The third summer of COVID-19 brings home tests, boosters and uncertainty

After rising in the spring, case counts have dipped — but the tally misses many home tests, and hospitalizations and deaths continue.

by Ashanti McLaurin and Amelia Winger, PublicSource

COVID-19 is something we are learning to live with as a society, but frequent changes to the protocols have left many people confused and feeling vulnerable.

With a new coronavirus variant called BA.4  detected in Western Pennsylvania, health officials say it is important to take precautions and continue to take care of yourself and those around you.

As summer approaches, Allegheny County stood at the medium COVID-19 community transmission level, following around two weeks on high. PublicSource checked with a leading local doctor and the county Health Department, consulted available resources and assembled answers to some of the most common questions.

Is the pandemic getting better, or worse, in our area?

Allegheny County reported an average 442 cases per day during the two weeks leading up to and including June 7, the most recent day for which state data is available. This average is higher than the case counts reported in the spring, with Allegheny County recording between 45 and 122 cases every day in March. However, the current daily case count still reflects a significant decrease from the record-breaking rates reported throughout the winter amid the rise of the virus’ Delta variant, which peaked with 4,686 cases reported on Jan. 5 alone.

Do those numbers include home test results?

The vast majority of home tests remain unreported, according to the Health Department. The department also monitors the prevalence of indicators of the virus in wastewater, and that began to decline in June, after a period of increase.

When should I take an at-home COVID-19 test?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people immediately take an at-home COVID-19 test if they have any COVID-19 symptoms or are about to attend an indoor event or gathering. People who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 should take an at-home COVID-19 test at least five days after their exposure, and even if they test negative, they should consider taking another test after another day or two.

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