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As normalcy returns here in Southern California since the pandemic hit in March of 2020, we should continue to stay informed and up to date with COVID-19 news and changes.

Every outing, gathering, and activity will always carry some level of risk. Keeping in mind these guidelines would be important to continue remaining safe while going about our usual daily lives.

As of 11/2/2022 – will be updated periodically (initial publish date: 03.05.2020)
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Latest news

  • FDA announced Emergency Use Approval for the Novavax Vaccine. Read here.
  • CDC announced updated guidelines surrounding COVID-19, easing some of the prior restrictions. Read here.
  • The federal program that provides free COVID tests will end on September 2, 2022. Look at the test section
  • Second Boosters are approved for certain individuals. Read here for more.

Staying Safe

Every outing, gathering, and activity will always carry some level of risk. It is important to remain safe while going about our usual daily lives. Keep in mind the following to stay safe while going out:

  • Vaccine and Mask Requirement – Confirm with businesses or events about             vaccination and masking requirements before going.
    • While requirements may be lifted, it is okay to continue wearing a well fitted mask.
  • Honoring different etiquettes – Some people may not be comfortable with hugging or handshakes; honor what is comfortable for others.
  • Ok to Say No – It is okay to say no if you are uncomfortable gathering.
    • Do not feel obligated to say yes to invitations to events or outings. If you feel uncomfortable going out, meeting with people, or scheduling appointments, it is okay to say no.
    • Read more about how it’s ok to say no.
  • Assess before going out – Keep in mind:
    • 1. Setting – Outdoor activities carry less risk than indoor ones.
    • 2. Proximity – Staying physically distant lowers your risk of infection compared to close contact with others.
    • 3. Duration – The more time you spend in contact with people, the greater your risk.

The CDC shares the following tips to protect yourself and others (CDC, 2021b):

  • Stay Up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccines – This significantly lowers the risk of getting very sick, being hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19.
    • Look for a nearby place where you can get vaccinated here.
  • Get Tested for COVID-19 if needed – Use home self-tests or go to testing centers if you observe any symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Additional Prevention Measures
    • Wearing a well-fitting mask and keeping distance from others can be additional forms of protection for indoor crowded spaces. Improving ventilation, such as opening windows, can also lower the risk of the virus spreading.
  • Other basic hygiene
    • Wash your hands often (20 seconds)
    • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
    • Use hand sanitizers that contains at least 60% alcohol
    • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or cough or sneeze into your elbow.
    • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

COVID Vaccines

covid vaccine

Since December 11, 2020, several vaccines have been granted Emergency Use Approval (EUA) or full FDA approval:

  • Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (FDA approved 8/23/21 for 16+, then EUA updated for 12+ on 5/10/21). (2-dose vaccine)
  • Moderna COVID-19 vaccine (FDA approved 1/31/22 for 18+) (2-dose vaccine)
  • Janssen COVID-19 vaccine (Johnson and Johnson; initially granted EUA 2/27/21 for 18+) (1 dose vaccine)
  • Novavax COVID-19 vaccine (granted EUA 3/13/22 for 18+) (2-dose vaccine)

The EUA allows faster access to medical products during a health emergency when no other approved options are available (FDA, 2022). FDA approval means that the public can be very confident that the vaccine meets the high standards for safety and effectiveness (FDA, 2020a). The Pfizer vaccine is still available through EUA for children 5-12 years old.

Booster Shots

On November 19, 2021, FDA and CDC both approved booster shots for Pfizer and Moderna for all individuals over the age of 18 and has been at least 6 months after the second dose.

CDC and FDA authorized a second booster shot for certain individuals. Read more here.

The FDA granted EUA for Moderna and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for use as a single booster dose at least two months following primary or booster vaccination (FDA, 2022). The Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for individuals 18 years and older. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, Bivalent, is authorized for individuals 12 years and older. These bivalent vaccines protect against the original strain of COVID as well as the current BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the omicron variant.

Vaccine Resources by County

For more information on the COVID-19 vaccine in your county, view the links below.

vaccine needle
coffee cup surrounded by tissues

What is COVID-19?

COVID-19 is an infectious disease that spreads easily and rapidly by person-to-person transmission. Symptoms of COVID-19 have ranged from mild to severe and can be similar to the symptoms of the common cold and flu. As of August 11, 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported the symptoms for the virus include (CDC, 2022):

Symptoms

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fatigue
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of the virus, get tested and stay home. Additionally, the CDC is encouraging individuals to be aware of emergency warning signs including difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion, or bluish lips/face. Please seek medical help immediately if you are experiencing these symptoms.

Testing for the Virus

Testing is now more widely available at local pharmacies as well as the availability of at-home tests. Read more about COVID-19 testing here.

Testing in California – In the state of California, there are multiple testing locations now available. California residents to search for nearby test centers here.

Testing in Los Angeles County (COVID-19: Testing).
Free COVID-19 testing is available to LA County residents. In addition to tests available at local pharmacies, LA County provides other testing options such as a home test collection program and test pick-up program.

Testing in Orange County (COVID-19 Testing)
The Orange County Health Care Agency website provides different options for testing. Visit their website here.

Testing in Ventura County (COVID-19 Health Care)
Testing in Ventura County are for essential workers and residents who have symptoms of the virus or have been exposed to someone with it. The test is free, and you do not need to have health insurance or a doctor’s referral. Those with symptoms or have had known exposure to someone with COVID-19, call OptumServe at 888.634.1123 or visit https://lhi.care/covidtesting. Residents can also call the County of Ventura Testing Hotline at 805.652.7660

covid swab test
covid at home test

Costs

  • Costs for COVID-19 tests may vary based on the laboratory the test is sent to, geographic location, and insurance provider. Currently, insurance providers must cover up to eight free tests per plan member per month (Kritz, 2022).
  • Medicare – Medicare covers up to eight over-the-counter COVID-19 tests each month (Medicare, 2022). Visit the Medicare COVID-19 page for more information.
  • Uninsured (US. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021)- Free or low-cost options may still be available for those without insurance.
    • Libraries and community health centers may offer free home test kits.
    • The federal locator identifies testing sites and pharmacies that offer low-or no-cost testing.

Treatment

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval and EUA for a number of treatments that can be used by individuals who are more likely to get very sick from COVID-19. These treatments include antiviral treatments as well as monoclonal antibody treatments (FDA, 2021b). More recently, oral treatments for COVID-19 have received EUA and may be available at local pharmacies. More information about this treatment option is below.

EUA Oral Treatments

In December 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization (EUA) for two oral antiviral treatments of COVID-19. These post-infection treatments help lower the risk of hospitalization and death.

  • Paxlovoid is used for the treatment of mild or moderate COVID-19 in adults and children 12 years or older, weighing at least 88 pounds who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are at high risk of severe illness (FDA, 2021e). Paxlovid is administered as three tablets taken together orally twice a day for five days, for a total of 30 tablets.
  • Molnupiravir is used for the treatment of mild or moderate COVID-19 in adults 18 years or older (FDA, 2021f). Molnupiravir is administered as four capsules taken orally every 12 hours for five days, for a total of 40 capsules. Molnupiravir is limited to situations where other FDA-authorized treatments for COVID-19 are inaccessible or are not clinically appropriate and will be a useful treatment option for some patients at high risk for severe illness.

Both of these treatments are not authorized for official approval. These treatments are not substitutes for COVID-19 vaccines. The best protection against COVID-19 is vaccination and booster shots six months after the second vaccination.

Masks

three face masks hanging

CDC updated their masking recommendations on September 9, 2022. The prevention measures may differ depending on the level of spread in your local community. You may be able to check the level of spread for various counties here.

Those who are older, or have certain medical conditions, may have an increased risk for COVID-19. Those who are in this category should consult with their healthcare provider if they need a mask or respirator for certain community spread levels.

For the state of California, masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status for the following settings (CDPH, 2022a):

  • Healthcare settings
  • Long term care settings and adult/senior care facilities

Mask wearing for all individuals for in indoor public settings and businesses will be dependent on the CDC community level spread (CDPH, 2022a).

For local rules and regulations, view here:

Recommended Masks (CDC 2021e).

Cloth, disposable or N95, KN95 and other masks that meet a certain standard certified by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, are all valid masks to use. Masks could also be used by using two layers (one cloth, one disposable) as well.

CDC recommends using masks with the best fit, protection, and comfort. The important point is to have masks tightly around your nose and mouth and adjust ear loops to reduce any gaps.
Make sure that the masks are official and not counterfeit. Additionally, make sure the disposable masks are disposed after a day of use, or when it’s wet or dirty.

For details, visit the CDC website here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html

airplane travel with mask

Traveling

  • If you are traveling keep in mind the following:
    • Stay up to date on vaccination for COVID-19.
    • Consider testing before traveling
    • Check for community spread level at your destination, and for any possible local restrictions that may exist
    • If you are at-risk for severe COVID-19, take extra precautions to ensure safety. Consult with your health care provider what extra layer of protection you can consider.
  • For international travel, look at CDC’s guidelines here about before, during and after travel.
  • For domestic travel, look at CDC’s guidelines here about travel guidelines, and level of spread.

Government Resources and Health Orders

Make sure to stay up-to-date on your area’s public health policies and health officer orders.

For LA County’s latest public health order: http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/coronavirus/reopening-la.htm#orders
For Orange County’s latest public health order: https://occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/article/oc-health-officers-orders-recommendations
For Ventura County’s latest public health order: https://www.venturacountyrecovers.org/

Here are some websites that may be helpful:

Other Articles Written By Keiro on COVID-19

Resources

California Department of Public Health. (2022). Get the Most out of Masking. Retrieved from https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Get-the-Most-out-of-Masking.aspx

California Department of Public Health. (2021a). Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings. Retrieved from: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx

California Department of Public Health. (2021b).  Vaccine Record Guidelines & Standards. Retrieved from: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Vaccine-Record-Guidelines-Standards.aspx

CDC. (2021a). When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html

CDC. (2021b). Protecting Yourself. Retrieved from  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html

CDC. (2021c). Joint Statement from HHS Public Health and Medical Experts on COVID-19 Booster Shots. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s0818-covid-19-booster-shots.html

CDC. (2021d.) Symptoms of COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

CDC, (2021e). Types of Masks. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/types-of-masks.html

Food and Drug Administration. (2020a). FDA Approves First Treatment for COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-treatment-covid-19

Food and Drug Administration. (2020b). Donate COIVD-19 Plasma. Retrieved on August 27, 2020 from https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/donate-covid-19-plasma

Food and Drug Administration. (2020c). Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/coronavirus-disease-2019-covid-19/pfizer-biontech-covid-19-vaccine

Food & Drug Administration. (2021a). FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Third COVID-19 Vaccine. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-issues-emergency-use-authorization-third-covid-19-vaccine

Food & Drug Administration. (2021b). Know Your Treatment Options for COVID-19. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/know-your-treatment-options-covid-19

Food and Drug Administration. (2021c). FDA Approves First COVID-19 Vaccines. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-first-covid-19-vaccine

Food and Drug Administration. (2021d). Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Takes Additional Actions on the Use of a Booster Dose for COVID-19 Vaccines. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-takes-additional-actions-use-booster-dose-covid-19-vaccines

Food and Drug Administration. (2021e). Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Oral Antiviral Treatment of COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-first-oral-antiviral-treatment-covid-19

Food and Drug Administration. (2021f). Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Additional Oral Antiviral Treatment of COVID-19 in Certain Adults. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-additional-oral-antiviral-treatment-covid-19-certain

Food & Drug Administration. (2021g). Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes Additional Vaccine Dose for Certain Immunocompromised Individuals. Retrieved from: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-additional-vaccine-dose-certain-immunocompromised

Food and Drug Administration. (2022). Emergency Use Authorization. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/emergency-preparedness-and-response/mcm-legal-regulatory-and-policy-framework/emergency-use-authorization

Medicare. (2020). Coronavirus Test. Retrieved from. https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/coronavirus-test US. Department of Health and Human Services. (2021). COVID-19 Care for Uninsured Individuals. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-care-uninsured-individuals/index.html