The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of our lives since March 19, 2020. As normalcy slowly returns here in Southern California, we should continue to stay informed and up to date with COVID-19 news and changes.
Every outing, gathering, and activity will carry some level of risk, as being indoors and around more people can raise your risk. In general, the closer you are to an infected person and the more time you spend in close contact with them increases your risk of becoming infected.
As of 6/16/2022 – will be updated periodically (initial publish date: 03.05.2020)
- The USA Government will provide a third round of at home test kits are approved. Sign up here.
- Second Boosters are approved for certain individuals. Read here for more.
- California lifted all indoor masking requirements starting 3/1/22 and is strongly recommending masking for all individuals in indoor public spaces. Los Angeles County lifted the mask mandate on 3/4/22.
- Starting spring of 2022, Medicare will start a program to provide up to eight over-the-counter COVID 19 tests per month.
- Moderna vaccine was officially approved by FDA and will now be called Spikevax. (1/31/22)
- LA County now offers Free Home Test Kit (to be sent to a lab) for anyone who may have symptoms or were exposed to COVID-19 for those living in the county. More details here.
- FDA recently announced emergency use approval for the first viral treatment for COVID-19 called Paxlovid. For more details, read here.
When Going Out…
As of March 4, 2022, masking and vaccination proof requirements have been lifted from many of the counties. Depending on the future situation, requirements may change. It will be important to:
- Vaccine and Mask Requirement – Confirm with businesses or events about vaccination and masking requirements before going; they may have their own policies, especially for large group gatherings.
- Honoring different etiquettes – people may have different comfort level depending on the prevalence of the virus.
- Masks – While requirements may be lifted, it is okay to continue taking precautions such as wearing a well fitted mask.
- Greetings – People may not still be comfortable 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 – every outing will always have some risk. Keep in mind:
- 1. Setting – Is the outing in an indoor or outdoor 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 – How long will you be around other people? The more time you spend in contact with people, the greater your risk.
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)
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.
CDC and FDA authorized a second booster shot for certain individuals. Read more here.
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 February 22, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported the symptoms for the virus include (CDC, 2021d):
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- New loss of taste or smell
- Congestion or runny nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Nausea or vomiting
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, 2020).
Free COVID-19 testing is available to LA County residents. In addition to tests available at local pharmacies, LA County and LA City have drive-up or testing available. To register for an appointment, click here. This page also has information on pick-up testing kits and at-home tests for individuals with symptoms or close contact with an infected person.
Testing in Ventura County (COVID-19 Health Care)
Testing in Ventura County are for essential workers and residents who have symptoms of the virus. 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
- Costs for COVID-19 tests may vary based on the laboratory the test is sent to, geographic location, and insurance provider.
- Medicare – Medicare covers costs for COVID-19 tests as well as costs for COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots (Medicare, 2020). Visit the Medicare COVID-19 page for more information.
- Uninsured (US. Department of Health and Human Services, 2021)- The testing is free for those are without insurance.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval and EUA for a number of treatments, after concluding that the potential benefits of these treatments outweigh the known and potential risks of using these drugs.
A handful of treatments are available to hospitalized individuals or need to be administered by health care professionals. One treatment is Veklury (Remdesivir), an antiviral drug approved for use in hospitalized patients (FDA, 2020a). Other treatments include convalescent plasma and 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.
Ways to Stay Safe
The most effective way to protect yourself and others against the virus is to be prepared and practice good self-management techniques. The safety guidelines differ for those who are vaccinated and those who are not. Read here if you test positive.
- Observe your health, and if you see any symptoms of COVID-19, should get tested and stay home
- Wash your hands often (20 seconds) for situations like
- When you prepare food or before you eat
- Before you touch your face
- After using the restroom, or leaving a public space
- When you wear your mask
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Use hand sanitizers that contains at least 60% alcohol
- Covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throwing the tissue in the trash. If you do not have access to a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow
- Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces (i.e. phones, doorknobs, etc.)
- Additionally, for those who are vaccinated (CDC, 2021a):
- Wear masks in public transportation areas or when required.
- Continue to follow any guidance given at workplace and local businesses
- Additionally, for those who are unvaccinated (CDC, 2021b):
- Getting vaccinated
- Look for a nearby place where you can get vaccinated here.
- Wearing a facemask when in public (over your nose and mouth)
- Keeping social distance – at least six feet apart
- Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces (indoors especially)
- Getting vaccinated
CDC updated their mask recommendation for those fully vaccinated on July 27, 2021. They recommend for fully vaccinated people to wear a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
For the state of California, masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status for the following setting (CDPH, 2021a):
- On public transportation and in transportation hubs
- Public transportation includes airplanes, trains, taxis, ride-shares, ferries, and buses.
- Transportation hubs include airports, bus terminals, train stations, or other areas that provides transportation
- Indoors in K-12 schools and other youth settings
- Healthcare settings
- State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
- Homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers
Masks will be strongly recommended for all individuals in indoor public settings and businesses (CDPH, 2021a).
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.
State of California stresses the importance of good fit and good filtration to be prioritized when selecting masks (CDPH, 2022).
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/types-of-masks.html
- If you are considering traveling, ask the following questions:
- Are you traveling with at-risk individuals?
- Does the state or local government where you are traveling to or from require a quarantine period after arrival?
- If you are thinking about traveling internationally, look at CDC’s guidelines here about before, during and after travel.
- If you are thinking about traveling within the United States, visit the CDC’s travel planner, linked here, to find the different guidelines and local rules for traveling to a specific location.
Government Resources and Health Orders
While many of the business restrictions and physical distancing measures are lifted, 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:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 Website
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Handwashing Website
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s What to Do if You are Sick Website
- Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Coronavirus Website (English & Japanese)
- World Health Organization’s Q&A Website
Other Articles Written By Keiro on COVID-19
- Being a Healthy News Consumer
- Remote Exercise
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Stress Management during COVID-19
- Tips for Caregivers during COVID-19
- Advanced Care Planning
- COVID-19 Scams
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