Dr. Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at Oregon Health Authority, answered today’s questions. We’ll continue to answer your questions on COVID-19 topics in upcoming newsletters.
Q: Are unvaccinated people with COVID-19 more contagious than vaccinated people with COVID-19? (Assuming neither person knew at the time of exposure that they had COVID-19 and I had the same level of contact with each.) – Lori, Portland
A: “Since Omicron hit, one study found that the amount of virus shed by vaccinated and boosted people (who get infected despite it) is lower than that shed by unvaccinated people. Therefore, people with COVID-19 who are fully vaccinated and boosted might be somewhat less contagious. People who were vaccinated but not boosted, however, shed virus in amounts similar to unvaccinated people. Immunity does wane after boosting, so this effect might be short-lived. The bottom line is that we can’t know in any individual case who is contagious and who isn’t, but a good rule of thumb is consider anyone with COVID-19 to be contagious for 10 days after their symptoms begin.”
Q: I recently talked to a medical staff person in the ER department of a hospital. He said he has worked throughout COVID-19 but has never been tested for the virus and because he has never shown symptoms, there was no need for him to be tested. However, in his work he is at high risk for exposure, and infected asymptomatic people can still pass on the virus. I am very concerned. Is this an acceptable hospital policy? – Sandra, Milwaukie
A: “Oregon rules require health care workers to be vaccinated, although they may obtain a medical or religious exception to the requirement. Health care workers are still required to mask. Testing for COVID-19 is not recommended in the absence of symptoms, even among health care workers, unless one has been recently exposed.”
Q: Is lap swimming outdoors safe? – Jeffrey, Bend
A: “Lap swimming outdoors is unlikely to put one at risk of catching COVID-19. In general, outdoor exposures are much less concerning, given the unrestricted air flow; and any virus that gets into a swimming pool or other body of water would be significantly diluted.”
If you have questions about topics related to COVID-19, submit your question here. While we are unable to answer every question, we try to address questions of interest to a broader audience. Please understand we are unable to provide specific medical advice for personal medical conditions.