With the significant increase in COVID-19 cases we have seen this winter, it is important for people to be prepared for potential conversations regarding COVID-19 exposure. Open communication is non-judging and leads to trust. When someone reveals that they are positive, or they had an encounter – focus on listening rather than responding quickly.
Joining me is Mihaela Vincze, public health expert for nonprofit Transamerica Institute, here to discuss ways to communicate about COVID-19.
Al: Thanks for joining me.
Mihaela: Thank you for having me.
Al: First of all, what steps are recommended if someone who you have been in contact with informs you that they have been exposed to COVID-19?
Mihaela: Listen to them and thank them for letting you know. It is not easy to share that type of news and showing compassion is important. Keep the conversation about your loved one or friend, not yourself. Once you know that you’ve been exposed, the CDC emphasizes self-isolation, whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, and to consult your healthcare provider for guidance.
Al: Self-isolation is certainly an important first step. What further communication might be necessary once you’ve been informed of your possible exposure?
Mihaela: If you have been exposed to COVID-19, carefully consider the people that you may have been in contact with. To prevent the further spread, it is important to notify anyone you may have exposed so that they can make an informed decision about their next steps.
Al: So what extent of contact is considered a possible COVID-19 exposure?
Mihaela: According to the CDC, a close contact is anyone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more. Anyone who meets these standards would benefit from being informed of your exposure. If you are unsure of whether your contact with someone constitutes an exposure, the safest option is to respectfully communicate your situation to them so that they are aware of the possibility and they can decide what to do.
Al: Informing any possible contacts of your exposure seems like the responsible action to take, but this communication may be stressful or difficult for some people. What are some communication methods one might use to let others know of their exposure?
Mihaela: Remember that the goal of this communication is to increase safety and awareness. You may want to emphasize that you are sharing this information with them out of respect and concern for their health. Keep in mind that it is unnecessary to provide any medical advice. What the other person does with the information you provide is up to them.
Al: What if this contact asks you what their next steps should be?
Mihaela: Refer them to CDC guidelines for exposure. If they are experiencing any concerning symptoms or need guidance, ask them to consult their healthcare provider.
Al: Any final thoughts you would like to share with the listeners?
Mihaela: If you want more tips on communication, check out the Getting Real: Supporting COVID-19 Positive Friends and Others on the United States Department of State website. Communication is key and being open and honest about your exposure can play a big part in preventing further spread— we are all in this together.
Al: Thank you again for joining us, Mihaela.
Mihaela: Thank you for having me!
Al: This has been another episode of ClearPath Radio – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. I’m your host Al Waller – thanks for listening.