EL PASO, Texas -- As stores and restaurants across the state prepare for the first phases of reopening, many individuals are preparing to leave their homes and reenter the world. The situation becomes more complicated for those who have been infected with COVID-19.
So, when is it safe for someone sick to leave isolation? The answer depends on several factors.
If you are able to be tested again when your symptoms have subsided, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you must have received two negative tests in a row, 24 hours apart. You should also have no fever (without the use of medicines that reduce fever) and your other symptoms should have improved.
If you are unable to get another test can leave their "sick room" and home when they have not had a fever for at least 72 hours without the use of medicine that reduces fevers. Other symptoms must also have improved and it must be at least seven days since symptoms first appeared.
If you have never had symptoms and still tested positive, you are able to leave your home when at least seven days have passed since the date of your first positive test. For three additional days, you should limit contact, socially distance and wear a face covering while around others in or outside your home.
A local infectious disease expert, Dr. Armando Meza, who works with Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso, said the responsibility falls on us all to ensure we keep the death toll low from the virus.
"If you can flatten the curve the number of cases that will be coming to medical care will be manageable," Dr. Meza said. "Of course we'll have patients that won't be able to survive, unfortunately, but the ones who have the ability to survive will have the right medical care."
Dr. Meza also warns these guidelines are not absolute and much is still unknown about the virus, making it even more important to prioritize protective measures.
"Wear protective equipment, face masks, because it's not still not clearly demonstrated that patients after seven days are cleared of the infection," Dr. Meza said. "There are some individuals that may still be positive for two weeks, even three weeks after exposure and infection."
Dr. Meza said those at a high risk for exposure include those living in the same household as someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, making these measures important even inside your own home.