COVID-19 concerns amid the new year

NOW: COVID-19 concerns amid the new year

SAINT JOSEPH COUNTY, IN. -- Holiday celebrations could mean a spike in cases.

Local health officials are now waiting to see where the numbers will be after Christmas and New Year's.

“The data suggests that if people are going to develop symptoms it tends to be at 5-6 days following an exposure," says Dr. Mark Fox, the Deputy Health Officer for the Saint Joseph County Health Department. "So that doesn’t mean if you have developed symptoms that you’re out of the woods cause obviously a lot of people can have an asymptomatic infection. But that’s also the right time frame for getting tested.”

If you do know someone who has tested positive, you are feeling symptoms, or had a concerning possible exposure from a holiday gathering the 5-7 day window after New Year's is here and means you might need to get tested.

Check in on yourself and decide if you do need to go sign up for a test.

It's when these symptoms start, like fatigue, a cough, shortness of breath, aches etc. that the COVID-19 tests available will be the most reliable.

“So you don’t have to, if you have symptoms, you don’t have to delay your testing," says Dr. Fox. "The concern is about people who rush to get tested to early in the sequence so they may miss an infection that leads you to test negative early on but would have tested positive in the day 5 window.”

With the holidays, officials saw a huge decrease in testing which makes sense as most people enjoyed some time off, at home, with their families.

However, this change means that this week will be the time to start seeing the consequences of our holiday gatherings.

"Over this weekend we began to see a lot of the fall out from Christmas gatherings so we saw more people coming with symptoms and tests are turning up positive," says Dr. Fox.

With more positive tests on the way, residents should not be surprised to see a surge in our area numbers, especially over the next two weeks.

“Our hospital numbers right now are okay but we also expect that to lag by about two weeks so in about another week we will see the hospitalizations from Christmas and another two weeks for New Years basically," says Dr. Fox.

The holiday damage really cannot be seen yet, especially as our frontline workers are now also facing an influx in testing and vaccinations.

“The vaccine is just becoming available in the county it’s not widely available and we’re really not out of the woods till we get a sufficient proportion of the population immunized," says Dr. Fox. "So that will be summer if we’re lucky. You know summer at the earliest, you know summer end of fall I think things will start to look a little more normal.”

We still have several months to get through before herd immunity can even be talked about.

For now, taking your health into your own hands is the best thing you can do to help mitigate the spread.

“This week will really be the proof when testing gets back to normal and people are going back to normal," says Dr. Fox.

While there is optimism going into 2021, Dr. Fox reminds us that we are not out of the woods yet.

Residents must continue to be vigilant of possible symptoms and get tested when necessary especially now when the cold winter months are forcing us to stay inside where transmission is easier.

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