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COVID-19 INFORMATION

 

What is COVID-19? What are variants and why should I be concerned?

What are the symptoms COVID-19?

My COVID-19 test is positive. What do I do now? 

I am positive for COVID-19, and my symptoms are increasing. What should I do? ​

I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Should I quarantine? Or isolate? What is the difference? 

When should I wear a mask in public?

Where can I get free masks?

Are there any treatments for COVID-19?

What does it mean to be "a close contact" of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

I am having a health problem unrelated to COVID-19. I would normally go to the doctor, but I am worried about getting the virus.

I think my symptoms may be COVID-19. What should I do?

Are visiting hours affected by COVID-19?

 

 

 

What is COVID-19? What are variants and why should I be concerned?

A virus called SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19. Although many people infected with COVID-19 have only mild symptoms, some experience severe illness that can be deadly. Patients who are vaccinated have less severe illness and lower chances of hospitalization and death. Some people who have COVID-19 recover but have lasting health problems. 

As the virus has mutated, new variants have emerged. The Delta variant, for example, causes more infections and spreads faster than the original virus. The Omicron variant is much more transmissible and spreads even faster than Delta. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC), as of late March 2022, a subvariant of the Omicron variant called BA.2 (also known as “Stealth Omicron”) is now the most common COVID-19 strain in the U.S. The CDC estimates that the BA.2 strain now accounts for more than 50% of all coronavirus infections nationwide, and more than 70% of cases in the Northeast. While the BA.2 subvariant is more contagious than the original Omicron strain, it does not appear to make people any sicker than the original strain, and vaccines still offer protection against it.

As rates of infection increase or decrease within our state and region, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will continue to provide updated guidance about when and where residents should wear masks.

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What are the symptoms COVID-19?

The symptoms of COVID-19 vary and may appear two to 14 days after you were exposed. You may have the virus if you are experiencing any of these symptoms: 

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

These are not the only possible symptoms of COVID-19 can cause. The CDC has more information about symptoms

You can also check your symptoms online, with an interactive tool from Buoy Health. Buoy matches you with appropriate local health care resources based on your symptoms, risk factors for COVID-19 and location. This is offered by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services. 

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My COVID-19 test is positive. What do I do now?

If you test positive for COVID-19, you should isolate at home — even if you have no symptoms. To isolate, you should set up a room or area only for those in the household who are positive for COVID-19. Use a separate bathroom if possible. If you do have to be near others, wear a mask that fits well. 

Notify close contacts of your positive results. Encourage them to get tested and quarantine at home. That means stay at home and limit contact with others. Unvaccinated close contacts are at higher risk of getting and spreading the virus — and should also quarantine. 

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I am positive for COVID-19, and my symptoms are increasing. What should I do?

  • If you have mild symptoms, isolate at home by separating yourself from others in your household. Do this even if you have no symptoms.
  • If you have moderate symptoms, isolate at home and call your primary care provider (or an urgent care center).
  • Call 911 or go to the closest emergency department, if you have any of these symptoms: 
    • Trouble breathing
    • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
    • New confusion
    • Inability to wake or stay awake
    • Pale, gray, or blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds, depending on skin tone

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I was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Should I quarantine? Or isolate? What is the difference?

After you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you may need to quarantine — which means stay away from others in case you are contagious to prevent spread of the virus. Wear a mask that fits well if you do have to be around others. Typically, fully vaccinated people without symptoms do not have to isolate or quarantine.

If you have been exposed to COVID-19, you may qualify for a preventative treatment known as EVUSHIELD. Our COVID-19 Treatment Center offers this treatment. You can also ask your medical provider for a referral.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you need to isolate — separate yourself from others in your household — even if you have no symptoms. Stay in a specific “sick room” or area. Use a separate bathroom if you have one. If you need to be around other people, wear a mask that fits well. 

Whether you have quarantine or isolate and the time period required may depend on your vaccination status and age. Visit the CDC for more detail and the most current guidelines on who needs to quarantine, and how long you need to quarantine or isolate if you are exposed to or have tested positive for COVID-19. The CDC offers a helpful Quarantine and Isolation Calculator you can use to determine dates and lengths of time for your specific situation.

 

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When should I wear a mask in public?

Masks can help protect you and others from COVID-19. The CDC has developed a new tool, COVID-19 Community Levels, to help people determine what prevention steps they should take in their community. When your county’s COVID-19 Community Level is “high,” the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public. The CDC emphasizes that people may choose to mask at any time, even when levels are “low” or “medium” in their community. People with symptoms, a positive test, or exposure to someone with COVID-19 should always wear a mask regardless of the COVID-19 Community Level.

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Where can I get free masks?

You can get free N95 face masks through a federal government program that supplies them to major pharmacies and grocery stores. In Massachusetts, free N95 masks are available at Costco, CVS, Rite-Aid, Stop & Shop, Walgreens, Walmart and other stores. Visit the CDC website for a full list of participating stores

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Are there any treatments for COVID-19?

If you recently tested positive for COVID-19, there may be a treatment that can prevent your symptoms from getting worse — and keep you out of the hospital. Treatments offered at UMass Memorial Health include monoclonal antibodies, which can help your body fights off the virus that causes COVID-19, and other therapies. 

Eligibility is based on age, health condition and symptoms. Contact your doctor (by phone for by using MyChart) to ask if you may be eligible for any of the available treatments for COVID-19.  

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What does it mean to be "a close contact" of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

You are a close contact if you were less than six feet away from someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during certain times. For example, three individual five-minute exposures would total 15 minutes. This includes:

  • While they were symptomatic
  • Within two days before they started having symptoms
  • In the two days before their test was taken 
  • Anytime in the 10 days after the person’s test for the virus

You are a close contact even if you were wearing a mask while you were around someone with COVID-19 as described above. A close contact can also be a person who was not wearing a mask while they had direct contact with droplets from someone with COVID-19 — for example, being coughed on. 

If you test positive for COVID-19, you need to inform people you have been in close contact with. 

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I am having a health problem unrelated to COVID-19. I would normally go to the doctor, but I am worried about getting the virus.

At all UMass Memorial Health locations, we take many precautions to protect our patients and staff from COVID-19. You can rely on UMass Memorial physician offices and hospitals to safely get the care you need. 

If your concern is not urgent, it’s often helpful to call your primary care provider for guidance. Or you can use MyChart to send a message.

If it’s an emergency, call 911 or to the nearest emergency room. Here are some examples of conditions that need to be treated at a hospital emergency room: 

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Compound fracture (bone that shows through the skin)
  • Head injuries
  • Pneumonia
  • Seizures
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden, severe headache, or paralysis or weakness
  • Uncontrolled bleeding

You may be able to get the care you need at an urgent care clinic for conditions such as: 

  • Back or muscle pain
  • Bronchitis
  • Cuts and minor burns
  • Diarrhea
  • Earache
  • Skin conditions
  • Sprains or joint pain
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting

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I think my symptoms may be COVID-19. What should I do?

Get tested. You can now use an over-the-counter rapid test, or get tested through a testing center. UMass Memorial offers multiple testing options for people who are symptomatic. You can also visit the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Find a COVID-19 Test website.  

Getting your results may take several days. Please quarantine while you wait. That means stay at home and limit contact with other people. 

The CDC provides detailed information about quarantine and isolation.

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Are visiting hours affected by COVID-19?

For the safety of our patients and our employees, we change our hospitals' visitation policies as COVID-19 transmission rates go up and down. Be sure to check our hospitals' visitation policies before you come.

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