COVID Q&A with Dr. William Kim
When should I get tested for COVID-19? What is Close Contact? Answers to these and more questions about COVID-19
By Dan Smith, Beach Cities Health District
Q: My friend just tested positive for COVID-19. What should I do now?
Dr. Kim: The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone who has been in close contact (see below) with someone who has COVID-19 should quarantine themselves for 14 days.
If you begin to experience fever, shortness of breath, new loss of taste or smell or other symptoms of COVID-19, keep track of the days. Some private practitioners are only testing patients who have been symptomatic for five days or more. This is particularly important for people aged 65 or older and those with underlying health conditions.
Call your provider to schedule a test appointment. If no, you can schedule an appointment at a Los Angeles County test site by going to la.fulgentgenetics.com/appointment . These appointments have been filling quickly. If you’re unable to make an appointment, keep trying.
If your test result is positive, you need to self-isolate for 10 days and 72 hours after symptoms and fever subside. Even if the test result is negative, you still need to remain at home and self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent spreading illness to others.
Q: What counts as close contact?
Dr. Kim: A close contact refers to people who were exposed to a patient with presumed or confirmed COVID-19 while they were infectious. A patient with COVID-19 is considered to be infectious from 48 hours before their symptoms started until their isolation period ends, 10-14 days later. Asymptomatic patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection are considered infectious from 48 hours before their test was taken until 10 days after their test was taken. Some scenarios which can make you a close contact:
- You were within six feet of someone who has COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes
- You provided care at home for a COVID-19 patient
- You had direct physical contact with the person (touched, hugged, or kissed them)
- You shared eating or drinking utensils
- They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you
- An individual who had unprotected contact with the patient’s body fluids and/or secretions, for example, being coughed or sneezed on, sharing utensils or saliva, or providing care without wearing appropriate protective equipment.
Q: What is Quarantine?
Dr. Kim: Quarantine is used to keep someone who might have been exposed to COVID-19 away from others. Quarantine helps prevent spread of disease that can occur before a person knows they are sick or if they are infected with the virus without feeling symptoms.
People in quarantine should stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from public health officials. Home quarantine guidance is available at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/ncorona2019/covidquarantine/
Q: What steps should I take while I’m in quarantine?
Dr. Kim: The most important things you can do are to stay home, avoid contact with others and monitor your health. This includes:
- Staying home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19. Ask a relative or friend to run errands for you. If you need errand assistance in the Beach Cities, call BCHD’s Assistance, Information and Referral line at (310) 374-3426, ext. 256.
- Watch for fever (100.4◦F +), cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of COVID-19.
- Stay away from others, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, such as older adults or people with underlying medical conditions (COPD, heart conditions, type 2 diabetes and more). If you live with persons who are elderly or have high-risk conditions, you should:
- Maintain at least a 6 ft. distance
- Wear a face covering when with them at home
- Avoid preparing food for others
- Avoid sharing utensils, bedding and towels
- Increase cleaning and disinfecting of common surfaces
Q: What’s the difference between quarantine and isolation?
Dr. Kim: Many people are using these terms interchangeably, but there is a distinction. Quarantine keeps someone who might have been exposed to the virus away from others. Isolation separates people with the virus away from people who are not infected.
Q: I live with someone who has COVID-19 and started my 14-day quarantine period because we had close contact. If another household member gets COVID-19, do I need to restart my quarantine?
Dr. Kim: Yes. Any time a new household member gets sick with COVID-19 and you had close contact, you will need to restart your quarantine. The quarantine period will be 14 days from the last time you had close contact.
Q: How can I keep from being exposed to someone with COVID-19?
Dr. Kim: The L.A. County Department of Public Health reminds us to Avoid “The Three C’s:”
- Confined Spaces – especially with poor ventilation. Outdoors is better than indoors.
- Crowds – the more people, the higher the risk.
- Close Contact – staying further apart is safer than being close together.
The more C’S, the higher the risk!! Your best defense is to stay home as much as possible.
Q: How can I keep from being exposed to COVID-19 in public?
Dr. Kim: While there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, it’s important to understand the risks and what steps can protect yourself and help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In general, the more closely you interact with others and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.
If you decide to engage in public activities, avoid the three C’s and continue to protect yourself by practicing everyday preventive actions including washing your hands often, using hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, wearing a cloth face covering when around others and maintaining six feet of physical distancing.
Q: I got tested and just found out the result is positive. What now?
Dr. Kim: A person who tests positive will need to immediately self-isolate for 10 days and 72 hours after symptoms and fever subside. Rest and drinking plenty of fluids are recommended during isolation. More guidance can be found here: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/acd/ncorona2019/covidisolation/
Q: I’ve had symptoms for five days and tested positive for COVID-19. Should I go to the hospital for treatment?
Dr. Kim: No. The vast majority of COVID patients have mild to moderate symptoms and are easily and best managed at home. We advise an ill COVID patient to go to the hospital only for increasing shortness of breath or if exhibiting neurologic symptoms such as confusion or signs of a stroke.
Q: What advice do you have to avoid contracting COVID-19?
Dr. Kim: Act as though you and everyone around you has COVID-19 now and you don’t want to pass it on to others. Stay home as much as possible and when you can’t, wear your face covering and stay physically distant from others. And wash your hands!
Board certified in internal medicine, Dr. William E. Kim, MD, specialized in emergency medicine for 10 years at the old South Bay Hospital, then transitioned into private practice with the South Bay Family Medical Group. Today, Dr. Kim manages his own practice, which provides personalized 24/7 services, and serves as Chief Medical Advisor for Beach Cities Health District.
by Dan Smith