Each week, we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you’d like us to consider for a future post, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: “Weekly Coronavirus Questions.” See an archive of our FAQs here.
We’ve been answering coronavirus questions from our audience for over a year, but this past week, I had some questions of my own. While on vacation with my family, I encountered four tricky COVID-19 situations. I really wanted an expert’s advice.
So I interviewed three COVID-19 specialists: Charlotte Baker, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Virginia Tech; Abraar Karan, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford University; and Jill Weatherhead, an assistant professor of adult and pediatric infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. Here’s what they had to say about my concerns.
What if you’re exposed to someone who has COVID-19 — directly or one step removed?
While we were on vacation, an unvaccinated child who’d tested negative for the coronavirus a few days earlier came to an outdoor gathering. He wasn’t feeling so great. That night, he became ill and tested positive for the coronavirus.
My two adult children, who attended the gathering, were directly exposed, albeit briefly. My wife and I did not attend the event but hung out with our kids in a hotel room for a couple of hours immediately after the gathering. None of us were wearing masks.
We are all fully vaccinated. But we had so many questions! Should our kids quarantine and then get tested? And what about us? We figured we should avoid seeing our kids until their status is known … but were we at any risk of coming down with COVID-19?
All three experts said our children were at low risk of contracting COVID-19 because of their vaccine status and because the event was outdoors, where airflow does a good job dispersing pathogens. And they were only in close proximity with the little boy for a maximum of 10 minutes or so.
Yet the risk is not zero.
The experts’ recommendations: My kids should mask up when they are in public settings, indoors and outdoors, for three to five days in case they were infected and contagious. They should monitor for any potential COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, chills or sniffles. After that time period, they should get a coronavirus test. By that time, there’d be enough viral load for a test to pick up any possible infection.
The experts say it’s best to go to a health provider for a PCR test, which detects genetic material of the virus and thus provides more accurate results than the at-home antigen tests, which assess viral load.
One of my children was planning to fly home on Monday, two days after the exposure. The experts said that was OK given a) they were vaccinated and b) they’d wear a mask.
And what about my wife and me?
Karan, the doctor at Stanford, says that even if our children were infected at the gathering, the virus takes a couple of days to incubate before it can be transmitted. So we were basically in the clear. But out of an abundance of caution, we masked up in all public settings (which we do anyway because of our concern about breakthrough infections).
Our children waited three days and got tested. The results: negative! That gave my wife and me additional reassurance that we had no worries from the incident, so we could resume contact.
But what if our children were not vaccinated? Then it would have been a different story. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an unvaccinated person — whose chances of getting infected and thus being contagious are greater than those who are vaccinated — should quarantine at home for 14 days after an exposure.
What should you say if you’re in an elevator and two maskless people enter at the next stop?
There were other moments of concern during our stay that had nothing to do with the little boy who had COVID-19. We were staying at a hotel. My wife and I got on an elevator, which had a sign on the door stating: “Guests should wear face coverings in the elevator.”
We had on masks. Two women without masks got on and eyed my mask.
“Should I put on a mask?” one asked.
“Well, if you want to, you can,” her friend replied.
Neither of them wanted to do so.
I didn’t say anything. And got off at the next elevator stop.
I wondered: Should I have spoken up?
Karan notes that in a fleeting elevator contact, an individual with a good mask (an N95 or KN95, for example, and not a thin cloth mask) would be unlikely to become either infected or spread the coronavirus.
You also have to ask yourself, he says: “Do I think saying something is going to get them to put a mask on?”
But there are other perspectives. Baker, the epidemiologist at Virginia Tech, has a medical condition that puts her at higher risk of getting infected and of severe disease. She says she would have either put in a polite request — “Please ma’am, could you put your mask on?” — or left the elevator at the next stop.
If you’re uncomfortable in an elevator for any reason – unmasked people, too crowded — “you could always get off and take the stairs,” adds Weatherhead, the assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine.
There’s another issue to consider besides a personal concern about the odds of catching COVID-19. “This is a community-based virus,” Weatherhead says. “Unless everybody has buy-in [regarding protective measures], really nobody’s going to be safe. Everybody has to do their part.”
Which brings me to my next situation. …
If all the staff in a hotel are masked, should I mask up, too?
As I walked down the hallways of the hotel, I was struck by a noticeable mask fact. The housekeepers and other employees walking the halls were all masked. The guests by and large were not.
Now it is true that these hotel employees are in contact with a greater number of individuals in the course of their day than guests walking to their rooms.
And maybe these unmasked guests are all vaccinated.
But maybe some of the employees are not yet vaccinated. “There’s a lot of privilege in being able to get vaccinated,” Karan notes. For one thing, “you have to be able to take time off.”
And this hotel is in a state where the virus is currently surging and the vaccination rate is below 50%.
So what’s the advice? “The idea of masks is they are providing some protection for the [people who are wearing them] and protection for the guests in that hotel or restaurant,” Weatherhead says. And if you’re in an area with high rates of COVID-19, “Having everybody masking is really important — and not just for service staff.”
What do I say to someone who asks me why I’m wearing my mask?
My wife and I were dining at a restaurant with outdoor seating. At a table about 12 feet away sat two gentlemen. One of them noted that my wife and I were both wearing green.
We smiled. True!
Then he asked, “Do you really think you need to wear that mask outdoors?”
I didn’t get to answer — a restaurant staffer escorted the two men to a different part of the outdoor dining area because they were smoking in a nonsmoking zone.
So what might I have said?
Karan says first of all, it would be fine for my wife and me to be unmasked at the outdoor restaurant with no nearby diners. We’d have to take off our masks anyway once our food and drinks arrived.
But there’s also an argument for masks. He suggests I could have answered: “When you have high rates of transmission of disease with high levels of spread, it makes sense to wear a mask. It can reduce the chance you’ll get exposed to the virus or transmit it to others like kids or unvaccinated people.”
Baker notes, “If you’re going to partake in public activities – [going to] shops, restaurants, bars – you have to do a good job of being a good steward, which is being vaccinated, putting on your mask. That shows you’re a willing participant in society to help other people.”
And make sure it’s a good quality mask, she says: “I see a people with bedazzled masks and I’m like, ‘You’re putting holes in it!’ “
Then again, perhaps a case of COVID-19 is in everyone’s future. “The reality is you will be exposed to the virus,” Karan says. “Nobody is going to avoid exposure forever.” That is problematic for those at high risk of severe disease – and he says he is seeing an increase in breakthrough cases among older people and the immunocompromised that require hospitalization. But if you’re vaccinated, “you’ll never know — or may have mild symptoms so you think you just had a cold.”
US President Joe Biden urges Covid-19 booster shots for those now eligible – Times of India
WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Friday urged those now eligible for Covid-19 booster shots to get the added protection a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the doses for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.
Opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against Covid-19, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday. Biden praised the decision and aimed to set aside any unease about the vaccination, saying that he would get his own booster soon.
“It’s hard to acknowledge I’m over 65, but I’ll be getting my booster shot,” Biden said. “It’s a bear, isn’t it?”
The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot.
However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.
The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health-care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus. But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with an FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week. The category she included covers people who live in institutional settings that increase their risk of exposure, such as prisons or homeless shelters, as well as health care workers.
An administration official said the White House did not have input in Walensky’s decision nor was given a heads-up. Biden on Friday said “the decision is left to the scientists and the doctors. That’s what happened here.”
The panel had offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one. But the advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy front-line health care workers who aren’t at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.
The panel voted 9 to 6 to reject that proposal. Walensky decided to disregard the advisory committee’s counsel, issuing a statement saying she had restored the recommendation.
“As CDC Director, it is my job to recognize where our actions can have the greatest impact,” Walensky said late Thursday night. “At CDC, we are tasked with analyzing complex, often imperfect data to make concrete recommendations that optimize health. In a pandemic, even with uncertainty, we must take actions that we anticipate will do the greatest good.”
It’s rare for a CDC director to overrule the panel recommendation; experts said it has only happened once this century.
Experts say getting the unvaccinated their first shots remains the top priority, and the panel wrestled with whether the booster debate was distracting from that goal. Biden stressed that the administration’s focus remained on getting people to get their first shots and that he intended to keep rolling out “vaccination requirements wherever I can.”
“The refusal to get vaccinated have cost all of us,” the president said. “It is not hyperbole: it is literally a tragedy. Don’t let it be your tragedy.”
All three of the Covid-19 vaccines used in the US are still highly protective against severe illness, hospitalization and death, even with the spread of the extra-contagious delta variant. But only about 182 million Americans are fully vaccinated, or just 55% of the population.
“We can give boosters to people, but that’s not really the answer to this pandemic,” said Dr. Helen Keipp Talbot of Vanderbilt University. “Hospitals are full because people are not vaccinated. We are declining care to people who deserve care because we are full of unvaccinated Covid-positive patients.”
Thursday’s decision represented a dramatic scaling back of the Biden administration plan announced last month to dispense boosters to nearly everyone to shore up their protection. Late Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration, like the CDC panel, signed off on Pfizer boosters for a much narrower slice of the population than the White House envisioned.
The booster plan marks an important shift in the nation’s vaccination drive. Britain and Israel are already giving a third round of shots over strong objections from the World Health Organization that poor countries don’t have enough for their initial doses.
Walensky opened Thursday’s meeting by stressing that vaccinating the unvaccinated remains the top goal “here in America and around the world.”
Walensky acknowledged that the data on who really needs a booster right away “are not perfect.” “Yet collectively they form a picture for us,” she said, “and they are what we have in this moment to make a decision about the next stage in this pandemic.”
The CDC panel stressed that its recommendations will be changed if new evidence shows more people need a booster.
The CDC advisers expressed concern over the millions of Americans who received Moderna or Johnson & Johnson shots early in the vaccine rollout. The government still hasn’t considered boosters for those brands and has no data on whether it is safe or effective to mix-and-match and give those people a Pfizer shot.
“I just don’t understand how later this afternoon we can say to people 65 and older, ‘You’re at risk for severe illness and death, but only half of you can protect yourselves right now,’” said Dr. Sarah Long of Drexel University.
About 26 million Americans got their last Pfizer dose at least six months ago, about half of whom are 65 or older. It’s not clear how many more would meet the CDC panel’s booster qualifications.
CDC data show the vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness for all ages, but there is a slight drop among the oldest adults. And immunity against milder infection appears to be waning months after people’s initial immunization.
For most people, if you’re not in a group recommended for a booster, “it’s really because we think you’re well-protected,” said Dr. Matthew Daley of Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
Public health experts not involved in Thursday’s decision said it is unlikely people seeking third doses at a drugstore or other site will be required to prove they qualify.
Even with the introduction of boosters, someone who has gotten just the first two doses would still be considered fully vaccinated, according to the CDC’s Dr. Kathleen Dooling. That is an important question to people in parts of the country where you need to show proof of vaccination to eat in a restaurant or enter other places of business.
Among people who stand to benefit from a booster, there are few risks, the CDC concluded. Serious side effects from the first two Pfizer doses are exceedingly rare, including heart inflammation that sometimes occurs in younger men. Data from Israel, which has given nearly 3 million people — mostly 60 and older — a third Pfizer dose, has uncovered no red flags.
The U.S. has already authorized third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for certain people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients and transplant recipients. Other Americans, healthy or not, have managed to get boosters, in some cases simply by asking.
B.C. records seven COVID-related deaths, 80% of those eligible fully vaccinated – News 1130
VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Seven more British Columbians have died due to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, as Fraser Health once again recorded the most new cases in the province.
A total of 743 new infections were recorded on Friday, including 292 in Fraser Health and 177 in Interior Health. Vancouver Coastal Health recorded 111 cases and Northern Health saw 106. Island health recorded the remaining 57 cases.
Four of the latest deaths were within the Fraser Health Authority, while Interior Health, Northern Health, and Island Health recorded one each.
The Fraser Health region also has the most active cases, with 2,029 of the 5,979 province-wide.
Related articles: Province begins crack-down on businesses that ignore vaccine card enforcement
The province says 319 COVID-19 patients are in the hospital, including 149 in the ICU.
Earlier Friday, the health ministry issued a statement, confirming all COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized are counted in the daily totals once they enter the facility, but are removed from the total even if they remain hospitalized but are no longer infectious.
“Once a patient in critical care is no longer infectious with COVID-19, the patient is removed from daily critical-care totals. However, for planning purposes, these patients are still included in the overall COVID-19 counts for the hospital,” the ministry added in a statement.
It says some patients need to stay in the hospital for “difficulties with other health conditions … that are no longer directly tied to COVID-19,” or because they may have caught the virus while in the hospital and still need care for the original issue they were admitted for.
“This means some patients who entered hospital or critical care as a COVID-19 patient may no longer be counted as COVID-19 patients once they are no longer infectious, even though they remain in hospital.”
It says as of Sept. 21, 2021, there were 152 patients in B.C. hospitals in that category. “Discontinued isolation,” which is usually over after 10 days if the patient doesn’t have a fever and their symptoms are improving.
B.C. reaches 80% mark for those with two vaccine doses
In the past day, 7,858 British Columbians aged 12 and up received their second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, bringing the total to an even 80 per cent. Another 6,778 people received their first dose bringing that percentage up to 87.5.
According to the province, people not fully vaccinated accounted for 75 per cent of cases between Sept. 16 and Sept. 22. It also says they accounted for 81.9 per cent of hospitalizations between Sept. 9 and Sept. 22.
There are 21 active outbreaks at health-care facilities:
Long-term care: Northcrest Care Centre, Westminster House, Menno Terrace East (Fraser Health), Arbutus Care Centre, Louis Brier Home and Hospital (Vancouver Coastal Health), Village at Mill Creek – second floor, Cottonwoods Care Centre, Spring Valley Care Centre, Kamloops Seniors Village, Hillside Village, The Hamlets at Westsyde, Joseph Creek Care Village, Overlander (Interior Health), Jubilee Lodge (Northern Health), and Victoria Chinatown Care Centre (Island Health)
Acute care: Chilliwack General Hospital (Fraser Health) and Fort St. John Hospital (Northern Health)
Assisted or independent living: Sunset Manor (Fraser Health), David Lloyd Jones, Sun Pointe Village, and Hardy View Lodge (Interior Health)
Rodents on the rise: How to avoid an infestation this fall
Rodents have become a larger problem for Canadian homeowners since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pests that lived near bars and restaurants moved into residential neighbourhoods during lockdowns, spreading out their colonies and causing trouble.
With colder weather just around the corner, these rodents are likely to break into people’s homes. Invasions are especially common in the fall and winter when pests seek a warmer place to stay. Mice sneak in via the holes in the wall, and rats dig underground and into the basement.
While many homeowners deal with mice every year, it is important that they be kept out. Rodents are potential carriers of disease, and they will damage the home’s interior. The following tips, when used together, will help ensure that your home is pest-free this winter.
Block Entry Points
Rodents come from outside. While it may seem like they appear out of thin air, rodents find openings in the outer walls of the home and sneak their way inside. Wall vents, cracked window frames, and doors that have been left open are often to blame.
Examine your home’s exterior very carefully and use caulking or mesh to block the openings you find. Check between the layers of your siding, underneath your deck, and along the edges of your soffits for openings of 5mm or more. Put weatherstripping on the bottoms of your doors and seal cracks in the foundation with epoxy.
If you’re not sure you got them all, contact a mice exterminator for an inspection and pest-proofing service. Professionals offer complete pest-proofing in addition to pest control. They can find the entry points you missed and close them for you. If you know that there are rats in your neighbourhood, a professional can protect your foundation by digging a trench and attaching a mesh to its sides. This will prevent rats from digging into the basement.
Do Some Fall Cleaning
Spring isn’t the only time of year for cleaning. Mice, rats, ants, and other pests can smell the food you keep, and they will want their share. Deep clean the kitchen this fall and maintain it to keep pests out when it gets cold. Vacuum everywhere and clean the floors beneath your major appliances. Keep surfaces clean and store food in airtight containers to reduce odours. Never leave dirty dishes out overnight and use lidded garbage cans.
In addition to food, pests love clutter. Rodents like to hide in quiet, cluttered areas, like messy basements and storage rooms. This way, they can hide as they move from place to place. Get organized this fall and get rid of what you don’t need. Move objects off the floor and create space so there is nowhere for pests to hide.
Tidy up the Yard
Because rodents love food and clutter, it is important that you maintain the yard, as well. Trim back the vines, bushes, and plants that grow around the walls of the home to reduce the number of potential hiding spots. Move patio furniture and firewood away from the sides of the home, as well. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves, and bag all your organic materials for collection.
Pest control experts recommend getting rid of the bird feeder because it attracts rodents. While it is unfortunate, bird feeders are magnets of animal activity. Consider getting rid of it when the temperature cools or switch to one that hangs far away. Harvest your apples and home-grown produce on time, and secure your garbage cans with bungee cords or tight locks.
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