The COVID Advisory Group last met 11/8/21, and protocols for New Garden Friends Meeting will continue mostly the same through the Holiday season. Specifically, we will continue semi-programmed Meeting for Worship (MFW) outdoors and/or by Zoom and Facebook Live, now back to 11 am. Friends will be notified if weather does not permit in-person outdoor worship. Un-programmed MFW may take place outdoors or indoors, in accordance with current masking and distancing protocols.  Other small group meetings indoors at the Meeting House may take place by reservation (email: [email protected]).   We have now started  outdoor singing at MFW with appropriate distancing and continuation of masking. Our next meeting of the COVID Medical Advisory Group will be December 6, 2021, so if you have any COVID questions or concerns that you would like addressed please contact Janie Foy, Jennifer Schaal, or Kat Rice prior to that meeting.

The NC Dashboard managed by the NC department of Health shows the continuation of lower case numbers of COVID and hospitalizations this week. Nationally there are some trends towards increasing cases, particularly where cases have recently been low. Here in NC counties in the western part of the state are starting to have higher case rates. The COVID test positive rate was 6.3% this week in NC. Statewide, 27 % of persons hospitalized with COVID are in ICU beds. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that as of 11/18/21 children represented 25.1% of total cases nationwide and 2-4% of hospitalizations.

The NC total population, fully vaccinated rate, is stable this week at 56%. Nationwide the fully vaccinated rate of children ages 12-17 is reported to be stable at 50%, but as of 11/17/21 60% of 12–17-year-olds had received at least one dose of vaccine.

The City of Greensboro continues to mandate masks indoors at city facilities, schools, and on federal transportation regardless of vaccination status, however the Guilford County Board of Commissioners lifted the county wide mask mandate as of last week(leaving it up to individual businesses). School districts continue to decide monthly whether to continue mask mandates.

Vaccination continues to be the best way to protect against COVID infections.  For those who completed the initial series of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines at least 6 months ago, the CDC has changed the recommendation to say that all adults 50 years and older should obtain a booster and those 18 years and older  may obtain a booster . Those who live in long-term care settings, who have underlying medical conditions (including mental health conditions ), who work in high-risk settings, and who live in high-risk settings are  noted to be at higher risk  for complications from COVID.  All persons ages 18 and above who initially received the J&J vaccine are recommended to get a booster after an interval of at least 60 days since the first vaccine.  Persons are also now allowed to get booster doses of a different vaccine than initially given. Vaccinations are proceeding now for children ages 5-11since  approved by both the FDA and CDC and are  being given at various community clinics ,pharmacies  and at some pediatrician offices. Vaccinations are continuing to be shown effective in decreasing illness and hospitalization in persons who are getting breakthrough cases of COVID after vaccination. Masking continues to be a good option to increase safety in moderate or large groups outdoors and in indoor public settings. A recently reported meta analysis (using results from multiple studies, in this case about 30 different studies ) showed a risk reduction of COVID transmission of 53% using masking alone. Given the continuation of  spread of COVID in our county, and now with the holidays driving more interactions in our communities , be sure to be tested if you have had a significant exposure or develop COVID symptoms. Those with conditions weakening their immune systems are encouraged not to relax their vigilance in avoiding infections, even if vaccinated. See the companion article about reducing risk of COVID transmission in your family Holiday Get together elsewhere in the newsletter.

Vaccine options for initial vaccine or for boosters remain much the same as in the last few months. They are still available through the Cone and Healthy Guilford web sites. They are requesting that appointments be made, but a few walk-in appointments are available at community vaccination clinics (including  a few  Saturday and Sundays at the Greensboro Coliseum), in home for those who are unable to attend a vaccination site, in pharmacies, and in some doctors’ offices. You must provide your previous vaccination dates to receive a booster.

Don’t forget to also obtain your Flu shot!

NGFM COVID Medical Advisory Group