“We have quarantined for 14 days, as have our friends, (another couple). We have also each received our blood test results, can we get together at one of our homes?”

We’ve received many questions from residents wondering if they can loosen their shelter at home lifestyle to accommodate gatherings of small groups — especially after they have received negative initial antibody testing.

I’m going to answer that question and cover some of the nuances it exposes about this disease, what it means to shelter in place and how to best social distance.

This is also a call to action.

First, regarding your test results, which I assume were negative. A negative antibody test means you do not have IgG antibodies measurable in your blood. If you had been recently infected (up to two weeks prior to the test) the initial test could be negative, but the person in question may have the virus.  

The purpose of the second antibody test two weeks later is to identify those who seroconvert (blood test turns positive) in that time period. 

A person can not be assured that they are not contagious with a single IgG blood antibody test alone. Becoming more lax about your isolation measures increases your chance of infection as well as passing the virus to others.  

If you’ve received a positive antibody test result, you could still be shedding the virus. See our graphic on “Understanding COVID-19 Testing & Results here”

Secondly, the health protection order is to shelter in place. Which means stay at home other than to carefully venture out for essentials. This order pertains to all family members including children with “cabin fever.” 

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Only one person needs to go to the store at a time.  

  • Children should not play in groups.  

  • Everyone should wear a mask or cover their face in public when available or possible.  

  • People with even mild upper respiratory symptoms need to isolate from others.

  • Care should be taken while handling parcels, mail or food from outside sources upon bringing it into your residence.  

  • Clothes worn in public should be removed upon entering your home and promptly washed.    

  • Showering after being in public is recommended.

Now is the time to ramp up our efforts to stop the spread of this virus.

COVID-19 is quite infectious and can cause serious and sometimes fatal illness.

The long incubation period combined with a significant proportion of infectious individuals showing little or no symptoms, make this virus difficult to identify in a population.

To get back to the heart of the question:

Although you and your friends may appear healthy, you may still be carrying and spreading COVID-19, and therefore, you should consider that every surface in your home and your friend’s home is potentially contaminated by coronavirus.

This isn’t an overreaction. It cannot be overstated: Efforts to contain coronavirus only work with the cooperation and participation of the population.

When you hear about Physical Distancing or Social Distancing, it’s important to understand, you should stay at least 6 feet away from others, but also, ideally, not in an enclosed space.

In communities where the population has not isolated and contained the virus they are now, or will soon become, overwhelmed with illness. Medical and EMS services are being pushed beyond capacity. Individuals with treatable issues (including those non-COVID ailments) are unable to receive adequate care.

These communities eventually isolate reactively rather than proactively.

Our community is in a proactive stage, we’re reducing the spread before people get sick. Reactively would be to wait until the community has suffered severe and significant consequences.

Now is not the time to ease up on our efforts, it’s time to endeavor to improve them.

These are hard times that are unprecedented in most of our lifetimes; everyone is feeling the consequences.

You have an important job to do.

If you are healthy you have a social and moral responsibility to isolate yourself from others to stem the spread of this contagion.

The best outcome can be achieved by coming together as a community to take responsible actions that go above and beyond.

Please stay the course, please do your part!

Paul Koelliker, M.D.