Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
A message from Dr. Joe A. Anzaldua, MD, Local Health Authority
COVID-19 and CDC Guidelines Update – January 5, 2022
There continues to be record breaking numbers of COVID-19 cases throughout the country and our area is no exception. The significant increase in cases is mostly felt to be due to the omicron mutation, which has essentially taken over the delta mutation.
But even though cases continue to increase, there has not been a simultaneous surge in hospitalizations and even death. That’s very good news!
This is what people have referred to decoupling or uncoupling. So the significant rise in cases has been decoupled or uncoupled from the smaller rise in hospitalizations and deaths. Now, I in no way want to minimize the impact that these mutations are having on our current healthcare system, especially our hospitals. It’s a serious problem.
With delta, we saw a simultaneous increase in hospitalizations and deaths as cases were going up. That does not appear to be the case with omicron. So we are not seeing the surge in hospitalizations and deaths we saw with delta, even though there are record breaking cases of omicron as compared to delta.
The omicron variant appears to be a situation where this virus is highly transmissible or contagious, but not as virulent as compared to delta. So I would like to explain the difference between contagiousness and virulence, since sometimes these terms tend to be confusing to a lot of people.
Contagiousness refers to the high transmissibility of the virus as we see with omicron. That means that the virus easily spreads and spreads fast.
Virulence on the other hand refers to the actual illness, bodily damage and even death caused by the virus.
So again, omicron is very contagious, but does not appear to as virulent which could lead to severe disease and death as we saw with delta. So again that is good news.
Now recently the CDC has given some updates that shortens the recommended period of time someone should remain in isolation or quarantine. And again I would like to go over the definitions of isolation and quarantine as they are often being use these days, but sometimes can be confusing.
Isolation refers to separating sick people with the virus from people who are not sick. So if you are sick with the virus, you should isolate.
Quarantine refers to separating people who are not sick but who have been exposed to people that are, and therefore at risk of becoming sick themselves.
So let us talk about isolation first…
If you test positive for COVID-19, the recommendation is to stay home for 5 days, regardless of whether you have been partially vaccinated, fully vaccinated, or unvaccinated.
According to current guidelines, a person that has isolated for 5 days, can take a rapid test at the end of the 5 days if they want to, but they do not have to.
So if you decide to get tested for COVID-19 at the end of the 5 days, and you test positive, you should continue to isolate until 10 days after symptoms started.
If you decide to get tested, and are negative, it is okay to leave isolation but you must wear a mask for 5 additional days.
And it is okay to travel after day 10.
Again testing at the end of the 5 days for a person in isolation is optional, and not required. It is my opinion that people in isolation should make every effort to get tested!
Now let's talk about quarantine…
If you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you will need to wear a mask around other people for 10 days. You should try and test on day 5 if possible. If you develop symptoms, you need to get a test and stay home (so back to isolation). This applies only to people that have completed the vaccination series as recommended, and especially if you have received the booster dose.
Now if you have been exposed to someone with COVID-19, and you have not completed the vaccination series as recommended or you are unvaccinated, it is recommended that you stay home for 5 days. After that, you should continue to wear a mask around others for 5 additional days. And you should again try to test on day 5 if possible. And again if you develop symptoms should get a test and stay home (isolation).
I know these guidelines can be very confusing, but it is important for you to understand what is going on. I would recommend that you go to the CDC website and review these guidelines at your convenience and at your own pace.
It is also important to know if you qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine booster and which one to get. Fortunately, the FDA has a great chart on this to help people navigate through their decisions. As always, please check with your healthcare provider as guidelines can and do change all the time.
I do want to mention a couple of antiviral medications that you will be hearing more about in the days and weeks to come.
The first is Paxlovid which some people are referring to as a "game changer". It appears to be the most promising option so far. Studies showed a significant reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among people who took this drug, compared to those who took placebo - sometimes referred as sugar pills. In other words placebo pills have no therapeutic value. The problem right now is that it will take several weeks or months for this drug to be widely available at the pharmacies. And they will need to be prescribed by a licensed healthcare provider.
Another medication, Molnupiravir, does not appear to be as effective, but more studies will have to be done. And there are probably more coming.
Now what about monoclonal antibody treatments?
Unfortunately, with the exception of one, called Sotrovimab, the current and widely available treatments are not very effective against omicron. And the one that I just mentioned (Sotrovimab) that is quite effective, is still not widely available yet.
I want to talk now a little bit about vaccination and boosting…
The data from South Africa where omicron had its start, demonstrated that vaccine effectiveness against omicron using the 2 doses of the messenger RNA vaccine (like the Pfizer vaccine) was about 35%. Not very good. But data also showed that a COVID-19 vaccine booster restored vaccine effectiveness against omicron to 75%! Now that’s very good!
So COVID-19 vaccinations have been shown to decrease the risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, and even death from COVID-19. And even better with the booster dose.
So the CDC strongly encourages COVID-19 vaccination for everyone 5 years and older and boosters for everyone 12 years and older. And these guidelines always seem to be changing, so please check with your healthcare provider for the most current recommendations.
And do not forget the 3W's.
- Wash your hands
- Watch your distance
- Wear a properly fitted facemask that covers your mouth and nose. This is especially important in large crowds, in small confined areas with poor ventilation
And one final word on our flu season...
Flu activity is still low across our nation but cases are steadily increasing.
Most flu infections have occurred among children and young adults ages 5 through 24 years old, but infections occurring among adults ages 25 years and older have been steadily increasing.
Hospitalizations for flu have also started to increase.
Flu season is just getting started so there is still time to get vaccinated. So please check with your healthcare provider or go to your local pharmacy that provides flu vaccines.
CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine.
Thank you. Stay safe and healthy.
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