As cases of COVID-19 continue to spike in Massachusetts, the system seems to be working as more and more calls are going out alerting people about contact tracing.

The new system of gathering phone numbers before dining at a restaurant or getting a haircut, for example, is allowing members of community board of health organizations to reach out to people that may have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID.

In practice, however, depending upon the size of the community and the rate at which infections are being detected, it might take several days before the health official reaches out.

Once you receive the call that you are on their list, you will be asked to quarantine for 14 days since your last contact with the person in question. The quarantine is expected regardless of the results of any COVID tests that you might take during this period. Even if you test negative, you are expected to self-quarantine.

A negative test would mean the people you live with are free to go about their daily routines while maintaining distance from you. It might be a good idea to eat in an area of the home that is removed from others and use a separate bathroom, if possible.

If you test positive, the people you live with will now be expected to quarantine for 14 days.

Getting a test can be a confusing process. A call to your insurance company often doesn't help. Insurance companies want to make sure COVID tests are "medically necessary," therefore they'll require a medical order from your primary physician.

However, if you are a Fun 107 listener, chances are you live in or near one of the "Stop the Spread" areas. This means that just by being in the area, you are eligible for a COVID test at no cost to you. You can find out more information about these tests at Mass.gov.

There are a number of CVS Minute Clinics on the SouthCoast which are offering the no-cost test, along with Seven Hills Behavioral Health in New Bedford and Fall River, and the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center. The Fall River location is located under a tent set up in the Seabra Plaza on Stafford Road. This allows people to line up with plenty of social distancing in the outdoors. Tests are limited, so you are encouraged to call the facilities early in the day, or book them online when necessary.

Finally, there is sometimes a certain level of stigma that is associated with testing positive for COVID-19. This is unfortunate, as hiding your diagnosis from people that you have encountered could cause the virus to spread. There's no such stigma with the flu, and there shouldn't be with COVID-19, either.

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