What to do after traveling, gathering for holidays

MADISON, Wis. — Millions of people traveled for Christmas this week, others went to gatherings with friends and family. UW Health’s Chief Quality Officer Dr. Jeff Pothof tells us what they should do once home.

Even if people weren’t around others who appeared to be sick, Pothof said they should still treat those activities as if it was a high risk exposure and quarantine upon returning.

“For a minimum of seven to ten days, that’s where the biggest risk it,” Pothof said. “If you want to be as safe as you could be, 14 days.”

That means staying home. If one does need to go out in public for essentials, Pothof said to wear a mask and stay distanced.

“At that seven to ten day mark, you might want to go get tested to see if you are now the asymptomatic spreader of COVID-19,” Pothof said.

Unless one is showing symptoms, Pothof said taking a test without waiting is more likely to show a false negative, giving people false hope that it will be okay to spend New Year’s Eve or Day with others.

“It’s just really tricky to say a negative test result, especially in someone who doesn’t have symptoms is so reassuring that you’re not taking on any risk. You maybe take on less risk than if you haven’t gotten tested at all,” Pothof said.

Doctors will be watching COVID-19 numbers closely after Christmas and New Year’s Day.

“Now, we wait for the two weeks after the holiday to see did we dodge a bullet like we did after Thanksgiving,” Pothof said.

Although Dane County saw slight improvement after Thanksgiving with decreased number of cases, less hospitalizations and news of a vaccine, Pothof said the healthcare system isn’t in the clear just yet.

“We still have people in our community who are not getting healthcare services that they would otherwise get,” Pothof said. “We shouldn’t be okay with that.”

Pothof said COVID-19 numbers can be deceivingly low around a holiday because of lack of testing.

Alliant Energy Center’s Testing Site will have modified holiday hours this week, open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and closed on New Year’s Day.