Daily case positivity (the number of positive tests of all the test results reported not including in-home tests) has decreased slightly in the last week to 6.9 %, still higher than the previously used statewide goal though much less than the omicron peak. The 14 day average case positivity for Guilford County is about the same, 7.7 %. The number of COVID hospitalizations remains high but falling. Guilford County has lifted it’s mask requirement for public buildings and businesses and Guilford County Schools has made masks optional. 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 “high risk”. Friends are therefore encouraged to continue using masking, distancing and ventilation to protect themselves in public spaces.
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.
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 1:00 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.
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….”