EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW: THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

Over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we are now experiencing hope as more and more people become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but many questions still remain around what you can do once you are fully vaccinated and what treatments are available if you test positive for COVID-19. Please see below for a comprehensive resource with trusted information on the COVID-19 pandemic and answers to your frequently asked questions. 

PREVENTION 

How can I prevent COVID-19?

According to the CDC, the best way to prevent COVID-19 is using everyday preventative actions that limit the spread of respiratory infections: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, especially after being in public, coughing or sneezing. If hand washing is not immediately available, then a next-best alternative is hand sanitizer with at least sixty-percent alcohol. 
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a face covering or mask. 
  • Avoid crowds and stay at least six feet apart from others. 
  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine as soon as it is available to you.

What are the current recommendations around Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)? 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you wear a facial covering, such as a cloth mask, in public settings and/or anywhere you will be around people. In February of 2021, the CDC issued a mask requirement order on all forms of public transportation and in transportation hubs (such as airports and bus stops). 

Where can I get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Three COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for Emergency Use: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen). The three COVID-19 vaccines that have received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) have been and continue to be rigorously tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The CDC and FDA recommend a pause in the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine out of an abundance of caution due to six cases of a rare and severe blood clots have surfaced in six women 6-13 days after the women received the Janssen vaccine, as of April 12, 2021. For up to date information on the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, visit the FDA’s website

There are several places you can look for a vaccination provider. You can visit VaccineFinder.org or check your state health department or local pharmacy’s website. Visit How Do I Get a COVID-19 Vaccine to learn more.

What is an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA)?

The FDA staff reviewing data on COVID-19 vaccines for EUA are scientific, global expert physicians with careers of experience in vaccine development and infectious disease prevention. While EUAs may distribute access to emergency medical products that have not yet been approved by the FDA’s non-emergency standards, this does not mean the EUA products are unsafe. Products approved for EUA have not accumulated the amount of data necessary for the FDA to approve it through non-emergency protocols, but they have met FDA’s rigorous testing standards to determine the medical products’ risks and benefits.

What should I expect after the COVID-19 vaccine? 

You are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving your final shot (first shot for Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine, second shot for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines). All persons receiving one of the three available EUA COVID-19 vaccines will receive a fact sheet outlining the benefits and risks associated with the vaccine.

Common vaccine side effects include: tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea. Pain, redness, and swelling are common on the arm where you get your shot. More vaccine questions and answers can be found on the CDC’s website.

Once you have been fully vaccinated, you may begin to gather in the homes of those who are also fully vaccinated. However, you can still be a risk to persons not fully vaccinated, especially those at high-risk to COVID-19 infection. Be careful to continue wearing a mask and staying six feet apart from persons in public and those who are not fully vaccinated. Continue to avoid medium and large gatherings as well as crowds.

What are the current recommendations for attending small gatherings? 

Small gathering attendees should wear masks, keep six feet apart from one another, wash hands with soap and water often, open doors and windows when possible to ventilate indoor spaces, use disposable food preparation items and utensils, and clean/disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces between uses when possible.

To make gatherings as safe as possible, consider: having a virtual gathering, holding your gathering outside, and avoid eating and drinking when possible.

What are the current recommendations for traveling during COVID-19? 

You should delay all travel until you are fully vaccinated whenever possible as traveling greatly increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you are not fully vaccinated and must travel:

  • Always wear a mask.
  • Get tested for COVID-19 one to three days before you travel.
  • Avoid crowds and stay six feet apart from everyone not travelling with you.
  • Wash your hands often when possible, or if not available use hand sanitizer with at least sixty-percent alcohol.
  • After travelling, get tested three to five days after you get back and quarantine from home for seven days (even if you test negative); if you test positive, totally isolate yourself from household members if possible. If getting a COVID-19 test is not possible within this time frame, quarantine from home for ten days after returning home. Even if you test negative, isolate from high-risk persons for 14 days and self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.

If you are fully vaccinated and must travel, while less likely you will get or spread COVID-19, it is still possible.

  • Always wear a mask. 
  • Avoid crowds and stay six feet apart from everyone not travelling with you.
  • Wash your hands often when possible, or if not available use hand sanitizer with at least sixty-percent alcohol.
  • When you get back home from travelling, self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • If you travel internationally, get tested three to five days after returning home.

And, of course, do NOT travel, even if you are fully vaccinated, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 or a COVID-19 infection. If you must travel internationally, all persons (including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated persons) must test negative for COVID-19 three days or less before they return to the United States.

What are the current recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting my home? 

Cleaning your home with cleaner that contains soap or 10% bleach removes a majority of virus particles on surfaces, such as COVID-19. It is a good idea to clean high-touch surfaces daily, especially after having (masked) company; high-touch surfaces include doorknobs, tables, handles, light switches, etc.

You should disinfect your home if someone in your home is sick or if someone with a COVID-19 infection has been in your home within 24 hours. Disinfectant kills germs on surfaces. Wear gloves when disinfecting, and always follow the directions on the disinfectant’s label. When finished, wash your hands with soap and water. Disinfectants are NOT safe to use on or within the human body; only use disinfectants on objects and surfaces.

If someone in your house is sick with COVID-19, they will need to stay isolated within the home as much as possible. A few tips for cleaning if someone is sick with COVID-19 within in your household: 

  • Have them use a separate bathroom if possible.
  • Have them clean and disinfect their bathroom if possible, and if not, minimize how often you clean and disinfect it to reduce contact with their germs; when cleaning and disinfecting their bathroom, wear a mask and open windows and doors to ventilate the air.
  • Wait 24 hours before cleaning infected areas when possible and wear a mask and gloves.
  • Cleaning of infected areas is no longer necessary after three days post-infection.
  • Wear gloves when cleaning an infected person’s dishes, dirty laundry, and removing their trash.
  • You may wash an infected person’s laundry in the same load with non-infected persons’ laundry.

IDENTIFYING COVID-19

What are COVID-19 symptoms I should look out for? 

COVID-19 symptoms may appear between 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus. Symptoms to look out for include: fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle and body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congested or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Seek emergency medical care immediately if you experience: serious trouble breathing, persistent chest pain or pressure, intense confusion, inability to wake or stay awake, pale-/gray-/blue-colored skin, lips, or nail beds.

Where can I get tested for COVID-19? 

You can find community testing sites near you by using this U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.

When should I get tested for COVID-19? 

Get tested for COVID-19 if you have symptoms of COVID-19, if you have had close contact with someone who has a confirmed COVID-19 infection, if you take part in high-risk activities such as travelling, large gatherings, or crowded indoor settings, or if your healthcare provider and/or local health department request or recommend testing.

Although unlikely, please be aware that false negatives and false positives are possible, meaning you have been infected with COVID-19 even if your test results indicate a negative result or vice versa. Viral tests look for a current COVID-19 infection, and antibody tests look for a past COVID-19 infection. 

What are the current recommendations for quarantining? 

You should quarantine at home if you come into close contact with someone who has a COVID-19 infection for 14 days if you are not fully vaccinated and have not had COVID-19 yourself in the past three months. If you yourself have a COVID-19 infection, you should both quarantine at home and isolate from other household members as much as possible.

TREATMENT 

What are the immediate therapeutic options currently available for people who have just tested positive for COVID-19?

The spectrum of medical therapies to treat COVID-19 is growing and evolving rapidly, including both drugs approved by the FDA and drugs made available under FDA EUA. The CDC strongly encourages clinicians, patients and their advocates, and health system administrators to regularly consult the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The treatment and management recommendations in these guidelines are based on scientific evidence and expert opinion and are frequently updated.

Monoclonal antibody treatments are typically used within the first ten days of treatment to prevent severe and hospitalized cases of COVID-19. There are Monoclonal Antibody treatments available for persons who are at high-risk of severe COVID-19 symptoms. You are eligible for treatments if you: are 65 years or older; are 55 years or older with heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or chronic respiratory disease (such as asthma); 12 years or older with a weak immune system, obesity, type 1 or 2 diabetes, or chronic kidney disease. Your child age 12 to 17 is eligible for treatments if they: are obese; regularly use medical technology (such as a feeding tube); have a developmental condition (such as cerebral palsy); have sickle cell disease; have heart disease; or have a chronic respiratory problem that requires daily medication.

Learn more about Monoclonal Antibody treatments at this Health and Human Services webpage

If I’ve tested positive for COVID-19, how can I access a monoclonal antibody treatment in my state? 

If you’ve been diagnosed with COVID-19 and interested in utilizing this treatment, contact your doctor, or the Combat COVID Monoclonal Antibodies Call Center at 1-877-332-6585.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has also launched a web-based COVID-19 outpatient treatment locator to find potential locations for treatment with monoclonal antibody therapeutics. These medicines are authorized for emergency use in treating patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe symptoms and requiring hospitalization.

What are the therapeutic options currently available for people who have been hospitalized with COVID-19? 

In October 2020 the FDA approved Veklury (generic name remdesivir), an antiviral drug intended for use by patients above age twelve that have been hospitalized due to a COVID-19 infection.

Trials to assess the potential effectiveness of these therapeutics in outpatients at high risk of disease progression are ongoing. Clinicians and patients who wish to consider their use, or the use of any other available investigational therapies, should review the COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines as well as the FDA EUA for the therapy. If you are interested in registering for a COVID-19 clinical trial, ClinicalTrials.gov provides an easy search tool to determine eligibility.

MORE INFORMATION 

Where can I find more information about the COVID-19 pandemic?

For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic from the federal government, you can visit the following web pages: Coronavirus.govCombatCOVID.HHS.govUSA.gov/Coronavirus, and OSHA.gov/Coronavirus (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). 

 

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