Daily case positivity (the number of positive tests of all the test results reported not including in-home tests) is currently down to 9.6 %, which is high, but falling. The 14-day average is still 18.5%. The number of COVID hospitalizations remains high but is also falling. The death rate lags behind cases and hospitalizations and it is still rising. Guilford County continues to require masks in public spaces in an effort to protect hospitals from being further overwhelmed.

Vaccines are your best protection against serious COVID disease, hospitalization, and death and a full course of vaccination includes 2 doses for those 5-11 and a booster for those over 12 years of age. They also reduce the likelihood that you will transmit the virus to others. The FDA and CDC are waiting another month to consider Covid vaccination for children aged 6 months to 5 years.

Breakthrough infections are possible, even in vaccinated people, and can result in hospitalization. We urge the use of masks and social distancing indoors whenever you are exposed to those who are unvaccinated or those of unknown vaccination status, whether in private or public settings. Double masks are more effective than a single mask. Eating and singing together indoors are particularly high-risk activities. Now that testing is again more available, testing for the COVID antigen immediately before gathering may add some measure of assurance that someone is not unknowingly infected with COVID and thus capable of spreading the virus. Home antigen test kits are again available in some pharmacies and big box stores (eg, Abbott’s BinaxNow), to keep on hand for the times they are needed. Antigen (rapid) test kits can be ordered at no cost through covidtests.gov Please note that antigen tests typically do not become positive until 3-5 days after exposure and may miss some contagious individuals that a PCR test would identify in this early period; however, a negative antigen test 6 days after the most recent exposure is more reassuring. A positive antigen test, on the other hand, likely means someone has a contagious COVID infection, while PCR tests can remain positive after infection, even beyond the contagious period.

The next meeting of our COVID Medical Advisory Group will be on Tuesday March 1 at 1 p.m. Please contact Kat Rice, Jennifer Schaal, or Janie Foy if you have any questions for the group or requests for COVID-related guidance related to proposed activities.