Daily case positivity (the number of positive tests of all the test results reported not including in-home tests) for the state of NC has stabilized in the last week to 2.6 %, the same as the 14-day average case positivity for Guilford County.  The number of COVID hospitalizations has fallen /stabilized at a much lower number (619 in the state, 39 at Cone Hospital as of this morning) than at the beginning of February. ICU hospitalizations have stabilized as a lower number.   Guilford County lifted its mask requirement for public buildings and businesses and Guilford County Schools made masks optional a few weeks ago.  Masks are still required on buses.  The new CDC guidelines recommend strategies to mitigate COVID spread based on the level of severe disease and potential for significant impact on the healthcare system on a county wide basis. This is depicted on a color-coded map of the United States and updated weekly. It can be accessed at CDC.gov or (800-CDC-INFO). As of this morning our county is labeled as “low risk.” Friends, particularly those at higher risk themselves or with household members who are at higher risk (eg, immunocompromised, pregnant, above the age of 65, or unvaccinated) are still encouraged to continue using masking, distancing, and ventilation to protect themselves in public spaces. See below for considerations specific to children.

A new  COVID variant “BA.2” has been in news reports widely in the last week. Cases are rising  quickly in Europe due to this variant (especially the U.K.) and have been documented to be rising also in the US. CDC estimates of the predominance of the variant ranged from 23-39% of the cases studied in the northeast as of 3/18/22. So far the variant appears to cause  no more severe symptoms than the omicron variant but it seems to be  more contagious. CDC officials are optimistic that our current vaccines will continue to protect against this variant.

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 few weeks for more data to consider Covid vaccination for children aged 6 months to 5 years. The definition of being fully vaccinated in NC now includes having booster doses, so in the NCHHS dashboard this morning the fully vaccinated rate for NC is now only 50% of the total population.

The next meeting of our COVID Medical Advisory Group will be on Tuesday March 29 at 1:00 pm.  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.  We will be reviewing the building use recommendations at this meeting.

American Academy of Pediatrics Offers New Masking Recommendations for Families Following Updated CDC Guidance (March 1, 2022) Excerpts:

AAP advises families to consider the following factors in making [the] decision [about whether to continue masking]:

  • If their child is between ages 2 and 5 and currently ineligible for COVID-19 vaccine
  • If their child is immunocompromised and may not have a protective immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine, or is at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness
  • If their child is not immunized
  • If other members of their family are at higher risk of severe disease or are not immunized
  • If they live in a community with “high” COVID-19 transmission

These factors may lead adults and children to continue wearing face masks in public indoor settings, including schools, even if not required. According to the AAP, children, adolescents, and teachers who choose to continue wearing face masks in school settings should be supported in their decision to do so. “While we are disappointed by new data that may suggest waning efficacy of the vaccine in preventing mild infection with the Omicron variant in children ages 5 to 11, the vaccine is effective in protecting children from severe illness and hospitalization, and pediatricians still recommend every eligible child receive the vaccine….”