How fast are Covid cases and vaccinations rising by state and by county? The CDC Data Tracker shows county level “community transmission”, the number of cases over the most recent 7-day period. Each county is classified “high”, “substantial”, “moderate” or “low”. As of Sept. 16, 2021, nearly all counties (95%) in the US are High. CDC has advised increased precautions – even if fully vaccinated – in areas with High or Substantial Covid case levels. Consumers can also track vaccination levels by state and by county. Currently, only 2 in 5 (42%) of counties in the US have reached at least 50% fully vaccinated rates of the eligible population (ages 12 and up). About one in 4 counties (24%) have reached 50% fully vaccinated rates of their total population. Updated nightly by CDC.
How risky is it to attend a group event (of any size) while COVID-19 is still spreading? This tool from Georgia Tech lets you check any county in the US. The risk level is the estimated chance (0-100%) that at least 1 COVID-19 positive individual will be present at an event in a county, given the size of the event. You can check any group size from as few as 10 people, to 10,000 people. Adjust the default level of 100. The tool uses real-time COVID19 data from the COVID Tracking Project. County-level risk assessment was added to the COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool in July 2020.
What is the difference between being asymptomatic and presymptomatic in COVID-19 coronavirus patients? Asymptomatic means you’re not showing any symptoms of illness. If you have tested positive for Covid, but aren’t showing signs of the illness, then you might be an “asymptomatic carrier” of the coronavirus, and could possibly infect others without knowing it. According to studies in the Washington nursing home and also in China, most (perhaps 3 of 4) asymptomatic patients turn out to be “presymptomatic”. This means the patients ultimately DO show signs of the illness, but the symptoms come some days AFTER the patient tested positive. Most often we think of symptoms first, then testing positive on a nose-throat swab test. Presymptomatic people are the other way around – they test positive first, then later show symptoms. In a China study of 94 patients, they estimated infectiousness started 2 to 3 days ahead of symptom onset, and reached its peak about 14 hours before symptoms began to show. They estimated about 44% of transmission to others occurs before symptoms come on. Read this April 13, 2020 article from NPR discussing how the coronavirus is spread from person to person.
CDC guidance for wearing masks in the community receives less emphasis, now that we have effective COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 12 and up. Vaccines are generally considered more effective in preventing severe Covid, than are masks. Here’s the latest, updated July 27, 2021.
You might be asking “Do I need to wear a mask for Coronavirus?” If you’re not fully vaccinated yet, the answer is “Yes.” Read what the CDC has to say. Updated June 29, 2021. Infected persons who are asymptomatic can spread the virus, as can “presymptomatic” people. In addition, unvaccinated people still need to maintain physical distancing of 6 feet from another person. Everyone (both vaccinated and unvaccinated) should continue to wash their hands, cover their coughs, and stay home when sick.
Find CDC advice and recommendations on household cleaning and disinfection for coronavirus. Links to approved disinfectants. Describes the difference between cleaning and disinfecting. A must-read if you’re caring for someone with COVID-19, or want to create a safer environment from viruses at home. Updated April 2021.
Article by Medical News Today examines how weather affects the spread of COVID-19 and the coronavirus. It looks at being indoors vs outdoors, humidity levels, rainfall, hours of sunshine, and weather temperature. Regarding seasonality, the authors conclude “If COVID-19 is seasonal, experts will likely establish this in 2021 or 2022 after the main pandemic waves.” In other words, it’s too soon to tell. In the meantime, wash your hands, wear your mask, keep your 6-foot distance, and avoid large group gatherings.
How much does Medicare pay for a Covid-19 vaccine shot? About $40. Here are the rates as of Aug. 12, 2021, including additional (3rd) doses. From CMS.
Which phrase is better: “Social Distancing” or “Physical Distancing”? According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the term “physical distancing” is much better. That’s because they want to emphasize the critical importance of maintaining physical distance and separation (about 6 feet) between people during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t have a vaccine, nor proven treatments to combat the disease. All we have are “non-pharmaceutical measures” for now, to slow the spread of the virus. Yet, we still want people to stay in touch with each other. Being social through digital technology and old-fashioned, but powerful techniques like phone calls and writing letters, will help offset the real and emotional challenges from loss of school, work and group entertainment. Consumer Health Ratings likes the term “physical distancing” while being socially connected.
The words Quarantine and Isolation have been used regularly when talking about coronavirus cases. What’s the difference? Quarantine is for people who were exposed to the virus, but not yet sick. Isolation is separating people sick with COVID-19 or coronavirus from those who are not sick. CDC describes this further. Media reporting is inconsistent. Even some public health people refer to “self-isolation” (rather than “self-quarantine”) for people who have not tested positive for the coronavirus. Consequently, the terms may still be confusing.
What does “fully vaccinated” mean in the COVID-19 pandemic? According to the CDC, fully vaccinated means:
So when the ballpark offers you a Covid vaccination on the day of the game that you are planning to attend, you’re still NOT fully vaccinated – only barely and possibly partially vaccinated. You must take all the precautions expected of unvaccinated people. It takes 2 weeks for each dose to give protection from the antibodies being made. If you had already contracted the virus and weren’t showing symptoms yet, you could still be infectious during that 2 week period.
What does it mean when people say we need to “flatten the curve”? It means we are trying to slow the spread of the coronavirus. This will lower the number of people needing medical care, or life-saving ICU treatment. Otherwise, if everybody gets sick at once, creating an immediate flood of patients, it can overwhelm the healthcare system. Too many additional COVID-19 patients will stress hospitals who also need to take care of all types of patients. The downside, is that the disease will be around longer, spread out over time. But the good news is that there are likely to be fewer patient deaths, both from the coronavirus, and from other types of illnesses. Fewer healthcare workers will get infected, which helps keep more healthcare professionals on the front lines. Avoiding a huge spike in patients will help buy time that is needed in order to develop a coronavirus vaccine, better therapies for the ill, and perhaps drugs that will specifically treat COVID-19. Read this short piece from the University of Michigan Health News.
What coronavirus variants should I watch and what are they called? The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated “variants of concern” using common names and number labels. As of September 2, 2021, four were listed: Alpha (B.1.1.7), Delta (B.1.617.2), Gamma (P.1) and Beta (B.1.351). Delta is overwhelmingly the most active in the United States, at present. The Mu variant and 4 others are classified as “variants of interest.” At least 11 other variants are also tracked and highlighted at this SARS-CoV-2 site.
Which countries have the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates? See this chart and tracking tool by Johns Hopkins showing vaccination rates by country. As of July 30, the US ranks 25th in the world for greatest percentage of population that is fully vaccinated. The US has reached 50%; the best performing country is about 75% fully vaccinated. Canada is at 58%.
The CDC has updated its list of who is at the greatest risk for severe illness from the coronavirus causing COVID-19. So far, the CDC has identified that the risk for severe illness increases with age. People in their 50s are at higher risk than those in their 40s, and the risk goes up substantially with each decade. They note that 8 out of 10 COVID-19 deaths in the US have been in adults age 65 years and older. In addition, the CDC identifies underlying medical or health conditions that increase risk of severe illness and hospitalization for any age. Specially mentioned are cancer, obesity (BMI of 30 or higher), Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, COPD, serious heart conditions, those who are immunocompromised from organ transplant, those with sickle cell disease, smoking, and those who are pregnant (or were recently pregnant).
CDC also identifies Risk for COVID-19 Infection, Hospitalization, and Death By Race/Ethnicity. It is important to remember that this is a novel (new) virus, that no one on earth had immunity to when it first arrived. Hence, everyone starts out “at risk”. As more is learned about COVID-19 disease, caused by the coronavirus, the CDC updates its guidance. The list was updated April 2021.
Will the coronavirus and COVID-19 ever go away? Probably not, according to the scientists. See this article in The Scientist, January 2021.
Check the COVID-19 travel recommendations and restrictions for international travel, at this CDC site. Four levels are outlined: from low to very high. As of July 30, 2021, more than 60 countries fall into Level 4 Very High, which CDC advises to “avoid travel”. Hopefully, the travel recommendations will improve as vaccines are administered.
Hand Washing, Hand Hygiene video by the CDC. Take one minute to view the online youtube video for proper handwashing technique and guidelines to help prevent infections. CDC epidemiologist presents the basics – really fast. People often miss washing the thumb and index finger, as well as the finger tips on both hands. Plan to wash and scrub for 20 seconds, about as long as it takes to hum your favorite school fight song.
What impact will COVID-19 have on health insurance rate increases for 2021? According to the American Academy of Actuaries, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new uncertainties into developing premium rates for 2021. As we know, and this issue brief points out, “For the first half of 2020, increased health spending due to the direct costs of diagnosing and treating COVID-19 appears to have been more than offset by a reduction in non-COVID-19 health services. It’s unknown how trends will continue through the rest of 2020.” The actuaries did not hazard a guess about rate hikes. Gains and profits made in 2020 (and/or 2021) may be rebated to consumers, if necessary, based on the 3-year formula, instead of lowering 2021 health insurance rates. The report suggests that conservative insurance companies will play it safe and increase premiums as they deem prudent for 2021. Nine page Issue Brief: Drivers of 2021 Health Insurance Premium Changes: The Effects of COVID-19 was published June 2020 at actuary.org.
Obesity by MedlinePlus describes Health Risks of Being Overweight, Diagnosis, Prevention, Activity, Causes, and more. The new link from the CDC about obesity and COVID-19, which was added in 2020, has been updated August 2021. Being overweight, obese or having severe obesity all increase the likelihood of becoming severely ill with Covid. Written for the general consumer, no advertisements.
The Covid vaccine finder from vaccines.gov is the best, easiest way to find a vaccine site near me. Just put in your zip code, and choose which types of vaccine you want – Pfizer, Moderna, and/or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Names and locations of pharmacies, hospitals and other providers will come up. The site tells you whether they have the vaccine in stock or not. CVS, Walgreens, your local pharmacy, and many other providers are included. Authorized by the CDC. This might be the best website government ever created. Editor’s Pick. Another choice is to text your Zip Code to 438829, but the 3 pharmacy sites they list for you might be out of stock. The website gives consumers much more information and lists more Covid vaccine sites.