General Information FAQ (updated 5/21/20)
What is an antibody, or antibody testing?
An antibody is something that is used by our immune systems to kill bacteria or viruses. Our bodies make antibodies when we have either had a disease, or when we are given a vaccine. Measuring whether a person has antibodies for a specific disease can be used to determine if that person may be immune to that disease.
Is there antibody testing for COVID-19?
Antibody tests are currently being developed for COVID-19, and can be a great surveillance tool, but they do have limitations. It cannot be used to diagnose someone who is currently ill with COVID. Because of the cross reactivity with ordinary Coronavirus, it is difficult to tell if a positive test is due to COVID or 6 other strains.
These tests indicate presence or absence of antibodies but not whether the antibodies are protective. Having a positive test does not mean that you are protected from getting COVID again. More time and research are needed to understand how to use antibody testing results.
Regardless of antibody test results, we urge everyone to continue to use hand hygiene and social distancing to protect themselves from exposure to COVID.
Are there people recovering from COVID-19 in our community?
Most confirmed cases in Thurston County have recovered and released from isolation. Some have been hospitalized, and we have had one fatality. You can find more COVID-19 data online here.
Not everyone infected with COVID-19 have symptoms or are tested. Most people infected have little to mild symptoms. Statistically, only about 20% are sick enough to seek health care, are tested, or are hospitalized.
Why can't you tell me more about the cases or about the people being tested?
Social distancing is what will work to protect you. More information about cases will not tell you if people you encounter or things you touch could potentially expose you to COVID-19.
Public health case investigation of a confirmed case is very thorough and identifies persons or settings and when and where significant exposure may have occurred. We contact identified contacts and give them guidance on what to do and symptoms to look for.
Multiple diseases are circulating in the community with symptoms similar to COVID-19. There are also cases in the community that exhibit mild illness and never seek care or are unable to be tested. Even a person who tests negative one day might be infected the next, with or without symptoms.
It is safest for everyone to protect themselves by social distancing. Limit exposure to other people (6 ft distance is recommended), avoid contact with people who are ill, wash your hands, and avoid touching your face. The Washington State Department of Health has guidance for persons caring for sick loved ones at home.
It is also important to know that Thurston County Public Health and Social Services must comply with Washington State laws protecting medical confidentiality. By law, we can only release limited information about cases.
What is Thurston County doing to help the homeless during the COVID-19 outbreak?
Thurston County received just under a million dollars from the Washington State Department of Commerce to work with multiple jurisdictions, shelter providers, and outreach coordinators to support the health and safety needs of this population.
Some steps the county and its partners are taking include coordinating food delivery with outreach and shelter providers to decrease the need for people to leave their shelter location to get food, exploring options to increase shelter beds for those who have been displaced due to social distancing rules, establishing potential isolation and quarantine beds for homeless and displaced individuals who are ill, and increasing hygiene and sanitation by funding portable toilets and handwashing stations.
Learn more about the Homelessness Crisis Response here.
What is physical distancing?
Physical distancing is using best practices to keep a safe distance between people. In the case of COVID-19, a disease spread through droplets, people should stay at least 6 feet away from each other.
Other physical distancing measures include:
- Avoiding crowds.
- Staying home. Skip community events and gatherings.
- Working from home, if you can.
- Avoiding contact with people who are sick.
Additional best practices include:
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Covering your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
Why aren't more people being tested?
Viral testing is the only way to confirm if you have COVID-19. Typical symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Many patients also complain about severe fatigue and a new loss of their sense of smell or taste. Specially if you have been around someone else that had these symptoms recently or know you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you can go get a test from your medical provider or the community testing locations.
The test is a swab sample taken of the inside of your nose and results are usually available in 1-4 days. While awaiting results, we ask that anyone experiencing symptoms self-quarantine and stay away from other people, cover your cough and practice good hand hygiene. If symptoms worsen, please call your health care provider. In a life-threatening emergency, call 911.
How can I access insurance?
To see if you qualify for insurance, visit the Washington Healthplanfinder. The Washington Healthplanfinder offers low cost and no-cost access to health insurance for those who qualify.
If you are employed, talk with your employer about what options available to you.
How can I find a health care provider?
If you have Medicaid (Apple Health), and know what plan you have (Amerigroup, Molina or United Healthcare), you should contact them directly. They will assign you to a doctor or verify if you already are assigned to a provider.
The Washington State Health Care Authority also has a provider search tool to find a doctor (such as family medicine, pediatrics) who accepts Medicaid.
Thurston County is also served by two federally qualified health centers that offer a sliding fee scale discount and accept Medicaid (Apple Health).
What do I do if I have been in close contact, or may have come in contact with, someone who tested positive for COVID-19?
If you have, or may have, been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19, you will need to watch for symptoms. Those key symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Many patients also complain about severe fatigue and a new loss of their sense of smell or taste. These symptoms can show up anytime between 2-14 days from exposure.
And, so you don't potentially spread COVID-19 to others, continue:
- Practicing social distancing
- Sanitizing surfaces
- Washing hands regularly, and
- Covering coughs and sneezes
If you begin showing symptoms, please isolate, even from your household contacts, and contact a health care provider for next steps. If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1. You can also take advantage of the free drive-thru testing at the Providence Medical Group Hawk's Prairie Clinic at 2555 Marvin Rd NE, Lacey. Please make sure you call 855-776-4362 before you go.
How will my workplace/business/organization be notified if an employee, student or someone else connected tested positive for COVID-19?
Because of Washington State legal requirements for confidentiality, Public Health does not notify an employer, business, or organization if there is a confirmed case of any infectious disease reported to us, including COVID-19.
The process Public Health follows is:
- If a case is laboratory confirmed, the lab will notify Public Health's Disease Control and Prevention staff.
- Public Health contacts the confirmed COVID-19 individual and works with them to identify anyone they came in close contact (defined below) with. Public Health then contacts each of those individuals to notify them of potential exposure.
- Public Health asks the confirmed COVID-19 individual to notify their employer, if they are in the workforce, and notify Public Health when that has been done.
- If the workplace is a school, Public Health staff will then work with the school to identify close contacts and determine next steps for the school.
- If the workplace is an agency or organization, the agency or organization often contacts Public Health and works with us to determine next steps and to notify other employees or others who may have come in close contact.
What does close contact mean?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines 'close contact' as being within approximately 6 feet (2 meters) of a COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time (15 minutes or more); close contact can occur while caring for, living with, visiting, or sharing a health care waiting area or room with a COVID-19 case OR having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., being coughed on).
People I know are feeling anxious and worried about COVID-19, is there any help for them?
Events and rapid changes happening around COVID can be stressful. Visit our COVID-19 Mental Health and Coping webpage for resources.