Disease expert explains how to self-monitor your COVID-19 infection

·3 min read
Dr. Lisa Barrett says she's confident people will be able to manage their own COVID-19 cases.   (CBC - image credit)
Dr. Lisa Barrett says she's confident people will be able to manage their own COVID-19 cases. (CBC - image credit)

Premier Tim Houston said Thursday that Nova Scotians will need to manage their own cases of COVID-19 in light of milder symptoms and thousands of new cases across the province in recent weeks.

Dr. Lisa Barrett, an infectious disease doctor and researcher with Nova Scotia Health and Dalhousie University, said she's confident people can do that safely by following Public Health's rules.

"Staying home is important. If it's one of the take-home tests that are positive, in Nova Scotia you don't need to get a confirmatory test, but you should report your test," she said Thursday.

Public Health has asked people to do that by emailing their name, date of birth, health card number and contact information to PublicHealthPOCT@nshealth.ca.

"Then it's a matter of staying home, keeping yourself well, monitoring your own symptoms, and also reaching out to your contacts in the community who would be considered close contacts," Barrett said.

Who is a close contact?

She said some people might not want to make those calls, but she hopes most people will take the news graciously and appreciate the heads-up so they can take the same steps.

She said close contacts are people you've been inside with, unmasked, closer to than six feet, and in that situation for 15 minutes or longer. "If someone coughs or sneezes on you, someone you are caring for within the home — take all that quite seriously," she said.

Barrett said if you can't recall all the people you've been that close to unmasked and indoors in the last 48 hours, that's a sign you're seeing too many people.

"In Nova Scotia at the moment, you can reasonably expect that you're going to run into the virus," she said.

She said sticking to a small group of 10 or so people helps lower your risk of exposure. Hopefully, she said, that will keep the hospitalization numbers low and manageable. She said it's part of a shift away from listing exposure sites and tracking every case.

Masks, distance and layers of defence

Barrett said the vaccine should be thought of as one of the tools in your COVID-protection tool box, but not as your only defence. Using a well-fitted N95 mask also helps, she said.

"You don't want to feel air moving in and out on the sides of your mask," she said. "One practical strategy is to double up on your surgical or procedural mask — those blue and white ones. Knot the sides of the first one so that it comes in closer to your face, and then put the second one on top so that it presses the other one closer to your face."

Public Health also said Thursday that they'll no longer provide COVID-19 recovery letters due to the surge in cases.

People who are self-monitoring can consider themselves recovered if they're healthy 10 full days after symptoms have started or when they got their positive test.

People who are immunocompromised or have severe disease that requires ICU care should wait for 20 days.

"Some individuals may continue to have a lingering cough, particularly if they are prone to chronic cough. However, if they meet the above criteria, they are no longer infectious and are safe to stop isolating," Public Health said.

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