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I'm vaxxed to the max & I mask up. Luckily, my COVID case wasn't too bad

I'm vaxxed to the max & I mask up. Luckily, my COVID case wasn't too bad

Jan. 19, 2022

By Mary Wade Burnside

The omicron variant of COVID-19 is no joke. Cases are skyrocketing. Omicron is very infectious and individuals who take all recommended precautions are still at risk of getting it.

I should know. I’m vaxxed to the max, I double mask and avoid people and places when I can. And I got COVID anyway.

I won’t know for weeks whether it was the omicron variant. All positives are sent for additional testing to determine the variant.

But based on the fact that I had no obvious exposure as well as my light symptoms — primarily fatigue — I am assuming it was omicron and not delta.

It wasn’t a lot of fun, isolating in my own home away from my husband, who tested negative. But I know I’m lucky. I can’t imagine what my symptoms would have been like if I hadn’t gotten both doses of an mRNA vaccine as well as a booster.

And just to clarify, individuals who test positive for COVID isolate for 10 days (and if they are the only positive person in their household, they must remain away from others). Those who are exposed to COVID should quarantine for 14 days. That’s because while someone with COVID is generally considered to not be infectious after 10 days, incubation times for the virus can vary.

One scary aspect of it is that because my only primary symptom was fatigue, it would have been easy to brush it off and avoid getting tested. But I faded so fast one morning that I decided it was better to be safe than sorry.

The surge is unprecedented in this pandemic, which began in March 2020.

On Jan. 10, according to Monongalia County Health Department’s regional epidemiologist Luke Moore, Ph.D., the seven-day average surpassed 200 per 100,000 residents for the first time. “Of all the previous surges, the highest was slightly over 80 per 100,000,” he said. “So we are truly in uncharted territory now.”

Because of the expectation that workplaces are going to experience up to 30% or even higher absenteeism from employees calling off sick and that hospitals will continue to be overtaxed, Dr. Lee B. Smith, MCHD’s medical director and county health officer, pushed back on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently reduced isolation guidance to five days for someone who has tested positive for COVID. MCHD’s guidance remains that these individuals should continue to isolate for 10 days. And those who have been exposed to the virus should quarantine for 14 days.

Dr. Smith’s recommendation is backed up by Dr. Gerald E. Harmon, president of the American Medical Association, in a statement released on Jan. 5. 

“...Tens of thousands — potentially hundreds of thousands of people — could return to work and school infectious if they follow the CDC’s new guidance on ending isolation after five days without a negative test,” Dr. Harmon wrote. “Physicians are concerned that these recommendations put our patients at risk and could further overwhelm our health care system.”

This is the time to really buckle down. Are you vaccinated? If not, why? Some people might point to my situation, that I got two doses of an mRNA vaccine as well as a booster and note that I got COVID anyway. But what would my symptoms have been like if I hadn’t? In August, the CDC noted that unvaccinated individuals were 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID.

Also, I think about how our case numbers would be lower if more people followed the guidance. That means not only getting vaccinated and boosted, but also thinking of other ways to help keep COVID at bay. While there currently are no regulations on whether or not to wear a mask or gather in large numbers, it doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t consider them.

At the beginning of the pandemic, before I was vaccinated, not only did I wear an N95 mask to the supermarket, but when case numbers were high, I’d also don a face shield. Sure, it’s not the best-looking accessory, but it sure beats having COVID.

After this experience, I will be doing an even better job of avoiding crowded places. But if I can’t help it, I’ll definitely mask up and I’ll dust off the old face shield. Because I don’t want to go through this again, and I certainly don’t wish it on anyone else, especially those who might have worse symptoms than I did.

Monongalia County Health Department conducts testing on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at WVU Rec Center. And other locations also provide testing. WVU Medicine just made it easier to get a provider order, which is required for testing at its University Town Centre location, through MyChart.

Vaccine clinics are held on Wednesdays, from 9-11 a.m. for Pfizer and from 1-3 p.m. for Moderna, and also at MCHD at 453 Van Voorhis Road. Make an appointment online at book.novelhealth.ai/MCHDC. 

Mary Wade Burnside is the public information office at Monongalia County Health Department.

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