Clinically Speaking: February 2022 COVID-19 Update

Testing for COVID-19 has proven to be an important tool to help mitigate the spread of Omicron and other variants.

Improving Access to COVID-19 Testing

The U.S. continues to battle back against a surge in Omicron cases. While cases are falling steadily in some states and regions, they continue to be near record levels. And, on February 1st, daily deaths reached 3,916, approaching last winter’s one-day peak of more than 4,000 in mid-January 2021.

Many experts suggest 2022 could be the year COVID-19 becomes an endemic disease, meaning it is always circulating within the population but at low rates, with potential seasonal outbreaks.

In the meantime, Americans must continue to protect themselves, and testing has proven to be an important tool to help mitigate the spread of Omicron and other COVID-19 variants.

To help ensure Americans have tests on hand if a need arises, the U.S. purchased one billion at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests to distribute for free, and is making an additional 10 million COVID-19 tests available to schools nationwide, each month.

Each individual household can request up to four free tests through the government website. Tests typically ship within 7-12 days of ordering.

Additionally, the federal government announced that, as of January 15th, private health insurance companies are required to cover the cost of up to eight over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 test kits for each covered member per month.

FDA-approved at-home test kits can be purchased online or in-store at pharmacies and other retail outlets across the country. Individuals should check with their health plans for details on how to get reimbursed.

It is also important to note that there are now more than 20,000 free testing sites across the nation.

When to Test for COVID-19

The CDC recommends testing after exposure to someone who is infected if symptoms occur. If no symptoms occur, the recommendation is to test within five to seven days of exposure.

Testing is also recommended if you are gathering indoors with a group of people who are at risk of severe disease or who are not fully vaccinated or boosted.

After testing positive for COVID-19, the CDC recommends isolating for five days and wearing a mask for an additional five days. If symptoms persist, stay in isolation. It’s always a good idea to test again before resuming contact with others.

Visit the CDC’s website for more information on guidelines for testing and isolating.

Protecting Against Contracting COVID-19

For everyone ages 18 years and older, the CDC recommends getting a booster shot at least two months after an initial Johnson & Johnson vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer or Moderna.

On January 31, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it had moved the Moderna vaccine from emergency status to fully approved, joining the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which was fully approved in August.

The data remains clear. The risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death decreases significantly for individuals who are vaccinated and get their boosters. Under those circumstances, COVID-19 is similar to other respiratory illnesses, such as the flu. And the protection from vaccines is superior to any antibodies we may have from a prior COVID infection.

The CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status. N95 or KN95 masks are proven to provide the highest level of protection.

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