For people who think they might have COVID-19 and have mild symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends they stay home and call their doctor for medical advice. Most people who get COVID-19 will have mild illness and recover at home. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has developed a new fact sheetOpen PDF to help North Carolinians know what to do if they are sick.
“I’ve talked to doctors across the state and they have been heroic in standing up a variety of strategies to increase access to safe care for their patients,” said Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson, State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer for NCDHHS. “Just as they do every day of the year, doctors are guided first and foremost by what is best for their patients’ well-being.”
The updated guidance is intended to slow the spread of the virus. When people with mild illness leave their homes to get tested, they could expose themselves to COVID-19 if they do not already have it. If they do have COVID-19, they can give it to someone else, including people who are high risk and health care providers who will be needed to care for people with more severe illness. In addition, because there is no treatment for COVID-19, a test will not change what someone with mild symptoms will do.
Finally, with a nationwide shortage on personal protective equipment, supplies need to be preserved to allow health care providers to care for people who need medical attention. Testing is most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, people in high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities, health care workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19.
For most people, COVID-19 infection will cause mild illness that does not require medical care. However, it can make some people very ill and, in some people, it can be fatal. While all people can call their doctors if they are concerned about symptoms of COVID-19, it is especially important for people at higher risk for severe illness. According to the CDC, those at higher risk include people who:
- Are 65 years and older.
- Live in a nursing home or long-term care facility.
- Have a high-risk condition, including chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, heart disease with complications, compromised immune system, severe obesity with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher or other underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, renal failure or liver disease.
People who are pregnant should be monitored since they are known to be at risk for severe viral illness. However, to date, data on COVID-19 has not shown increased risk for severe illness due to pregnancy. While children are generally at lower risk for severe infection, some studies indicate a higher risk among infants.
Anyone with more serious symptoms should call their doctor or 911 right away. More serious symptoms can include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain or pressure, confusion or blue lips.
People who are sick with COVID-19 or believe they might have it should stay home and separate themselves from other people in the home as much as possible. They can go back to their normal activities when they can answer YES to all the following questions:
- Has it been at least 7 days since you first had symptoms?
- Have you been without fever for three days (72 hours) without any medicine for fever?
- Are your other symptoms improved?
Household members and people who have been in close contact with someone who has had symptoms of COVID-19 should stay home as much as possible for 14 days and monitor themselves for symptoms. Close contact means within six feet for at least 10 minutes. If they start having symptoms of COVID-19, they should take the same steps to prevent spreading it.
NCDHHS will continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 closely using a variety of tools normally used to track influenza that have been adapted for this response. This includes testing of samples from a network of clinical sites around the state and tracking emergency department visits and other health care data.
To stay up to date on COVID-19 in North Carolina, visit ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus or text COVIDNC to 898211. Call 2-1-1 (or 888-892-1162) for general questions or for help finding human services resources in your community.