What’s the latest on COVID-19?

What is the latest COVID-19 guidance for facilities? That’s a good question since most Americans have lost faith in the CDC and similar “expert” sources. Updates and guidance are read with great skepticism.

          Yet, the CDC continues to push vaccinations. Its website states, “You can still get COVID-19 after vaccination, but your symptoms are likely to be much less severe.” The CDC is also advocating facilities to “triage” or assess new admissions for any respiratory symptoms that could be related to COVID, RSV and/or the flu.

          The US Food and Drug Administration found that getting COVID-19 and flu shots together or just getting the high-dose or adjuvanted flu shot alone can slightly raise the risk for stroke. The COVID and flu shot association is more profound when given at the same time, and in those aged 85 and older. The stroke association is even greater when getting the Pfizer COVID-19 shot and a flu shot on the same day. There’s also a slightly higher risk of stroke in people 65 and older who receive a high-dose flu vaccine, Medicare claims data revealed.

          As of April 3, 2023, the Department of Social Services (DSS) dropped its staff vaccination and booster requirements, and no longer requires facilities to document worker vaccinations. However, DSS and CDC, are “encouraging” facility staff to be vaccinated and get COVID boosters every six months. Nationwide, only 7% of adults and 2% of children have opted to receive booster shots and, despite that small number, there has been a significant decrease in the number of reported COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths since the virus was first identified.

          On May 11, DSS removed the requirement of wearing a mask while working in a facility but adds, “Wearing a mask is an important consideration for facilities where higher risk individuals are present.”

          However, on November 1, in some California counties, healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes must wear masks and visitors to healthcare facilities are required to also wear masks to prevent the spread of RSV, flu and COVID. Most counties, including the state’s most populous county, Los Angeles, is “strongly recommending” the wearing of a mask when workers are doing resident care.

          Winter is considered the peak season for respiratory viruses although California had a spike in respiratory cases from July through August. Any mask mandate would expire after March when the risk of respiratory infections subsides.

          Both the CDC and DSS are strongly encouraging facilities to keep a “hand hygiene station,” with alcohol-based hand sanitizers, at all entries into facilities and keep warning signs posted about respiratory hygiene and infection control.