Unfortunately, we have entered yet another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. This most recent surge, which began around the Thanksgiving holiday, and continues to propagate, has been driven by the Omicron variant. Omicron was labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization back in late November. According to the most recent data, Omicron accounts for approximately 70% of the cases in New Jersey. The rise in cases is evident when you view the NJ State Dashboard: https://covid19.nj.gov/forms/datadashboard. Moreover, you can see that COVID cases are increasing by looking at the rate of transmission, which is 1.73 (as of 12/28/21). This means that every person infected with COVID is infecting more than 1 person, which shows that transmission is high. If the rate of transmission is at or below 1, then the cases are under control and transmission is moderate or low.
For those that are positive or have been exposed to an infected individual, the CDC just updated its isolation and quarantine guidance, which can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2021/s1227-isolation-quarantine-guidance.html . This guidance was made with the current knowledge surrounding what is currently known about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant, which appears to be highly transmissible, but milder than Delta. The guidance calls for shortening the isolation period (for infected individuals) from 10 to 5 days. The driver for this guidance is based on the science behind COVID-19 transmission, which occurs predominantly 1-2 days prior to infection, and the 2-3 days after symptom onset. There are still recommendations in place for safe measure following 5 days of isolation, such as wearing a mask around for 5 additional days. However, if you still have a fever after day 5 of isolation, continue to stay home until your fever resolves. If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and have been boosted, or completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine within the last 6 months, or completed the primary series of J & J vaccine within the last 2 months, you should wear a mask around others for 10 days and get a COVID test on day 5, if possible. If you completed the primary series of Pfizer or Moderna vaccine over 6 months ago and are not boosted, or completed the primary series of J & J over 2 months ago and are not boosted, or are unvaccinated, you should stay home for 5 days, continue to wear a mask around for 5 additional days; if you cannot quarantine you must wear a mask for 10 days, and on day 5, you should get tested.
Here is a specific guide if you are sick: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html . Also, here is a list of COVID-19 testing sites within and near Morris County: https://www.morriscountynj.gov/Residents/Health/Coronavirus/Testing-Sites . Here is a list of other free, public COVID-19 testing or treatment sites by county in NJ: https://covid19.nj.gov/faqs/nj-information/testing-and-treatment/where-can-i-get-free-public-covid-19-testing-or-treatment .
Regarding COVID-19 vaccinations, Morris County continues to be one of the leading counties in vaccination coverage, including among booster shots. Currently, COVID-19 vaccines are available to those who are 5+ (Pfizer – 2 doses, 21 days apart), and 18+ (Moderna – 2 doses, 28 days apart and J & J – 1 dose). The booster doses are available to 16+ (Pfizer – at least 6 months after being fully vaccinated), and 18+ (Moderna – at least 6 months after being fully vaccinated, and J & J – at least 2 months after being fully vaccinated). Additional primary doses are available for those that are immunocompromised and are 12+ (Pfizer – 1 dose at least 28 days after the 2nd dose), and 18+ (Moderna – 1 dose at least 28 days after the 2nd dose). Immunocompromised individuals will be eligible for a booster shot, 6 months from their additional dose (3rd dose). Hence, the earliest they will be eligible to receive booster doses are sometime in February or March of 2022. The booster doses are heterologous, which means that your booster dose can be different than your initial primary series. For example, if you received 2 doses of Moderna 28 days apart, you could receive a 3rd dose (booster dose) of the Moderna, Pfizer, or J & J vaccine at least 6 months after your 2nd dose.
Of significance, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which is a committee of health professionals with diverse backgrounds that makes vaccination recommendations to the CDC has decided through rigorous findings to make the Moderna & Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines the preferred vaccines. The CDC has endorsed this recommendation. People will still be able to receive the J & J vaccine if they ask for it. Nevertheless, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines provide greater benefit and are safer than the J & J vaccine.
In addition, recent data from South Africa and the United Kingdom displays that vaccine effectiveness against infection for 2 doses of an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer) is approximately 35%. The good news is that a booster dose of either of those vaccines increases vaccine effectiveness against infection to 75%, which is a 4-fold increase. Thus, the vaccines show that they protect from infection, but boosters are needed because protection wanes over time. Furthermore, the COVID-19 vaccinations protect from serious illness, hospitalization, and death.
For a list of COVID-19 vaccination sites within and near Morris County, please visit: https://www.morriscountynj.gov/Residents/Health/Coronavirus/Vaccination-Sites . To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/your-vaccination.html .
I urge you to continue to be vigilant and stay up to date with the latest on COVID-19.
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