Updates on COVID Vaccines, Masks, Tests, Treatments
CASES, TESTS, MASKS, VACCINES & BOOSTERS:
Lycoming and Clinton Counties are now at “high” COVID-19 status by both the CDC’s older and newer rating scales. The newer, less stringent rating scale called “community level” jumped from “low” to “high” as May 19. CDC recommends wearing masks indoors in public places and on public transportation when community level is high.
The White House launched a new one-stop website called covid.gov that connects people to vaccines, tests, treatments, masks and a nationwide test-to-treat locator.
The F.D.A. authorized Pfizer-BioNTech boosters for children ages 5 to 11.
As much as we want to be over COVID-19, new case numbers in the U.S. now total more than 100,000 per day, a 60% increase from two weeks ago, and hospitalizations continue to rise, showing an increase of 23% in the past 14 days. Sadly, Pennsylvania now only reports its case numbers weekly, on Thursdays. So, don’t be fooled when you see that a county in Pennsylvania has zero new cases on other days of the week. To view any county’s COVID-19 transmission status and vaccination numbers, use the COVID Data Tracker.
Free at-home-test kits are available from State Health Center, 1000 Commerce Park Dr., #109, Williamsport, PA 17701. It’s in Water Tower Square. The federal government is offering a third round of free Covid test kits by mail, this time with eight rapid antigen tests, to all American households on its COVIDtests.gov website.
BA.2, the dominant variant, now accounts for more than 85% of all new cases in the US. BA.2 has already begun to spawn more sub-variants and these grandchildren of the original Omicron variant are even more contagious than the extremely infectious BA.2.
Vaccinations and Boosters are FREE now, but that could change.
Get Vaxxed & Boosted.
• If you are at at high risk for severe illness, talk to your healthcare provider about whether you need to wear a mask and take other precautions
• Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines
• Get tested if you have symptoms. Here is what to do if you test positive.
Everyone aged 50+ and certain immunocompromised individuals can now get a second booster four months or more after their initial boosters.
Symptoms for the vaccinated are generally mild. Initial symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to those of a bad cold, with a runny nose, sneezing, headache and a sore throat. If you are experiencing cold-like symptoms, get tested.
River Valley Health & Dental is an official Test-to-Treat Center, providing free PCR testing with on-site treatment available to those who test positive. RVH&D is also distributing free test kits and N95 masks locally at 3 locations. Details, locations & pick-up times.
Every home in the US can order 2 sets of 4 free at-home coronavirus tests online at www.covidtests.gov/ or 1-800-232-0233 or TTY 1-888-720-7489. Medicare will cover the cost of at-home tests at pharmacies and healthcare providers.
The government is making 400 million nonsurgical N95 masks available, free of charge, at community health centers and retail pharmacies across the US. The CDC recommends N95 disposable respirators, which provide greater protection against the coronavirus than their cloth or surgical counterparts. Find Free Masks here.
High-quality masks, called N95 or KF94, that are fitted to cover nose, mouth, and chin completely without any gaps, will filter out 94 or 95% of aerosols containing the COVID virus.
VACCINES AND PREGNANCY:
Infants whose mothers received two doses of an mRNA coronavirus vaccine during pregnancy are less likely to be admitted to the hospital for Covid-19 in the first six months of life, According to a new study from the CDC.
The CDC issued an advisory urging pregnant individuals, those planning pregnancies, or are.currently breastfeeding to get vaccinated as soon as possible, The CDC went on to warn that there is an increased risk for adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes, including severe illness and death for infected pregnant and recently pregnant people, plus heightened risk of preterm and stillbirths for the infants.The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM), the two leading organizations representing specialists in obstetric care, recommend that all pregnant individuals be vaccinated against COVID-19.
VACCINES FOR CHILDREN:
The FDA and CDC authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in children 5 to 11. Younger children will receive one-third of the dose authorized for those 12 and older, delivered with smaller needles and stored in smaller vials to avoid mix-ups with adult doses. Like older kids and adults, young children will return three weeks after the first dose for a second shot.About 28 million children in the group will be eligible to receive one-third of the adult dose, with two injections three weeks apart. Parents can call their pediatricians, or go to Vaccines.gov to find locations offering the children’s COVID vaccine.
Local cases include children and adolescents. None of the three hospitals in Lycoming County, has a pediatric ICU (so no pediatric mechanical ventilation will be possible locally), and only UPMC/Williamsport has a small inpatient pediatrics unit where children and adolescents can be treated. Youngsters requiring critical care will need to be transferred elsewhere.
VACCINES AND BOOSTER FACTS:
The FDA granted full regulatory approval for the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines. The best protection against COVID-19 is to be vaccinated and boosted and to wear a properly fitted, high quality mask when in public indoor spaces. When someone is fully vaccinated, that person is 5 times less likely to become COVID-positive, 12 times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, and 11 times less likely to die.
Boosters provide up to seven times more antibody protection than what folks with normal immune systems typically have five months after their second mRNA shot.
The FDA approved Pfizer booster shots for 5-15 year olds and some immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11. Boosters are recommended for everyone 5 or older who received the Pfizer vaccine at least 5 months ago, or the Moderna vaccine at least 6 months ago, or the J&J vaccine at least 2 months ago.
The FDA approved Pfizer and Merck COVID pills for high-risk patients 12 and older to defend against severe illness. The pill is not a substitute for vaccination. 97% of people hospitalized and 99% of people dying of COVID are unvaccinated. People who are substantially immunocompromised can receive long-lasting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) shots of the monoclonal antibody called Evusheld. Locally, Geisinger Medical Center in Danville administers it to eligible immunocompromised people.
Help stop the spread of COVID by getting vaccinated, boosted and wearing a high-quality mask over nose and mouth. Information for every county in the U.S. may be found on the CDC’s COVID-19 virus tracker website.
The CDC shortened the recommended time for isolation from 10 days for people with COVID to 5 days, if asymptomatic, followed by 5 days of wearing a mask when around others. The change is motivated by science demonstrating that the majority of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) transmission occurs early in the illness, usually in the 1-2 days before onset of symptoms and the 2-3 days after. People who test positive should isolate for 5 days and, if asymptomatic at that time, they may leave isolation if they can continue to mask for 5 days. The CDC also recommended Moderna and Pfizer vaccines over J&J.
Mobile vaccination clinics at your organization, workplace, or faith community site can be set up with River Valley Health & Dental.
Walk-in Vaccinations are available at River Valley Health and Dental Center and Rite Aid, Wegmans, and CVS pharmacies. Discount coupons given at Rite Aid & CVS.
Transportation: Free, Pre-scheduled Transportation to COVID vaccine appointments is available from River Valley Transit, Lyft. and Uber. STEP and Rabbit Transit are providing free transportation to COVID vaccination appointments for people ages 60+ and for everyone on Medical Assistance.
Let’s end COVID! PODCAST:
Listen to Keeping our Community Safe and Open, our second podcast episode.