The State is Reopening…What Happens Now?
While many states are experiencing an increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases, Maryland’s numbers seem to be plateauing and, in some metrics, trending downwards. As the curve flattens and the state continues to reopen, it is important to remain vigilant to prevent cases from rising again. Molly Hyde, MHS, CIC, Infection Control Practitioner at GBMC, participated in WBAL Radio’s Coronavirus Townhall to describe the progress being made with testing and provide advice for staying safe as the state reopens.
Molly explained that the reason some states are seeing worse trends than others may be the way that their public health measures were implemented. “Maryland had some of the strictest public health measures in place, so that accounts for a lot of the discrepancy between Maryland and other states,” she said. “Being less strict means that you’re going to have more cases.” This is why it’s critical for the public to continue taking safety precautions such as wearing face coverings in public, physical distancing, and frequently hand washing.
Many are excited that restaurants have reopened, but there has been some confusion about safe practices for indoor dining. Molly reminded listeners that all of the safety precautions still apply in this situation. She recognized that there are times when it’s impossible to stay six feet away from others, like when a server brings food to the table, but “as long as you’re physically distancing, it’s okay to take your mask off for the purposes of eating.”
The conversation then shifted to testing. Molly described the two types of COVID-19 testing: antibody (blood) testing and molecular (swab) testing. Each test provides a different kind of data that helps researches understand the spread of the virus.
Antibody (blood) testing is used to check if a person has developed antibodies (proteins that fight off specific illnesses) for COVID-19. If those antibodies are in the blood, it likely means that the person has been exposed to or infected with the virus at some point. Antibody testing, however, does not diagnose a person with COVID-19 and may give inaccurate results if done too soon after exposure. “Timing is everything with antibody testing,” Molly said.
Molecular (swab) testing is used to diagnose or rule out COVID-19. Like antibody testing, it isn’t perfectly reliable. “Accuracy can vary,” she explained, “it’s thought to be around 70-75% accurate. This may sound bad, but no diagnostic test is 100% accurate.” That being said, the chance of getting a false positive is significantly lower than the chance of a false negative. This means that a person who receives a positive test result is very likely to be infected with COVID-19.
With the summer months in full swing, many are asking whether or not it is safe to travel. Molly said that some ways to travel are safer than others. For example, a road trip with your family is safer than flying in a plane full of people you haven’t been exposed to yet. She also suggested checking local health policies before travelling. Some areas are requiring travelers to quarantine for 14 days, which could take up most, if not all, of the trip. Molly again emphasized that it’s critical to follow safe practices regardless of quarantine requirements. With careful planning and wise choices, travelling can be a fun and safe activity.
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