Omicron-fueled spread creates questions about COVID protocol


DENVER (KDVR) — As the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to rapidly spread, more Coloradans are testing positive than ever before.

The state reported a new record-high number of positive cases on Jan. 5 and the week’s positivity rate has continued to soar.

The increase in cases has Coloradans asking several questions in order to avoid the virus and what to do if they get it.

How can I prevent myself and others from getting COVID?

Omicron appears to replicate much more efficiently than previous variants which makes it more infectious, even if it doesn’t make patients very sick. And its surge occurred during the holiday travel season in many places.

Doctors continue to stress wearing masks indoors, avoiding crowds and getting vaccinated and boosted. The COVID-19 vaccines do not prevent you from getting the virus, but they’ll make it much more likely you suffer less and stay out of the hospital.

Isolation vs. quarantine: Which is appropriate?

The difference between isolation and quarantine is a clear line: isolate (no contact) yourself from others if you’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or if you’re experiencing symptoms; quarantine (preferably no contact, safety measures if you are in any contact) yourself from others if you’ve been exposed to the virus but don’t know if you have it or not.

“To calculate your five-day isolation period, day zero is your first day of symptoms. Day one is the first full day after your symptoms developed. You can leave isolation after five full days,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The CDC said people who meet certain criteria do not need to quarantine:

  • You’re a fully vaccinated adult with the addition of a booster shot
  • You’re between 5 and 17 years old and have gotten two Pfizer shots
  • You’ve tested positive for the coronavirus in the past 90 days

Anyone not meeting the criteria should remain away from others for five days and mask up when returning to daily activities for an additional five days.

CDC recommends fewer days for isolation, returning to work

Just before the new year dawned, the CDC announced that COVID-positive Americans could cut isolation from 10 to five days.

“Not all of those cases are going to be severe. In fact many are going to be asymptomatic,” CDC officials told The Associated Press. “We want to make sure there is a mechanism by which we can safely continue to keep society functioning while following the science.”

Officials also set guidance for workers to return to work sooner than previously recommended. They originally said health care workers could reduce the amount of time away from work to seven days if they tested negative and don’t have symptoms. Those guidelines to return to work have been extended to the general public. But the CDC stresses that it is not mandated and employers may set different requirements for their employees.

Staff, students may shift to remote learning

The latest hike in cases is affecting the educational system, hitting staff and students alike.

Around the Denver metro area, hundreds of teachers and students have recently tested positive creating staff shortages for the classrooms. Parents are asking how to keep their children from falling behind in school if they have to isolate and others are asking how to keep their child from getting COVID.

Some Denver schools have already gone fully remote, while other districts are discussing plans to possibly go partial or fully online.

State health officials announced aligning with the CDC’s recommendation of lessening isolation time for students and teachers. Those with mild COVID symptoms can stop isolating after five days with improvement and they do not have a fever for at least 24 hours. But mask-wearing is still recommended for the following five days for safety precautions.

Omicron symptoms and treatment

The omicron variant has been reported with repeated similar symptoms, specific to the strain.

The top five symptoms reported in December 2021 were:

  1. Runny nose
  2. Headache
  3. Fatigue (either mild or severe)
  4. Sneezing
  5. Sore throat

Officials say it’s best to stay home if these symptoms occur and get tested if you have been exposed or think you may have the virus.

Some experts said the two best tools to have while dealing with COVID are a thermometer and pulse oximeter. Since the variant tends to have symptoms similar to a cold, hydration and antihistamines can help reduce suffering.

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