What precautions should people take for Labor Day and back to school? explains a doctor


As families prepare to gather for Labor Day and children return to school, coronavirus cases are on the rise again.

Hospital admissions due to the coronavirus have increased by more than 18% in the last week, according to a new report US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some experts are encouraging a return to wearing masks, especially for the elderly and individuals most at risk of serious illness.

And with concerns that COVID-19 could spread while people gather, this has led to many questions about disease prevention: What virus prevention measures should those planning Labor Day events consider? When children return to class, do they have to wear a mask? And how should families prepare for a possible confluence of coronavirus, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that may occur this fall?

To guide us through these questions, I spoke with CNN Wellness medical expert Dr. Lianna Wen. Wayne is an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. She previously served as the Baltimore Health Commissioner.

CNN: What precautions should people take to protect themselves from the coronavirus?

doctor. Lena Wayne: It depends on people’s circumstances.

We are in a very different phase of the pandemic than we were in the first two years of Covid-19. At this point, it is clear that the coronavirus has become endemic – it has become one of many viruses that we have to contend with. Fortunately, we have many tools to reduce the risk of infection with the Coronavirus, including vaccines and treatments, and options to reduce transmission of the virus, including masks and improving ventilation.

The primary factor for people to consider when considering the degree of precautions to take is how severely ill they would be if they contracted Covid-19. For younger, generally healthy people, especially if they’ve had coronavirus before and been vaccinated, the chance of developing severe disease is very low. As a result, they may decide that they will use good hygiene practices such as washing hands and sneezing into their elbows, but otherwise not take the more restrictive measures they adopted earlier in the pandemic such as wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding indoor interactions.

CNN: Are the elderly still particularly at risk?

Wen: Yes. Most people who still get severely ill from coronavirus are those 65 or older with serious underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, and a weakened immune system. These individuals should take extra precautions. First, they must ensure that they are up to date with the latest coronavirus boosters. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, less than half Among those age 65 and over received the bivalent booster dose that was first released in the fall of 2022. Older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions should definitely get the new booster dose when it is released, which is What is expected to happen next month.

People should also know if they qualify for the antiviral drug, Paxlovid, and have a plan for how to access it. Studies have shown that Paxlovid can reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by some amount 80% When taken within five days of the onset of symptoms.

Individuals should speak with their physicians to discuss their risk of becoming severely ill with coronavirus, and considering the effect of boosters and antiviral therapy. Those who are still at risk should take extra precautions to avoid contracting Covid-19 in the first place. This includes wearing a suitable, high-quality N95 mask or equivalent in crowded indoor settings, and choosing outdoor gatherings over indoors.

Back view of students sitting with hands raised in classroom

CNN: Who should take more caution?

Wen: I think there are two other categories of people who might want to take precautions. The first is people who live with a high-risk person. They should consider masking and limiting indoor gatherings to reduce the risk of transmitting coronavirus to vulnerable loved ones. They should also get tested regularly to reduce the risk of asymptomatic transmission.

In addition, since every infection with COVID-19 comes with the risk of developing post-Covid symptoms – also called long Covid – those who prioritize avoiding long Covid may also take precautions to reduce their likelihood of contracting the virus.

CNN: What measures should those planning Labor Day events consider?

Wen: It’s important to put the latest Covid-19 numbers into perspective. While it is true that hospitalizations are on the rise, they are only on the verge of being so third of hospitals last year at the same time. People who didn’t hang out with Labor Day events last year probably don’t need to do so this year.

Organizers must take into account their medical conditions and those of attendees. If there are some attendees who have expressed concern about contracting COVID-19, the organizers can consider hosting outdoor Labor Day festivities. The outdoors is much safer than indoors, and good ventilation with open windows and doors is a great strategy for reducing transmission. I also recommend making hand sanitizer readily available and encouraging people to stay home if they develop symptoms.

High-risk individuals can further reduce their risk by only attending outdoor events at which they can remain, or, if they must be indoors, by wearing a high-quality mask when in crowded areas.

CNN: When children return to the classroom, should they wear a mask? Should mask requirements return in schools?

Wen: I don’t think mask requirements should come back in schools. Covid will be with us forever, and unless we are prepared to require children to wear masks all the time in the classroom, the virus level is not at the point where we need to consider mandating masks on children, who are generally at very low risk of serious illness.

However, there may be circumstances where families may consider masking their children in schools. Schools may have policies requiring children to wear masks if they develop symptoms, for example. Also, a child who is about to visit a grandparent in a nursing home, for example, may choose to wear a mask for a few days before the visit to reduce the risk of contracting Covid-19. Families with children who are immunocompromised or who have severe underlying medical conditions should also discuss with their physicians whether continuing to wear a mask is the appropriate measure, especially as virus levels increase in the fall and winter months.

CNN: How should families prepare for the potential confluence of coronavirus, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that may occur later this fall?

Wen: It is possible that we could have a confluence of virus activity as we did last year, with cases of MERS-CoV, influenza, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) rising around the same time. Families should plan for everyone to get the flu vaccine – everyone 6 months of age and older should get it. The new COVID vaccine is expected to be released next month, and vulnerable individuals should plan to receive it. There are now two new RSV vaccines that are eligible for people 60 and older, as well as options for pregnant patients and children. People should discuss all of these options with their health care providers.

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