Gov. Phil Murphy’s recent announcement that some statewide COVID-19 business restrictions are being relaxed may signal that more relief is ahead for small- and medium-sized businesses. The welcome news comes as New Jersey’s COVID benchmarks are finally trending lower.
But as chief medical officer at an urgent care organization which provides COVID- 19 testing throughout Central New Jersey, I’ve seen some troubling trends that could easily undo the progress we’ve made. The responsible behavior of countless individuals will help to determine how quickly we emerge from this tragic situation.
Unfortunately, a number of myths about COVID-19 testing have taken root among some people. Awareness, though, can help steer them in the right direction; small- and medium-sized business owners can play an outsized part in this positive effort. They need to lead by example and connect their employees with the facts about COVID-19.
Some of the most common misconceptions — and the facts — include:
The claims: “A negative test means it’s fine to go to parties or to travel.”
“A negative test means I’ll stay COVID-19 free all week.”
The facts: A negative test means that you’re COVID-free at that exact moment. But it doesn’t signal immunity. If you visit a friend to celebrate your negative result, and your friend has COVID — even without displaying any symptoms — your next stop could be to a doctor’s office or hospital.
The claims: “I tested positive but feel fine, so I don’t need to isolate.”
“I was exposed to people who have COVID, but I’m not showing any symptoms, so I don’t need to isolate or get tested.”
The facts: Individuals exposed to COVID-19 who develop the disease may not show symptoms for 2-14 days after initial exposure— and some are “asymptomatic,” and may never suffer ill effects. In each case, however, they can easily spread the infection to others.
The claims: “COVID-19 test results aren’t accurate.”
“I’m not suffering COVID symptoms — and a separate antibody test shows I’ve got COVID-19 antibodies, so I don’t have to wear a mask.”
The facts: Medical tests are subject to some degree of inaccuracy, so someone may get a negative result even if they are infected. Accordingly, it’s important to be careful even with a negative result. And the presence of COVID antibodies doesn’t mean you may not be a carrier. So, testing and safe practices are critical.
The presence of COVID-19 antibodies doesn’t mean that you won’t spread the disease. Everyone, without exception, should wear a mask, practice social distancing, and wash their hands with soap or disinfectant for at least 20 seconds.
The claim: “Kids don’t need to get tested.”
The facts: Age does not matter. Although it was initially believed that youngsters were more resistant to COVID-19, recent CDC data indicate that about 1 in 3 children hospitalized with COVID in the United States were admitted to the intensive care unit, similar to the rate among adults.
The bottom line: When inaccurate information circulates, more people will become infected during this pandemic.
We can get this under control, but it will require a spectrum of activity, like taking advantage of testing opportunities, getting vaccinated and continuing to mask properly — so the nose and mouth are covered. Also, keep a distance of at least six feet, follow hand sanitation practices, and stay outdoors as much as possible.
A person can feel fine but may still spread this deadly disease. At Immediate Care, we have a slogan: Eternal vigilance is the price of health.
Dr. Calixto Garcia is Chief Medical Officer at Red Bank-based Immediate Care, which operates eight urgent care centers and five mobile COVID testing sites in four central NJ counties, as well as a testing van that travels throughout the state. For more information on the company’s COVID testing programs, visit www.immcare.com or call 1-855-WALKINS