposure.  

Right now, Mesa County’s two-week positive rate is still well below the threshold that would result in tighter opening restrictions. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have not taxed our local health care systems beyond their capacity. However, the positive rate has been inching up and at some point you could get a call from one of MCPH’s contact tracers, notifying you of a possible exposure. If this occurs, don’t panic. However, do take the time to educate yourself so you are prepared to handle a COVID-19 exposure, armed with good information and practical advice.

The contact tracing process

Did you know that every local positive COVID-19 test is reported to MCPH? Once we are notified of a positive test result, our case investigators and contact tracers are activated. This team works to determine how the person with COVID-19 was exposed, as well as identify anyone who may have been in close contact with them. Those people are then notified of their potential exposure, without identifying the COVID-positive person, and advised of next steps. 

“Close contact” is defined as spending more than 10 minutes within 6 feet of a person, without wearing a mask. The current public health order limits gatherings to 50 people or fewer, both to help limit the potential for spread and to make it easier to determine whom someone has been in close contact with if they test positive. These measures help our contact tracers conduct a more successful investigation. 

If you are identified as a close contact, the contact tracer will offer to schedule a COVID-19 test through Mesa County Public Health. However, anyone with symptoms or who is concerned about possible exposure may request testing by either calling their health care provider or contacting Mesa County Public Health directly at 970-683-2300. 

If you have been exposed to the virus or have symptoms, please don’t walk into the health department, your doctor’s office, or the hospital without an appointment; if you have an emergency, call 911. By scheduling an appointment time, you come into contact with fewer people and help us contain the virus. 

Like many of the primary care offices in Mesa County, MCPH uses nasopharyngeal (NP) tests, which involve inserting a 6-inch long swab much like a Q-tip into the nose cavity to collect a sample. Although the test isn’t fun, it’s relatively painless. We then send the sample to a lab for testing. Currently, results are taking 2-7 days to come back, and each person who is tested will get a call with the test result, whether it’s negative or positive. 

What to do after the test

After you’ve had a sample taken, it’s important to quarantine until you get your results. If you are considered a high-risk contact, you must stay at home and away from others for 14 days from the time of exposure to the COVID case, even if your test is negative. This is because it can take that long for symptoms to appear.  Symptoms include, but are not limited to: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you have children, you may find this to be a good time to talk to them about COVID-19, since the possibility of a family member being sick is likely to come with heightened worry. Check out our “COVID-19 Stories” blog post on talking to kids about COVID-19, which offers age-appropriate materials and considerations to help you get started. Find it here

MCPH is a resource for you during these uncertain times.  Visit our website (health.mesacounty.us), call our hotline (683-2300), or send us an email  (healthinfo@mesacounty.us) for COVID-19 information or support .

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