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COVID-19: What’s next?

Barnstable County officials are often asked about COVID-19 guidelines and recommendations now that the country is transitioning from pandemic response to pandemic adaptation. COVID-19 cases are currently surging in our region and once the present surge subsides, it’s likely we’ll see more surges in the future. So what’s the best path forward? With all of the information out there, it can be hard to know what to do next.

Here’s what we recommend (associated links are included for easy reference) based on the most recent guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

1. Be informed.

Know your COVID-19 Community Level. This tool helps communities decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.

The current COVID-19 Community Level for Barnstable County is HIGH.

Current recommendations from CDC are as follows:

2. Be prepared.

Get yourself and your family members vaccinated. COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting people from getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, and even dying—especially people who are boosted. As with other diseases, you are protected best from COVID-19 when you stay up to date with recommended vaccines. Have kids? Know COVID-19 vaccine recommendations for children and teens.

Find a COVID-19 vaccine in Massachusetts today!

Test often. You can now order 8 MORE COVID-19 home test kits through for a total of 16 tests! The tests typically arrive in your mailbox in less than 48 hours. Order them today so you have them on hand when you need them! Have questions about at-home diagnostic test kits for COVID-19? Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for a list of frequently asked questions.

Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment recommends ordering free home tests for your family to have on hand when you need them. Don’t wait until someone is exposed or experiencing symptoms. Remember, the best COVID-19 home test is the one you have in your possession.

Home Testing Tips:

Did you know that rapid antigen tests have a low rate of false positives? As a result, a person who tests positive on a rapid antigen test almost certainly has COVID-19 and must follow isolation guidance. On the other hand, if a person with COVID-19-like symptoms tests negative on a rapid antigen test, it is recommended that another antigen test be taken within 24-48 hours of the first test. Alternatively, these individuals could consider getting a PCR test. In the meantime, while waiting to take the additional rapid test or while waiting for the PCR results (which can take 24-72 hours) these individuals should assume they are positive and follow the isolation guidance.

Have you heard about expired or soon-to-expire home tests? First of all, it is important to check expiration dates on home test kits. Be aware, however, that expiration dates have been extended on home tests manufactured by iHealth for an additional three months.

For more information on COVID-19 testing, visit COVID-19 Testing: What You Need to Know | CDC.

3. Be conscientious.

Are you experiencing symptoms that could be indicative of COVID-19 infection? Were you exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19? Know what to do to protect yourself and others!

  • As stated above, if you test positive on a PCR test or home-test, it’s important to immediately follow isolation guidance.
  • If you believe you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, wait five days post-exposure and then take a home test. If the test is negative, take another home test to verify your results after 24 to 48 hours, or sooner if you begin to experience symptoms. Check with your doctor to see if they recommend PCR testing.

4. Take advantage of state-provided services.

  • Did you know you can get a free telehealth appointment for COVID-19 treatment with Paxlovid? Telehealth is a quick and easy way to see if Paxlovid, a COVID-19 treatment pill taken by mouth, is right for you. If it is, pickup will be arranged at your local pharmacy or free overnight delivery (if the prescription is written before 5 p.m. Monday – Friday). This is a new service provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Need to access your vaccine record? Massachusetts may have a record of vaccinations you received in the Commonwealth. This could include COVID-19, influenza, tetanus, and many others. The My Vax Records tool lets you access your COVID-19 digital vaccine card and your vaccination history from the Massachusetts Immunization Information System (MIIS).

5. Stay vigilant!

Know if you have been exposed to COVID-19 and let others know if you have inadvertently exposed them.

Is there a chance you could have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 without knowing it? Could YOU have exposed someone? Be sure to sign up for MassNotify. By opting in, your device will share anonymous codes with other MassNotify users using your phone’s Bluetooth. MassNotify codes contain no personal information or location data and are completely anonymous. If another user you’ve been near tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, you will be notified. If you test positive, you can easily and anonymously notify others to stop the spread of COVID-19.