Some cleared for return to work after 2nd positive COVID-19 test
Some people are being allowed back to work following a second positive COVID-19 test.
While public health officials say this may sound like a conundrum, it is true in some cases.
Individuals may be allowed to return to work after a 10-day isolation after the symptoms began or since the positive test. In addition to isolation, if symptoms have improved and there has been no fever for 24 hours without using medicine, health officials may give the OK to return to work even with a positive test result since they aren’t spreading the virus any longer.
“The individual is not a risk to transmit,” said Heather Orchard, head of El Dorado County communicable disease branch. “When we are doing an investigation we look at the infectious period.”
An individual can be contagious for eight to nine days but the virus could potentially stay in the body for three months, so Orchard doesn’t recommend you rush to get tested for the virus again. However, some employers require a negative test for employees to be allowed to return to work.
This makes knowing when to return to work an iffy situation for employees. Getting tested too soon after the first positive test is not recommended because it might show another positive result.
Orchard says that this doesn’t affect contact tracing efforts because public health officials are ‘confident and comfortable’ with the research that shows individuals are not contagious after 10 days of isolation. Orchard says that the bigger part of contact tracing is making sure the isolated individual truly isolates from others in the household while the individual is still in the contagious period of the disease to prevent infecting others from outside the home and in turn making tracing difficult.
Chief of COVID Emergency Operations, Chief of Staff, Medical Director of the Emergency Department and practicing emergency medicine physician at Barton Memorial Hospital Dr. Kandra Yee says that research typically shows individuals are infectious for 10 days, but in rare, severe cases individuals can be contagious for up to 20 days.
On PCR tests, which are the tests used at Barton and LTCC testing sites, low levels of the virus can be detected for up to three months which explains why someone who is not infectious anymore can still test positive.
“For this reason, the CDC recommends people with a positive test result do not have another test until at least three months have passed,” said Yee. “If the person is tested again and does not have symptoms, they can return to work 10 days after the first COVID-19 positive test was taken.”
While cases of reinfection are rare, Yee says studies on COVID-19 reinfection are not yet conclusive and there is only a very small possibility of that being the case.
“If someone who tested positive for COVID-19 becomes ill again within the first three months, they should self-isolate and see a doctor,” she said. “New symptoms are likely from a new infection other than COVID-19 such as the flu or strep throat. If no other cause is found, it may be new symptoms from the initial COVID-19 virus.”
If an individual tests again after three months and the test comes back positive again, Orchard also says that they relook at the situation but the reinfection rate is generally pretty low.
While research continues, there have been no reinfection cases of COVID-19 within the three month period according to the Center for Disease Control.
Yee explained that if reinfection was a possibility it would need to be diagnosed in conjunction with an infectious disease specialist. If three months have gone by and an individual has COVID-19 symptoms again, the individual should be tested again if appropriate.
Regardless if a person has had COVID-19 or not, the CDC recommends that all individuals should take steps to prevent getting and spreading the disease by washing hands regularly, staying at least 6 feet away from others whenever possible and by wearing masks.
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