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CUMBERLAND — "If you don't have symptoms, you don't need to get a test," Vice President Mike Pence said during a Coronavirus Task Force press conference Thursday afternoon at the White House.

When, then, the question is, is it responsible for someone to just socially distance, or self quarantine, or call a doctor and get tested? What are the warning signs, and how bad do the symptoms need to get?

"What we're experiencing here is unprecedented. It is a public health emergency. This is a new virus for which there is obviously no vaccine and there is no medication for treatment," said Fran Phillips, Maryland Health Department's deputy secretary, in a press conference Monday. "Testing is top of the mind for so many people."

When it comes to making the decision to call your doctor or self-quarantine, Philips said, "This is a question (for) everyone to consider. If you have flu-like symptoms — let me go though what that might be," she said. "Three things to keep in mind — cough, difficulty breathing or a fever of 100.4. These are signs, not necessarily of COVID disease, but those are signs that you absolutely must stay home. You cannot go to work, you cannot go out, you must stay home.

"If you're home with these symptoms and you're over the age of 60, or if you have underlying medical conditions, then you need to stay closely monitoring your condition and if your fever goes up, or if you have increased difficulty breathing or chest pain, that is the time to either call your doctor or, if it is severe, to call 911.

Brenda Caldwell, public information coordinator with the Allegany County Health Department, said those experiencing mild symptoms — fever and cough with or without shortness of breath — should "stay home, rest, get plenty of fluids and avoid contact with others."

"If your symptoms worsen, call your health care provider," she said. "Call ahead so your health care provider can offer guidance over the phone and take the necessary precautions if you must come into the office. If you need testing, your health care provider will guide you on how best to accomplish this."

For those without a primary care provider, call the health department at 301-759-5000 and speak to a nurse about the symptoms.

Healthy individuals are encouraged to practice social distancing — staying at least six feet from others — wash hands often, avoid touching the face and disinfect surfaces that are touched frequently.

Caldwell said tests for COVID-19 have been conducted in Allegany County on an ongoing basis. Local health care providers are to be following guidance from the CDC to determine if testing is warranted.

"Because those providers are extremely busy at this time, as you can imagine, they cannot necessarily take the time to constantly report on the number of tests they have ordered or performed," she said. "Therefore, the health department does not have a complete count of tests conducted. Any lab-confirmed positive cases will be reported to the health department and we will report to the public."

A spokesperson for UPMC Western Maryland said the hospital's position is that "if you suspect you have COVID-19 and aren’t having high fever or breathing problems call your primary care physician to get initial advice. Doing this from home is best for all and limits spread of any infection; if needed, they can guide you safely to the next care site. If you have high fever or breathing trouble, go to your emergency department – UPMC sites are ready to provide care."

Follow staff writer Brandon Glass on Twitter @Bglass13

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