President Trump will participate in his first public campaign event since his coronavirus diagnosis, which has people wondering how long someone with COVID-19 is contagious.
The event will be held on Saturday, October 10, which is 10 days after Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus, a White House doctor said. But given that Trump received supplemental oxygen and medications such as dexamethasone that are generally reserved for more serious cases, some people are skeptical about whether or not that’s enough time in isolation.
We’re still learning exactly how long someone with COVID-19 is contagious. In general, experts think that people are most contagious earlier on in their illness when their symptoms first start, Harvard Health explains. That’s especially true if their symptoms include coughing and sneezing because those behaviors actively spread the respiratory droplets that contain the virus. But people without noticeable symptoms can spread the virus as well.
If you’ve come into contact with someone who might have or definitely has COVID-19, you should quarantine yourself for 14 days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means you need to stay home and monitor yourself for any possible COVID-19 symptoms.
But the rules are a little different if you have a confirmed case of the virus. In that scenario, you would need to isolate yourself from others to prevent spreading the illness, meaning avoid other people and avoid sharing a bathroom with others as much as humanly possible.
Most people who receive a positive coronavirus test and develop symptoms can stop isolating after 10 days from the onset of their symptoms—as long as they haven’t had a fever for at least 24 hours and their other symptoms are improving, the CDC says. One important note: The fever has to have gone away on its own without the use of fever-reducing medications. The White House doctor’s memo did not mention whether or not Trump has a fever specifically, but did say the President had “responded extremely well” to treatment and “remained stable.”
Although the CDC previously recommended that people who had symptoms wait until they receive a negative COVID-19 test before being around people again, that’s no longer recommended in most circumstances as of July. Those who never develop symptoms can stop isolating 10 days after their first positive COVID-19 PCR test.
However, people who had a more severe case of COVID-19 or who are severely immunocompromised due to a health condition or medication may need to wait longer before being around other people, the CDC says. They may need to continue to isolate for up to 20 days after the onset of their symptoms because some people with more severe cases can produce viral particles capable of replicating after the usual 10 days, the CDC says.
Even after 20 days, these patients may need extra coronavirus testing to confirm that it’s safe for them to be around others before ending their isolation. In these cases, doctors generally consult with infectious disease experts to determine the right course of action for each individual patient.
But that timing isn’t a substitute for social distancing, wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, and frequent hand washing to avoid spreading the coronavirus. So the President should still be keeping up those basic public health behaviors—especially at large events, the kind of large events that experts continue to recommend we avoid right now.
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