Category Archives: bussiness

Understanding Close Contact

Understanding Close Contact

Posted on Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 at 10:42 am

Understanding Close Contact. Let's talk about close contact —people who were close enough to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, for  long enough, that  we think they  could get sick. Read our blog post:  bit.ly/35t8NU7

En español


When we talk about who needs to quarantine and who needs to get tested, we talk about close contact—people who were close enough to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 for long enough that we think they could get sick.When folks ask us for advice if they should get tested, we often ask them if they have had close contact. If they say yes, we say, “Can you tell me more about that?” And what they often share is not what we consider close contact. Which is understandable—close contact is a complicated topic and this is a scary virus! Let’s take a look at how we define close contact and some common examples.


Defining Close Contact

Just because you were near someone who later tested positive for COVID-19 doesn’t mean you were necessarily a close contact. When we say close contact, we mean one of these things happened:

  • You were within 6 feet of a person who tested positive for more than 15 minutes total in a day (this time does not need to be consecutive. Three, 5-minute periods over the course of a day is still close contact).
  • You had any physical contact with a person who has tested positive.
  • You had direct contact with the respiratory secretions of a person who has tested positive (i.e., from coughing, sneezing, contact with a dirty tissue, shared drinking glass, food, or other personal items).
  • You live with or stayed overnight for at least one night in a household with the person who tested positive.

If you are a close contact, you will need to get tested and quarantine for 14 days.

Keep in mind the definition for close contact could change at any time. With this novel virus there is new and emerging research every day that gives us more insights into how it’s spread.


Was That Close Contact?

Let’s look at a few examples to see what is and isn’t close contact:

Scenario 1: The masked barbecue

  • You and your neighbor grill together in your backyard. You’re within six feet but are both wearing a mask. The next day he calls and tells you he tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Was this close contact: Yes. Even if you’re wearing a mask or outside, if you’re within six feet for 15 or more minutes, you are considered a close contact. You should quarantine and get tested.

Scenario 2: The friend of a friend

  • Your teenager went over to a friend’s house for dinner. Earlier that morning, the friend had volleyball practice. Later in the week, the friend finds out that someone on the team tested positive and texts your teenager the news.
  • Was this close contact: No. Your teenager did not have close contact with someone who tested positive.

Scenario 3: The rule followers

  • You work at a construction site. Everyone always wears a mask and stays at least six feet from each other. One of your co-workers tested positive, but you’ve never been within six feet of her.
  • Was this close contact? No.And great job taking precautions to keep everyone safe!

Scenario 4: The unknown schoolmate

  • You get a note from your child’s school that someone in their building tested positive. The child who tested positive is not in your child’s classroom.
  • Was this close contact: No.

Scenario 5: The repeat chit chatter

  • You have a co-worker who pops into your cubicle a few times a day to chit chat. On Monday, you have a few conversations, none longer than a few minutes. Later that week, he gets a positive COVID test result.
  • Was this close contact: Maybe. It depends how long you were together. The 15-minute limit is cumulative but does not have to be consecutive. This means if you have 3, 5-minute conversations within a day, within six feet of each other, you had 15 minutes of close contact. See our blog post on isolation and quarantine and our “What to do if you were sick or possibly exposed” webpage for more information.

Scenario 6: The outsiders

  • You and your pals meet for an outside happy hour. Everyone is maskless but are about eight feet apart for a couple hours. A few days later, a friend who attended tells the group they tested positive.
  • Was this close contact: No. You must be within six feet of someone for at least 15 minutes for this to be considered close contact.

Scenario 7: The hugger

  • A friend stops by for a quick chat. You both are outside, wearing masks, and about ten feet apart. Before she leaves, she gives you a quick hug. A few days later, she texts you that she tested positive.
  • Was this close contact:  Yes. While you didn’t come within six feet for 15 minutes, you did have physical contact. Physical contact of any kind means you’re a close contact. You should quarantine and get tested. See our blog post on isolation and quarantine and our “What to do if you were sick or possibly exposed” webpage for more information.

Scenario 8: The parent/child conundrum

  • Your toddler attends daycare. One of the parents of a child in his class tests positive. The parent never had contact with your child, but their child did.
  • Was this close contact? No. You child was not within six feet of someone with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes.

Scenario 9: The kitchen co-workers

  • Your partner works in a hospital cafeteria. She wears a mask but is within six feet of others nearly the entire day. One of her co-workers—whom she has been within six feet of for at least 15 minutes—tests positive.
  • Was this close contact: Yes, for your partner. Your partner should quarantine and get tested. She should be in a room in your home away from all people and pets for at least 14 days. She must continue to quarantine, even if she has a negative result. You and everyone who lives with you should monitor themselves for symptoms. See our blog post on isolation and quarantine and our “What to do if you were sick or possibly exposed” webpage for more information.

Scenario 10: The super spreader

  • You attend an indoor wedding with 75 guests. You wear a mask for some of the time, but not the whole time. You try to stay six feet from others, but you definitely got within six feet of some people for 15 or more minutes. A couple days after the wedding, you hear that someone at the wedding tested positive but you don’t know who.
  • Was this close contact: Maybe. Since you don’t know who it is—and in a gathering of that size, it’s very likely more than one person had COVID-19—we can’t be certain you had close contact. In this situation, you should err on the side of caution. Get tested and quarantine for 14 days. See our blog post on isolation and quarantine and our “What to do if you were sick or possibly exposed” webpage for more information.

Scenario 11: The holiday

  • Your mother in law decides to host Thanksgiving this year. You’re wary about going but agree to attend as long as there are some precautions: you insist on being a few feet apart, cracking open a few windows to increase ventilation, and keeping the gathering to just the 10 people in your family. Everyone passes food around the table and fills their plates. On Saturday your father in law develops a cough and gets tested. On Monday, you hear he has tested positive.
  • Was this close contact: Yes. Reducing risk by increasing ventilation and keeping groups small is important, but it isn’t a foolproof way to avoid getting sick. While not everyone at the table might have been within six feet of your father in law, everyone at the dinner table should get tested and quarantine for 14 days because they all handled food items that he also touched. See our blog post on isolation and quarantine and our “What to do if you were sick or possibly exposed” webpage for more information.

Scenario 12: The ladies who lunch

  • You and a co-worker grab a bite at a nearby café. You sit inside and wear your masks, except when you’re eating. She feels a little off that afternoon and gets tested the next morning. A few days later she tells you she’s tested positive.
  • Was this close contact: Yes. You were within six feet for 15 or more minutes. Get tested and quarantine for 14 days. See our blog post on isolation and quarantine and our “What to do if you were sick or possibly exposed” webpage for more information.

Scenario 13: The close crop

  • You were a close contact to a co-worker and your supervisor has instructed you to quarantine for 14 days. On day three you get tested. On day five, you hear back that your test was negative. You had an appointment to get a haircut on your calendar for weeks and decide not to skip it. On day seven, you go to get your hair cut. You and your stylist wear a mask. On day eight, you’re feeling a little under the weather and go get another test. On day 10 you learn it was positive.
  • Was this close contact: Yes. Your stylist is now a close contact to you because you were within six feet for more than 15 minutes. This is an important reminder that you must quarantine at least 14 days after your last contact with your co-worker. Even if you initially test negative, even if you have no symptoms, you can still be spreading the virus. See our blog post on isolation and quarantine and our “What to do if you were sick or possibly exposed” webpage for more information.

Don’t Be a Close Contact…Take Precautions!

To avoid becoming a close contact, do not gather, wear a mask, and stay at least six feet from people you don’t live with at all times. Find more recommendations for reducing your risk on our website.

Socializing More Safely This Winter: How To Form A Bubble or Pod

Socializing More Safely This Winter: How To Form A Bubble or Pod

Posted on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 at 4:47 pm

How to See Family & Friends More Safely Over the Holidays, Part II:  Forming a Bubble  or PodThe safest thing you can do is spend the holidays with people you live with. For people who are going to gather  despite public health  recommendations,  creating a bubble  could be a way to  reduce risk.Read our blog post: bit.ly/32Ty2xk

En español

Please see Part 1 of this blog for tips around the winter holidays. 


Gathering is risky

Every activity outside of your household carries some risk, which is why the safest thing to do is to not gather with people you don’t live with. We strongly urge you to spend the winter only with people you live with and to spend time virtually for people you don’t live with. This is especially critical as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.


What is a bubble?

For people who are going to gather despite public health recommendations, creating a bubble could be a way to reduce risk. A bubble doesn’t have an official definition, but it is used to describe a group of people who only have close contact with each other. “Close contact” is defined by the CDC as being within 6 feet of someone else for a total of 15 minutes in a day. This 15 minutes could be all at once, or could be through several shorter interactions (like standing close to someone for 5 minutes each, 3 times in one day). Close contact can also include touching someone else (like hugging), being sneezed or coughed on, or touching, handling or sharing items with someone.

Some bubbles are more “airtight” than others. A person who works from home, lives with someone who works from home, and doesn’t have children may be able to limit their close contact only to their bubble. But someone who works in a restaurant, has a roommate who works in an office, and who sends their kids to daycare will have many exposures outside of the bubble. Smaller bubbles are also more likely to be successful. Just like soap bubbles, a large bubble is more likely to pop right away, while a small bubble can float along for longer.

We recommend that anyone who is forming a bubble consider all the risks that each person brings to the group. We strongly urge people to not form bubbles if people in the bubble are exposed to many others through their work, school, or personal lives.


Map out people’s risk

In order to understand the risk of a potential bubble, you must first map out the risk in the group before gathering. Here’s an example: 
Forming a bubble: Example 1,  Household 1: One partner works from home; the other works in a library that is open to the public   No other exposures, Houshold 2: Both partners work from home, and their child attends school virtually  No other exposures, but one parent has Type 2 diabetes, Household 3: Works from home Doesn't have a car, so has to take public transportation (taxis and the bus) to go to essential places Gets her hair cut at the salonIs the risk worth it to you given everyone's exposure levels?  What can you change about the risk of illness in your bubble?

In this case, with some modifications, the risk may be low enough for people to socialize relatively safely. For example, this group may want to have a conversation about lowering household 3’s risk:
Have a conversation and set boundaries to reduce your risk. household 1 says: I want to see you in person, but I'm at higher risk of getting really sick from COVID-19 because of my diabetes. Would you be willing to lower your risk by not getting haircuts? And could I give you rides to the grocery store instead of you taking the bus? . Household 3 says: Yes, I can do that! I'm happy  to do that to make you  feel more comfortable!

However, in other scenarios, the risk in the group might be higher, and people may not be able to lower that risk as easily:
Forming a bubble: Example 2, Household 1: Both partners work in a restaurant in the back and cannot distance from coworkers. Household 2: One partner works as a bartender, and patrons often refuse to wear masks  Other partner was working from home, but their office required them to come back to work in the office in cubicles. Household 3: Both retired, not working Both like to go out to eat with friends and do not wear masks or socially distance Both are over 65 years old One person has hypertension . Is the risk worth it to you given everyone's exposure levels?  What can you change about the risk of illness in your bubble?

 In this scenario, you should not form a bubble or attend a gathering together. While these conversations might be difficult, it’s more important to keep everyone safe than to give in to social pressure:
Have a conversation and set boundaries, even when it's hard! Household 1 says, Sorry mom, but we aren't  coming to Thanksgiving this year. It's too high of a risk with Mark and I working at the restaurant, and we don't want to get you and Dad sick." Household 3 says, "But I need to see my kids over the holidays! And I go out with friends all the time and haven't gotten sick! Can't you just come over for dinner?" Household 1 says, "No, we seriously will not be visiting. We love you and we can't risk you getting sick. We don't want to get sick from you either. We can do a video chat or phone call but we can't  see you in person."

Set up ground rules

If you decide to move forward with forming a bubble, we recommend that you follow these ground rules:

  • Have a conversation every time a new risk comes up. Does someone suddenly have to work in person one day a week? Is your child’s school now in person instead of virtual? Does someone else have to take taxis because their car broke down? Alert your bubble of any of these changes every time they come up, and reassess whether the risk is still worth it.
  • Respect everyone’s boundaries. To you, maybe getting a haircut isn’t a big deal (although it likely is close contact with another person). To your sister, it’s a level of risk she isn’t comfortable with. Figure out if skipping the haircut is worth seeing your sister, or if you’d rather see her virtually instead and have a fresh hairdo. Or, compromise and don’t see your sister for 14 days after getting your hair cut. (If you do this, you also need to make sure you’re not doing other activities in the 14 days that create the potential for exposure.)
  • Look at the local data. As cases rise, so do the chances that any one of you may come in contact with someone with COVID-19 if you leave your house. In August, you may have been fine with your sister-in-law working at a library; now, maybe you are uncomfortable given the level of cases in the community. Continue to stay on top of the latest COVID-19 data and start a discussion with the bubble if you are no longer comfortable with your level of risk.
  • If you feel at all sick or off, cancel the gathering. Things can always be rescheduled—yes, even Thanksgiving. It’s not worth powering through any sort of illness and getting everyone in the bubble sick. In the winter, people are more likely to have cold and flu symptoms, so you may be rescheduling a lot—that’s okay! It’s better to keep everyone healthy.

If you don’t trust the people in your bubble to follow these rules, then you shouldn’t be meeting up with them.


What doesn’t work

Large groups. Once a bubble has more than a few people involved, the risk is likely too high to protect you from COVID-19. The more people involved, the less you will know about everyone’s exposures and the more likely people are to have exposures. Keep your bubbles small to lower your risk. Check out this tracker from Georgia Tech for one model of how many people with COVID-19 might be at a gathering, depending on the size.  

Group activities, such as youth sports teams. Sure, some professional sports teams can pay people to not have any other exposures. But for your local youth hockey team, the chances that every family involved is able to avoid exposure outside of practice and games is miniscule. Some parents likely work in person or socialize with other adults; some siblings likely go to daycare or school. Be wary of large groups like this that claim that their “bubble” is keeping everyone safe—unless the entire group of players and players’ family is very small, that bubble probably isn’t doing anything to keep you safe.

Not talking honestly with everyone. Too afraid to create conflict with your dad over his weekend card game tournaments with friends? Don’t form a bubble. If you can’t state all of your boundaries and feel confident that they’ll be respected, then it’s not worth it.


What’s Allowed in Emergency Order #10?

What’s Allowed in Emergency Order #10?

Posted on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020 at 11:09 am

En español


A new public health order went into effect at 12:01am on November 18. Aside from gathering limits, little has changed in this order from the previous order. We’ve outlined the changes below and included some common questions we’re getting.

ItemOrder #9 pdf  Was in effect from September 2 to November 17Order #10 pdf  In effect as of 12:01am on November 18 and expires on December 16 at 12:01am
Indoor gatheringsAllows indoor gatherings of up to 10 people, with physical distancing and face coverings.Prohibits indoor gatherings of any size. A gathering could be socializing with just one other person you don’t live with. It also includes in-person games, sports, competitions, group exercise classes, meetings, trainings, movies, events, and conferences.
Outdoor gatheringsAllows outdoor gatherings of up to 25 people, with physical distancing.Limits outdoor gatherings to 10 people (not including employees) who are not from the same household. You must be physically distanced from anyone you don’t live with. Outdoor gatherings could include in-person games, sports, competitions, group exercise classes, meetings, trainings, movies, events, and conferences.
SportsCourts and fields are open with physical distancing. Sport competitions among low risk sports are allowed, with physical distancing. Medium and high risk sports game and competitions between teams are not allowed. Medium risk and high risk sports may play games if the games are played within teams and games are modified to ensure 6 feet physical distancing. Practices, drills, catch, instructional lessons, etc. are allowed with 6 feet physical distancing. This applies to low, medium, and high risk sports. Indoor gyms, courts, swimming pools can operate at 50% capacity and 6 feet physical distancing is maintained at all times.Courts and fields will remain open. Physical distancing is required. All sports activities are gatherings and are prohibited inside among people who do not live together. Sports activities are limited to ten individuals who are not from the same household if played outside. Games and competitions are allowed for low risk sports if played outside and are limited to 10 individuals who are not from the same household. Low risk sports are those that can be done individually or with physical distancing. Games and competitions are not allowed between teams for medium and high-risk sports. However, games and competitions within teams would be allowed, if the events are modified to ensure physical distancing is maintained at all times, are played outside, and are limited to 10 individuals not from the same household. Indoor gyms, courts, swimming pools can operate at 50% capacity as long as no scheduled activities are taking place, people are using the facility on their own or with members of their own household, and 6 feet physical distancing is maintained at all times.
Gyms & Fitness ClassesGyms are allowed to open to 50% capacity. Saunas and steam rooms are closed. Allows indoor fitness classes if physical distancing could be maintained. No limit on outdoor fitness classesGyms still allowed to open to 50% capacity. Saunas and steam rooms still closed. Prohibits indoor group exercise classes for people not from the same household. Outdoor exercise classes are limited to 10 people. Indoor gyms, courts, swimming pools can operate at 50% capacity as long as no scheduled activities are taking place, people are using the facility on their own or with members of their own household, and 6 feet physical distancing is maintained at all times.
Face coveringsMasks are required for most people 5 years of age and older when in an enclosed space with people you don’t live with. This includes inside buildings and vehicles where people you don’t live with are present. It also includes when standing in a line, when waiting for food and drink outside at a restaurant, and in a park structure. Face coverings are strongly recommended outdoors when it is not possible to physically distance.No change
ChildcareIndividual groups or classrooms may not contain more than 15 children. There should be no interaction or contact between individual groups or classrooms, and there should be physical distancing to the greatest extent possible.No change
SchoolsStudents and staff must wear a face covering, if possible, inside the building and on school buses. Social distancing also must be practiced inside classrooms, on buses and on school grounds. The Wisconsin Supreme Court entered a temporary injunction pdf  that allows K-12 schools in Dane County to fully open for in-person instruction. The Court has issued a briefing schedule and will be scheduling oral arguments to hear the case. We are disappointed in this decision and strongly urge all schools to continue voluntary phasing-in of classes for in-person instruction for grades 3-12 per Public Health Madison & Dane County recommendations.No change

Note: This order does have changes related to sports. An exception to sports as outlined above is gym/phy ed class, that is part of the typical school day and for educational credit. Gym/phy ed class does not need to follow mass gathering limits because gym/phy ed class is considered educational instruction and due to the school injunction is allowable. However, gym/phy ed classes need to follow other aspects of the school requirements.
Colleges and UniversitiesColleges and universities may set their own practices but may not open group living quarters without “strict policies that ensure safe living conditions.”No change
BusinessesLimits businesses to 50% of approved building capacity. Must have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place.Indoor gatherings are prohibited. A gathering includes meetings, trainings, events, and conferences.
Personal Services (e.g., salons, spas, tattoo shops, tanning salons, nail salons, barber shops)Limits businesses to 50% of approved building capacity and requires written hygiene policies. Chairs, tables and work stations must be spaced at least six feet apart from one another.No change
Restaurants and TavernsRestaurants Indoor dine-in capacity limited to 25% of approved seating capacity levels, with physical distancing between people who do not live together. Tables are limited to 6 people from the same household or living unit. Outdoor seating is allowed with physical distancing. Customers must wear masks when not actively eating and drinking. Must have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place. Taverns Indoor seating at taverns is not allowed; customers may enter taverns only to order, pick-up, and pay for food or beverage. Outdoor seating is allowed with physical distancing. Customers must wear masks when not actively eating and drinking. Must have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place.No change
Religious and Spiritual EntitiesReligious worship services are exempt from gathering requirements. Any other event outside of a religious service or practice, like picnics or staff meetings, are limited to 10 people inside and 25 people outside. These entities must have written cleaning and hygiene policies in place.Any other event outside of a religious service or practice, like picnics or staff meetings, are not allowed inside. These events outside are limited to 10 people that are not from the same household. Other requirements unchanged.

Common Questions

Are one on one services allowed?

  • Can I go to the salon?
  • Can my kid still have their piano lesson with just the instructor?

Yes, one on one services like this are still allowed.

Is anyone I don’t live with able to enter my home?

  • Can I have a plumber fix my sink?
  • Can my kids’ nanny come over?
  • Can my elderly father’s home health aide go inside his apartment?

Yes, all these examples are allowed because they are offering a service. If, for example, your plumber is also your friend and just came over for happy hour or to hang out, that would be a gathering that is not allowed indoors.

Child care has not changed with the order. Health and human services are still allowed.

What COVID-19 Testing Can and Can’t Tell Us

What COVID-19 Testing Can and Can’t Tell Us

Posted on Monday, Nov. 23, 2020 at 8:20 am

En español


What Testing Can and Can't Tell Us While the importance of reliable, accessible testing cannot be overstated, there are limitations to  what testing can  and can’t tell us. Read our blog post:  bit.ly/339Hug2

A critical piece in stopping the spread of COVID-19 is being able to test people for the virus. Through testing, we identify the people who have the virus so they can isolate and prevent spreading the disease to others. As of this posting, nearly half of Dane County residents have been tested for COVID-19 at least once. Our county is very fortunate to be one of the few in the country with consistent, accessible COVID-19 testing available to almost everyone, all for free.


What Testing Can Do

  • Identify someone with COVID-19 infection on the day they are tested
  • Help us begin contact tracing to prevent others from spreading the virus
  • Help us prevent large outbreaks in facilities, businesses, workplaces, and schools
  • Help us understand how many people in the community have the virus
  • Help us identify populations disproportionally affected by COVID-19

What Testing Can’t Do

  • Tell us if someone can safely return to work, school, or their daily routine. People must isolate or quarantine before safely returning to activities.  We recommend against requiring employees to have a negative COVID-19 test before returning to work. Some people can still test positive for weeks following their isolation but are no longer infectious. Requiring a negative test places an unnecessary burden on the employee and may prevent you from providing services due to extended employee absences.
  • Give someone permission to attend an event or gathering. Again, testing only tells us if someone has COVID-19 on the day they are tested. A negative test does not necessarily mean it is safe to gather with others; someone could be exposed, test negative the next day, then test positive the day after that. Tests cost about $100 each and should not be wasted.
  • Serve as a loophole for ignoring precautions. Frequent testing is not a way to avoid taking commonsense precautions like avoiding gathering, wearing a mask, and staying home when you’re sick.
  • Stop the pandemic. Testing is one tool in our toolbox for stopping the spread of the virus, but testing alone can’t stop this pandemic. We also need people to follow Public Health orders, recommendations, and precautions to stop the virus in its tracks.

Scenarios: Should I Get Tested?

Test what you’ve learned with these graphics that ask, “Should I get tested?”
Should I get tested if...I’m going to a wedding this weekend and want to make sure I’m safe?No. Testing only tells you if you had COVID on the day you were tested. A negative test does not necessarily mean it is safe to gather with others.
Should I get tested if...I just want to make sure I'm okay? I like to get tested once per week.No. We do not recommend routine, repeated testing just for peace of mind. Tests cost about $100 each.
Should I get tested if...I have symptoms of COVID-19?Yes! Call your doctor first. If they won't test you or if you do not have a doctor, visit a community test site. Isolate until you get your test results.
Should I get tested if...The person I work next to in our restaurant kitchen tested positive and we're near each other all day?Yes! Call your doctor first. If they won't test you or if you do not have a doctor, visit a community test site. You should quarantine for 14 days even if your test is negative.
Should I get tested if...The person who sits in the cube next to mine has symptoms and got tested, but I don’t know their result?Not yet. You can continue to work but keep an eye out for symptoms. If you develop symptoms, get tested. If their test comes back positive, get tested and quarantine, no matter your result.
Should I get tested if...My neighbor had close contact with someone who later tested positive and before we knew that, he and I hung out and grilled together?No. This is not close contact with someone who has tested positive.
Should I get tested if...A kid in my child’s school tested positive, but they didn’t have contact?No. This is not close contact with someone who has tested positive.
Should I get tested if...My friend tested positive and a few days ago we hung out outside (within 6 feet) but were wearing masks?Yes! Call your doctor first. If they won't test you or if you do not have a doctor, visit a community test site. You should quarantine for 14 days even if your test is negative.


What are My Testing Options?

Visit our testing page to learn more about where you can be tested.


Extra Credit: Learn the Types of Tests Available

There are two types of testing available: diagnostic and antibody.

Diagnostic Testing

A diagnostic test shows if you have active coronavirus infection. In other words, it tells us if you have the virus right now. There are two types of diagnostic tests: molecular tests and antigen tests. Molecular tests, more commonly known as PCR tests (this is the test currently available at the Alliant testing site), work by identifying the virus’s genetic material. Antigen tests work by identifying the virus’s unique proteins.

Antibody Testing

When your body fights an infection, it makes antibodies to respond to the threat. An antibody test tells us if your body has ever tried to fight the virus in the past. These tests cannot tell you if you have a current COVID-19 infection.

We love this table from FDA which outlines the differences of the types of testing available:

Molecular TestAntigen TestAntibody Test
Also known as…Diagnostic test, viral test, molecular test, nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT), RT-PCR test, LAMP testDiagnostic testSerological test, serology, blood test, serology test
How the sample is taken…Nasopharyngeal (the part of the throat behind the nose), nasal or throat swab (most tests) Saliva (a few tests)Nasal or nasalpharyngeal swab (most tests)Finger stick or blood draw
How long it takes to get results…Same day (some locations) or up to a week (longer in some locations with many tests)Some may be very fast (15 – 30 minutes), depending on the testSame day (many locations) or 1-3 days
Is another test needed…This test is typically highly accurate and usually does not need to be repeated.Positive results are usually highly accurate, but false positives can happen, especially in areas where very few people have the virus. Negative tests should always be interpreted in the context of the exposure history and clinical presentation of person being tested.

In most cases, negative antigen tests are considered presumptive and should be confirmed with a RT-PCR test.

A negative result in a patient with a low pre-test probability of infection is more likely to be a true negative and confirmatory testing may not be needed unless important for clinical management or infection control. See CDC rapid antigen testing for more discussion.
Sometimes a second antibody test is needed for accurate results.
What it shows…Diagnoses active coronavirus infectionDiagnoses active coronavirus infectionShows if you’ve been infected by coronavirus in the past
What it can’t do…Show if you ever had COVID-19 or were infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 in the pastAntigen tests are more likely to miss an active COVID-19 infection compared to molecular tests. Your health care provider may order a molecular test if your antigen test shows a negative result but you have symptoms of COVID-19.

Tips for A Healthier Holiday Season

Tips for A Healthier Holiday Season

Posted on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020 at 9:26 am

Tips for a Healthier Holiday Season This holiday season is going to be quite different from any other, which means we all have to get creative and plan ahead.Read our blog post:  bit.ly/2HXvAP5

The holiday season has officially begun, and that typically means shopping for gifts, cooking and baking, and celebrating with family and friends. This holiday season will not be like any other but that doesn’t mean it’s canceled. Below are some things to think about as you plan your holidays.


This holiday season is going to be quite different from any other, which means we all have to get creative.

If you’re like us, you’re probably feeling sad and disappointed that you can’t see friends and family the way you normally would. We know this is tough: just like you, we look forward to gathering with loved ones and honoring long-held traditions. This holiday season we’ll all need to adapt our traditions the best we can and start planning the elaborate parties we’ll hold in December 2021! Until then, here are some ways to more safely celebrate the holidays:

Reschedule them

Sure, you can adapt your traditions and celebrate now, but rescheduling completely is also an option. Who says you can’t drink eggnog or snack on latkes or open presents with family in July? If the thought of not seeing loved ones this holiday season is too much, think of it as just postponing plans, not changing them completely.

Make it virtual

  • Get family and friends set up with a video call program. Trust us on this: Don’t wait until the last minute to teach everyone how to download and use your program of choice. Schedule some time now to get everyone squared away!
  • Play games virtually. Schedule a call to eat, play games, watch movies and ball games, and celebrate virtually! We love these tips and options .
  • Create new traditions. What new traditions can you make with friends and family? For example, who can make the best gingerbread house? Who owns the most unique holiday PJs? Snap pics, share with loved ones, and vote!

Take it outside

  • Outdoor gatherings are allowed with 10 people or less, with physical distancing. Have guests bring their own food and do not share food. Masks should be worn unless people are eating or drinking.
  • Plan activities that require little modification outside. For example, bonfires, hikes, and snowshoeing are all seasonally appropriate.

Keep it local

Avoid traveling to gatherings outside of Dane County. Many places outside of Dane County have even more COVID-19 in their communities. You may become sick and bring the virus back with you, or spread the virus to your loved ones.

Quarantine ahead

If you plan to gather, a way to reduce risk is to have every attendee quarantine for 14 days beforehand. For example, if you plan to gather on Christmas Eve, your entire guest list would need to quarantine starting December 9.

When quarantining, you can go outside by yourself or with people you live with, pick up groceries or essentials only through contactless pickup or delivery, work or attend school from home, and hang out with people virtually. You cannot go to work, school, or childcare in person; go inside a store or other public building; or socialize with anyone outside of your household in person.

Create a bubble

We have a whole blog post about what creating a bubble means and how to do it.

Test appropriately

  • Testing before a gathering doesn’t make it safe. Getting tested before gathering with others only tells you if you had COVID on the day you were tested. A negative test does not necessarily mean it is safe to gather with others.
  • If you were exposed, time your test right. Unless you are experiencing symptoms, wait 3-5 days to get tested for COVID-19 after a possible exposure. This allows for enough of the virus to build up in your body that can be detected by a test.

Write to Santa, don’t visit him

Sitting on Santa’s lap isn’t going to work this year. Santa apologizes, but on top of everything else, he and Mrs. Claus are in a high-risk group since they are several hundred years old. He says please write him letters instead !

Shop safely and support local businesses

The pandemic has affected many local businesses this year. Consider ways to reduce the risk of getting or spreading COVID-19 while supporting local businesses at the same time.

  • Do your holiday shopping from your couch. Many local businesses offer online shopping, curbside pickup, and delivery. Shop local online, have gifts delivered to your family and friends, and gather virtually to open them.
  • Plan trips out. If you have to shop in person, make a list before you leave home, keep your trip short, and try to go at a time when the store is less busy. If you are older or in a high risk group, check if the store offers special shopping hours.

We all want to see this pandemic end. Public Health orders and recommendations provide a baseline of what we must do to reduce disease spread, but everyone in the community plays a role in protecting our community’s health. Find new ways to celebrate your holiday traditions safely this year to help keep your family, your loved ones, and our community safer.This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison – Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.

Providing Support to People in Isolation Helps Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Providing Support to People in Isolation Helps Prevent the Spread of COVID-19

Posted on Friday, Dec. 4, 2020 at 8:09 am

Providing Support to People in Isolation Helps Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 We want to ensure that anyone who is isolated has the support and supplies needed  to stay at home. Read our blog post:  bit.ly/2If74ckOne of the key strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is isolating those who are sick so they don’t spread the illness to others. This means not leaving home and staying in a separate room from others for at least 10 days, sometimes more. The impact of isolation can take a toll, both emotionally and financially.  


Support Leads to Success

We want to ensure that anyone who is isolated has the support and supplies needed to stay at home. When our contact tracers talk with people newly diagnosed with COVID-19, they provide isolation guidelines to follow, but they also ask what the person will need in order to make isolation successful. They may say they need homework or groceries delivered, for example. During this discussion, if financial needs are identified, we make arrangements to provide gift cards to support buying groceries or other essentials. To date, over 1,800 families have received this isolation support, funded through money Dane County received from the federal CARES Act.

Contact tracers also share our Helpful Resources and Community Resource webpages with those who require isolation, which offer information on resources available to pay rent, get food, or meet other basic needs.


Cooperation is Key

We have a dedicated team that works tirelessly to ensure that people in isolation have access to the resources they need in a timely manner. “It has been truly awesome to be able to provide direct money and local resources to families that are isolating. I think this is a good example of meeting the family’s needs in these uncertain times,” shared Natalie, a member of the Isolation Support team. These efforts don’t go unnoticed by some participating community members who express their appreciation to the program staff and gratitude for the support provided.

Isolation, along with contact tracing, are common public health practices that are part of controlling an infectious disease. The cooperation from those diagnosed with COVID-19 in isolating from others is crucial in limiting the spread of the virus. Without their cooperation, we would see more people test positive for the virus. We work with them to ensure their success by making sure they have all the community resources and financial support to help them through their isolation period in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison – Public Health Madison & Dane County and a link back to the original post.

We Can All Be Part of the Solution to the Pandemic

We Can All Be Part of the Solution to the Pandemic

Posted on Tuesday, Jul. 21, 2020 at 1:37 pm

Graphic with a variety of masks that says Thank You for Wearing a Mask!

COVID-19 is still very contagious, and it is still spreading in Dane County. As we learn more about this brand-new virus, we adjust our behaviors to be safe. We recently issued an Order that everyone 5 and older wear a mask when indoors in public settings because science and data tell us that masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

How masks help

Wearing a mask in public helps prevent the spread of the virus by blocking respiratory droplets from our mouths and noses when we talk, shout, sing, cough, and sneeze. Masks work best when we all wear them. The mask you wear protects others that you interact with, and the masks they wear protect you.

Other prevention measures to take

Wearing a mask doesn’t mean you should stop other measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

  • Stay home if you feel sick, or “off.”
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Don’t touch your face with unwashed hands.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow or a tissue, then throw away the tissue and wash your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Wear a mask when in public.
  • Consider how many people you are seeing day to day. The more people you interact and socialize with, the greater the chance you have of being exposed to someone with COVID-19.

These things are just as important as ever.

What to do if you’re sick or exposed

Testing and isolation are other crucial steps in preventing the spread of COVID-19. If you feel sick , call your healthcare provider to be tested or go to the community testing site at Alliant Energy Center for a free test. Stay home and isolate yourself from others until you get your test results.

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, watch for symptoms for 14 days after your last contact with them, stay home and avoid contact with others during the 14 days, and consider being tested.

If you test positive for COVID-19, isolate yourself from all others and closely follow Public Health guidance.

Be “Midwest Nice”

Wisconsinites are known for being nice. Wearing a mask, practicing prevention measures, and taking action if you’re sick or exposed show that you consider the health and safety of others to be important. You could be preventing someone from being hospitalized or even preventing a death.  

When you make the choice to follow these measures, you’re part of the solution to this pandemic. So let’s mask up and make progress!