Here’s what you need to know this fall.
With end-of-summer vacations and back- to-school preparations, COVID is back in the news and top of mind for many Upper Valley residents. What do you need to know about COVID this fall? APD experts share their thoughts.
What’s causing the current uptick in COVID cases?
“The current uptick is related to seasonal changes; this is the time of year that people start to spend more time inside, children are back in school, and colleges are in session,” said Christa Robert, Infection Prevention/Quality & Safety Specialist at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital.
Michael Lynch, MD, MBA, Chief Medical Officer at Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital, agrees. “There is a normal seasonal uptick in the spread of respiratory viruses, and this uptick is consistent with that,” he said.
Lynch emphasizes that although there has been some increase in hospitalizations, the severity of the disease has not increased. “That is being closely watched,” he said.
What are the masking requirements in the Upper Valley?
“Masking is not currently required in public spaces, unless required by a private organization. CDC recommends masking for individuals who have symptoms of COVID, have been exposed to COVID in the past 10 days, and/or individuals who have had a COVID diagnosis in the past 10 days,” Robert said. “It is also recommended to mask around individuals who are immunocompromised or could become severely ill from COVID.”
At Alice Peck Day, masking is optional for patients, visitors and staff without any respiratory symptoms. If you feel more comfortable wearing a mask, our staff will mirror your masking preference and wear one, too. We support all masking decisions.
How should I test for COVID?
“PCR tests are no longer widely available as they were with broad community testing during the pandemic. PCR tests are generally now used in hospital setting with people with symptoms or sometimes when making a decision for purposes of an admission,” Lynch said. “At-home antigen tests are useful if you have symptoms and after an exposure.”
“We recommend using an at-home antigen test at first sign of symptoms or after exposure and, if negative, testing again 48 hours after first test,” Robert said.
Can I use expired COVID at-home tests?
If you have a medicine cabinet stocked with tests, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) provides some guidance on the topic: https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/coronavirus-covid-19-and-medical-devices/home-covid-19-diagnostic-tests-frequently-asked-questions#expired
Is there a new booster available?
“A new vaccine needs to go through approval from the US Food and Drug Administration, then the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will have to weigh in on safety and effectiveness recommendations before the CDC signs off. We should know more toward the end of September,” Robert said.
“The ACIP is meeting on September 12 to review a new monovalent vaccine targeting the most common current circulating strains of the virus. Recommendations and guidelines for getting a vaccine this fall will likely follow that meeting,” Lynch said.
Additional information on COVID vaccination can be found at Vaccines for COVID-19 | CDC.