#_@$ and #*&&@#, I have pandemic questions.
January 4, 2022 9:05 PM   Subscribe

My fully (and recently) vaccinated family had close contact with someone (vaccinated and boosted) who has tested positive for COVID-19 three days after our last contact. There is no swearing at all inside, please clap.

My friend ate dinner in a crowded restaurant on Thursday Dec 30. As far as she knows, this is her only possible exposure since it's the only time she was outside of our "pod".

On Friday Dec 31, she came over to spend New Year's Eve with my family. She ended up sleeping in the guest room overnight, stayed for breakfast, and left just before noon on Jan 1.

On the evening of Jan 1, she came down with some light symptoms (headache, scratchy throat). Symptoms remained steady and very mild on Sunday Jan 2. On Monday Jan 3, she felt slightly worse, and so she took a Covid test. It was negative. On Tuesday Jan 4 (today) she took another test and it was positive.

My friend is double vaccinated and recently boosted, and so am I. Other members of my family are relatively recently vaccinated and not eligible for boosters yet. None of us are immunocompromised. Nobody other than my friend has any symptoms.


1. How soon after exposure could my friend have been contagious? I'm seeing the CDC saying people are at their most contagious starting 2 days before symptoms appear. But that means my friend who had symptoms on Saturday night was contagious immediately after exposure on Thursday night?? It's a bit confusing so I'd appreciate an explanation of how this works.

2. I'm obviously assuming we are all close contacts, therefore possibly infected and potentially contagious. We're isolating until we test. When should I be testing us to get the most accurate possible results? None of us have any symptoms. It's just that I have a very limited quantity of at-home tests, only one per person, so I want to make sure we don't waste it by taking it too soon. I have ordered more but it's going to take weeks.
posted by MiraK to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Given the potential for a shorter incubation period, Vanderbilt's Schaffner advised that anyone who has been in contact with an infected individual get tested about 72 hours following the exposure. "If you've been exposed and now you're asking yourself, 'When should I get tested?' I think you would best wait at least three days to see if you've turned positive," he said.

I would not put a lot of thought into the mechanics of how your friend got infected, or was contagious. It's only of academic interest. If you're positive, you're positive, regardless of how you got infected. If you're negative, you're negative.
posted by saeculorum at 9:15 PM on January 4, 2022 [14 favorites]

Personally, I wouldn't test unless/until I had symptoms if I could fully isolate for a full 10 days (damn the CDC's updated guidance). With the current test shortage, I'm not sure it's helpful to test asymptomatically just to contribute to the pool of data vs saving the test for when I might really need it.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:26 PM on January 4, 2022 [12 favorites]

I'm seeing the CDC saying people are at their most contagious starting 2 days before symptoms appear

This isn't necessarily true for vaccinated people. Since the vaccinated person's body "recognizes" covid, they can develop symptoms before being contagious. The epidemiologist Michael Mina wrote a Twitter thread about it.

You should definitely be on guard for symptoms, but I would not panic. I'm falling back on the notion that rapid tests do indicate contagiousness and your friend was not contagious when she was with you.

I'm very sorry about all this. It's no fun.
posted by purpleclover at 10:08 PM on January 4, 2022 [8 favorites]

Where I live we can get a free PCR test - drive up service, very little waiting - with referal from your doctor three days after exposure to someone with a confirmed case. Takes a day or two to get the results. You can also get one, free, no referral required, possibly longer waits, at a variety of local testing sites.
Might be another option and more accurate (if slower) than the rapid at-home test.
posted by metahawk at 10:19 PM on January 4, 2022

In case it helps ease your anxiety, a couple weeks ago I spent an entire day indoors in close quarters with a friend. That evening, she started developing COVID symptoms and a few days later she tested positive.

I thought for sure I would catch it, but I never developed symptoms, and I tested negative on two rapid tests. We were both double vaccinated. You should still isolate if possible and watch for symptoms, but it’s not inevitable that you’ll get sick if you’re vaccinated.
posted by mekily at 10:24 PM on January 4, 2022 [4 favorites]

And here is an update by Michael Mina (original linked by purpleclover, above) with a helpful diagram that shows the relationship between symptoms and infectiousness while also covering/ explaining the role of vaccination & previous infection.
posted by lulu68 at 5:20 AM on January 5, 2022 [5 favorites]

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