Between widely available vaccines and boosters, effective antiviral treatments and ongoing research, we are better equipped than ever to prevent severe cases of COVID-19. Even with this progress, transmission of the virus remains high.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to tell people that they will, with certainty, be able to avoid exposure to the virus,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, senior health advisor with Oregon Health Authority (OHA). “The best things to do are to get all your recommended vaccine doses, to try to avoid exposure—and to have a plan for where you’re going to get tested and treated if you start to experience symptoms.”
If you test positive and are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness, treatments are available that can reduce your chances of being hospitalized, if taken within five days of your first symptom. Those at higher risk include older adults, people who are unvaccinated and those with certain medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system.
“Starting treatment right away has been shown to be approximately 89% effective in keeping you out of the hospital, and the earlier you receive treatment, the better,” said Cieslak.
You can help to prepare yourself and your family by writing down your plan to access COVID-19 treatment in the event of infection, especially if COVID-19 puts you at risk of severe illness due to underlying health conditions, age or other factors.
Take the following steps ahead of time, in case you test positive for COVID-19.
Prepare what you can.
- Create an emergency COVID-19 kit for your home that meets your specific needs. This may include over-the-counter medication to handle symptoms, a thermometer, tissues, prescription medications, face coverings, sanitizing wipes, non-perishable food, pet food and more.
- Keep up to date on your vaccinations and boosters.
- Identify and write down your trusted emergency contacts, such as family members or neighbors, who may be able to assist you in the event you get sick. Ask in advance if they would be able drive you to the pharmacy, for example, or take care of kids, pets or grocery shopping
Test if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, consider testing five days later.
- Keep COVID-19 tests on hand at home. You can order up to 16 free tests per household from the federal government.
- Identify a local free testing site, and write down the address and operating hours. You do not need insurance or proof of citizenship to get tested for COVID-19.
- If you test positive at home and want to report the result, please call 866-917-8881 or follow this link: COVID-19 Case Survey.
- Visit our website for more information on what to do if you test positive.
Talk with a health care provider about what treatment option is right for you.
- Have a conversation with your health care provider, if you have one, about how quickly they can see you and potentially prescribe antiviral medication if you test positive for COVID-19. Write down their office name, phone number and address. Because COVID-19 antivirals are only available at certain pharmacies, you can find the pharmacy closest to you that carries them by using this online locator tool. Write down the name, address, and phone number to share with your prescriber.
- If you don’t have a health care provider or are unable to see them quickly, the federal Test to Treat (T2T) program may be a good option. T2T allows you to test for COVID-19, be evaluated for eligibility by a health care professional and receive antiviral medication all in one location. Check to see if there’s a T2T location in Oregon near you, and write down the address and phone number. The program requires that you call ahead to schedule an appointment. You can either bring in a positive at-home test result to your appointment, or you can be tested at the T2T site. For help with T2T, call 800-232-0233 for support in English, Spanish and 150 other languages.
If you have insurance the entire T2T process is free, though some insurance policies will have a co-pay. If you don’t have insurance, the COVID-19 test and medication are free, but you may be charged a fee for the medical evaluation. Pharmacies should not ask for any fees associated with the medication itself, including dispensing fees. Proof of citizenship is not required.
In the event of a COVID-19 infection, planning ahead can save you and your family time and stress so you can focus on feeling better and getting back on your feet.
If you don’t have a health care provider, call 211. You can also call 211, or go to 211info.org, if you need assistance with rent or utility bills, childcare, food access or other concerns that may arise from staying home. A representative will work to connect you with support services available near you.