Covid-19 Season Is HereBy Jan McFarlane
Covid-19 season is upon us, yet again. What to do? Wearing masks is no fun. Getting vaccines with needles is even less fun. And who enjoys social distancing at social gatherings? What about those rapid tests?
When the world began to shut down in March 2020 due to fear and ravages of Covid-19, few of us could imagine that more than three years later we would still be dealing with the need for precautions. But here we are.
And the need for precautions is even greater for those at high risk for contracting the virus and perhaps suffering the aftermath of “Long Covid-19”: those age 65 and older and those immuno-compromised or having underlying conditions, such as heart disease.
Here’s the gist for those of us seniors who want to minimize risks for contracting the latest strains of Covid-19: Do some thinking about how you want to handle vaccinations, masking, and testing.
Vaccinations: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends those in high-risk categories get inoculated with the updated vaccine for the latest variant of Covid-19. Due to the seriousness of this virus and its continuing evolution of variants, the CDC is now suggesting that we may need an annual shot, not just a booster— just like the annual flu shot.
Most health insurance plans will be offering the shots to their members at no cost. Pasadena Health Department offers walk-in COVID-19 vaccines every Monday and Wednesday. View details here. Kaiser Permanente began offering vaccines September 28.
If you need help locating or arranging transportation to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or other immunizations, contact the Village Office at 626-765-6037. Pasadena Village has received grant funds from the national Village to Village Network to assist older adults in the greater Pasadena area access vaccinations. The Village staff is here to help!
Dr. Kimberly Shriner, Huntington Health’s medical director of infection prevention and control said, “We are closely watching international data and trends as we approach flu season. There is a risk that we will experience an increase of respiratory viruses in general. Our best measures are to follow the infection prevention protocols we have learned; frequent handwashing; stay up-to-date on all vaccines and boosters; and if you aren’t feeling well, please stay home to rest and recover.”
Masking: The CDC once again is advising us to consider masking, depending on the situation. A quick in-and-out to the grocery store might not be necessary. But spending extended time in an enclosed space in close proximity to others might cause us to consider masking — even though we may feel uncomfortable with a mask over our face and can’t hear others as well, since masks may muffle sounds. Ditto wearing a mask if outside at sporting events surrounded by hundreds of people cheering and shouting.
Commercial masks that are KN95, N95, or KF94 filter out 90 percent of virus particles. Pasadena Village has a limited supply available – email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a free pack of five, or you can find them online. These masks give greater protection than surgical or cloth masks.
Testing: Rapid at-home antigen tests serve two purposes: determining if we have contracted the Covid-19 virus or — if we have had Covid-19 — whether we are still contagious. If positive, we will need to self-isolate at least five days or more.
The CDC is also advising those confirmed with Covid-19 to ask their doctor within five days after the diagnosis about the advisability of treatment with Paxlovid.
Free at-home antigen tests for Covid-19 are going to be available from various sources. The U.S. government just announced that it will be providing free tests to all households. Beginning September 25, each household can apply to receive four tests through the website COVIDTests.gov. Both the Altadena and Pasadena libraries currently have free tests available at all branches. The CDC is also collaborating with retail drug stores to provide free testing options. Be on the lookout for public announcements. Some health insurance plans, such as Kaiser Permanente, offer free tests to their members.
And check the tests’ expiration date to make sure the results will be accurate. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of authorized at-home OTC COVID-19 diagnostic tests, and it includes information on expiration dates. You can check the list to see if the expiration date for your at-home OTC COVID-19 test has been extended and how to find any new expiration date.
Social Distancing: Many signs remain in businesses and other public spaces asking us to stand 6 feet apart while waiting for services. And, those annoying circles are still on the floor reminding us to do so. If the area is crowded, think seriously about distancing as best you can.
Bottom Line: To be as safe as possible and avoid serious viral illnesses this fall, do not put off getting your shots — definitely for Covid-19 and the flu, and for RSV if your doctor advises it. Have high-quality masks available at home to grab for use when you go out into public spaces. Store a couple of antigen tests in your medicine cabinet so you can reassure yourself that you did not contract the virus at some celebratory event. With some basic preventive measures, Covid-19 and other viruses may pass us by!
This COVID and Influenza Vaccine Uptake Initiative for Older Adults and People with Disabilities is supported with funding from the Administration for Community Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.