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​​What you should know about COVID in 2022

Michigan continues to see high community transmission.
Michigan continues to see high community transmission.

It’s a new year — with the same anxieties.

COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly across the country as the new variant, omicron, continues to spread. Omicron can spread very quickly but there is preliminary evidence to suggest that if one contracts the virus, there is a lower chance of getting seriously ill.

Michigan’s health department reported that the state broke its record for the average number of new daily cases last week — a record that was already set by the previous week’s cases. The number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has also reached new heights: On Monday, Michigan reached a new record for COVID-19 hospitalizations, just a month after the previous record-setting spike.

From December 8: Michigan hospitals in crisis with record number of COVID-19 patients: "We don’t have room for furniture anymore."

Michigan also continues to see high community transmission, meaning people are recommended to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status.

In the past few days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued several adjustments to its COVID guidelines — and its messaging has been confusing.

So here’s a quick rundown on the CDC’s recommendations.

What is considered close contact?

A person is considered in close contact with an infected person if they were less than six feet from them for longer than 15 minutes, or if they were with the infected person multiple times through the day.

Read the text version of the CDC's guidelines here.

*What about K-12 settings in Michigan?

MDHHS recommends universal masking for everyone in a K-12 setting.

  • If you test positive for COVID or have any symptoms, you should isolate regardless of vaccination status.
  • If you are positive with no symptoms, monitor for them for 10 days and isolate at home for 5 days.
  • If the symptoms have improved or you continue to have no symptoms, you can return to school (while wearing a mask for five more days.)
  • If you cannot wear a mask, stay home for 10 days.
  • If you have a fever, stay home until you are fever-free for a full day without using medication.

*What does MDHHS say about quarantine in K-12 schools?

First, a student is considered in close contact if they are less than three feet from an infected individual, regardless of mask usage. If they were within three to six feet, they are not considered in close contact — unless there was improper mask usage.

Close contact for a staff member or any adult in a K-12 school is when they are less than six feet from an infected person for longer than 15 minutes, or in contact with them multiple times through the day.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

According to MDHHS guidance, people who had close contact do not need to quarantine if they had a confirmed case of COVID in the last 90 days or they are up to date on all COVID vaccines. But they should still monitor their symptoms and mask up for 10 days.

People who do not fall into the categories above do need to quarantine. Their options are:

  • Quarantine at home for 5 days. If possible, test on day 5 and mask up for 5 more days.
  • "Test to Stay" (the state health department explains that this means, "test every other day for 6 days following the exposure") or mask carefully for 10 days.
  • Quarantine at home for 10 days.

Kids and staff should check their symptoms throughout the 10 days.

  • If symptoms develop, get tested. If it is positive, isolate.
  • If symptoms do not develop, get tested at least five days after exposure.
  • Stay away from others in the home, if possible. Especially people who are at high-risk.
  • And for 10 days, avoid immunocompromised people.

What’s the controversy over the new guidelines? 

The CDC recently changed the recommended isolation period from 10 to 5 days, stating that the data show transmission occurs “early in the course of illness.” Another argument for cutting the days is that the 10-day isolation period was a strain on the workforce.

Some public health experts want a requirement that says someone should test negative with a rapid test before ending their 5-day isolation. Others add that the shortened isolation period only works if people are strict about wearing a mask.

There are also arguments for more government policies and action. MSNBC's medical contributor Uché Blackstock wrote in a post that there needs to be more systemic, layered protections, like free masks and rapid tests for each person, air travel vaccine mandates and work from home for the next few weeks for non-essential workers.

MDHHS previously said that Michigan would retainthe old guidelines for K-12 schools or childcare centers where isolation is 10 days. On Monday evening, it updated its guidance. The state health department said the change brings it in line with federal recommendations.

Where can I get tested?

This is a tough one.

Rapid test (also known as antigen test) results can come back quickly. But according to the CDC, those results should be treated as “presumptive.” A negative rapid test result doesn't always rule out COVID. Experts recommend that you test over several days, with at least a day in between. You can buy home rapid tests at places like a pharmacy or Walmart, although the tests have been difficult to come by in some areas.

A PCR test is considered the gold standard for COVID tests, but the results usually take longer.

We answer key questions about COVID tests: What types are there? Should you self-test right after exposure to someone with COVID? And what should you do if you test positive?

  • You can make an appointment with a pharmacy, usually online. For example, CVS’s scheduling website is here. Or with your doctor’s office or urgent care center.
  • ** There is also a voluntary program called MI Backpack Home Tests, where parents, students and stuff can sign up for test kits.
  • ** MDHHS recommends solvhealth.com to find a testing site near you.
  • ** Community pop-up testing sites can also be found on michigan.gov.

** Starting January 15th, private insurers will have to reimburse eight over-the-counter COVID tests per month for each person on the health plan. (Some may even do tests bought before the 15th.)

If you insurer has a list of places they want you to buy from, those will be free. If you buy outside of that list, they are required to reimburse you up to $12.

If you insurer does not have a list of places to get your test kit, they will have to reimburse you for the full amount.

** President Joe Biden has planned to deliver millions of at-home tests for Americans who request them — but the launch date had been unknown for a while. On Friday, the White House posted on social media that people can start requesting for a kit online on Jan. 19th.

Your county health department may also be offering free testing. For example:

If you live or work in Detroit, you can get free COVID testing by calling 313-230-0505. These locations are offering testing:

  • The Joseph Walker Williams Recreation Center will use a rapid molecular test.
  • The Huntington Place will use rapid antigen testing.

If you live in Washtenaw or Livingston County, you can schedule an appointment on this website. It’ll be a PCR test using saliva and it is free. Do not eat or drink for at least 30 minutes before the appointment.

The locations are:

  • Former Walmart site at 2515 Ellsworth Rd. Ypsilanti, MI 48197
    Daily (including weekends) – 9am-5pm
  • Legacy Center Sports Complex – 9299 Goble Dr. Brighton, MI 48116
    Daily (including weekends) – 9am-5pm

If you live in Oakland County, schedule online www.oakgov.com/COVID and click on the COVID Testing button or contact the Nurse on Call at 800-848-5533.

  • Southfield Pavilion Parking Deck at 26000 Evergreen Rd. in Southfield
    9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays
  • Rochester Fire Department at 277 E. 2nd in Rochester
    9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays
  • The former Pontiac Fire Station at 348 South Blvd. West in Pontiac
    9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesdays

If you live in Branch, Hillsdale, St. Joseph County, make an appointment online.

  • 570 N. Marshall Rd. Coldwater, MI 49036
    Tuesday, Fridays, Saturdays
  • 570 N. Marshall Rd. Coldwater, MI 49036
  • 1110 Hill St. Three Rivers, MI 49093

** On Friday, MDHHS released a list of libraries to get a free at-home test kit. According to an email from the health department, the initial distribution will let the state know if they should continue to partner with Michigan libraries. The libraries are:

CalhounHomerHomer Public Library141 West Main Street
ClareClarePere Marquette District Library185 East Fourth Street
ClareFarwellSurrey Township Public Library105 East Michigan Street
ClareHarrisonHarrison District Library105 East Main Street
NewaygoHesperiaHesperia Community Library80 South Division Street
NewaygoWhite CloudWhite Cloud Community Library1038 Wilcox Avenue
OceanaHartHart Area Public Library415 South State Street
OceanaPentwaterPentwater Township Library402 East Park Street
SaginawFrankenmuthJames E. Wickson Memorial Library359 South Franklin Street
WayneDetroitDetroit Public Library5201 Woodward Avenue
WayneDetroitDetroit Public Library - Campbell8733 Vernor Highway
WayneDetroitDetroit Public Library - Edison18400 Joy Road
WayneDetroitDetroit Public Library - Jefferson12350 East Outer Drive
WayneDetroitDetroit Public Library - Parkman1766 Oakman Boulevard
WayneDetroitDetroit Public Library - Redford21200 Grand River
WayneDetroitDetroit Public Library - Wilder7140 East 7 Mile Road
WayneDetroitDetroit Mobile LibraryVarious locations
WayneTaylorTaylor Community Library12303 Pardee Road

What kind of mask should I be wearing now? 

Also a tough one. According to CNN medical analyst Leana Wen, “There’s no place for (cloth masks) in light of omicron.”

The N-95 is considered the best mask for COVID protection, since it filters out 95% of particles. It is also more expensive than the version of the mask most people have been wearing for the past two years.

The KN95 is also very good. Project N95 is a very useful place to get started on looking for a more secure mask.

*This post was updated on Jan. 10 at 8:06 p.m. after MDHHSupdated its K-12 guidance. 
** This post was updated on Jan. 14 at 2:42 p.m. after MDHHS releaseda new list of resources and the White House posted on Twitter.

Nisa Khan joins Michigan Radio as the station’s first full-time data reporter. In that capacity, she will be reporting on data-driven news stories as well as working with other news staff to acquire and analyze data in support of their journalism.
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