By Don Herrington, ADHS Interim Director
Is the COVID-19 pandemic over?
That question is getting a lot of attention this week, and it’s natural to wonder where ADHS stands. In Arizona, however, we look past terminology to the impact of a virus on the health and wellness of our residents.
There’s no question that COVID-19 remains a state, national, and global problem. The impacts have been far less as of late, thanks in large part to widespread vaccination, but people continue to be hospitalized and die from COVID-19, particularly those who are older. Long COVID remains a concern for all ages.
ADHS will continue following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance, which remains in place:
Get vaccinated and boosted: Being up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccination according to CDC recommendations is the best protection from COVID-19. During July, it reduced the chances of being hospitalized by 18 times and of dying by 47 times versus those who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19. The new bivalent Omicron booster available to everyone 12 and older targets subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 that account for nearly all cases today. We strongly recommend this booster for everyone, but it’s especially important for older people and those with weakened immune systems. Going forward, it’s quite possible your COVID-19 booster will be given with and be just as important as your annual influenza vaccination.
Pay attention to COVID-19 community levels and local health guidance: Each week, the CDC updates COVID-19’s county-level impact in terms of case rate and impact on the health care system. With those community levels come recommendations for mask use. At the moment, no Arizona county has a high community level that includes a recommendation of masks in public indoor settings. But be sure to assess your own risk and act accordingly, along with following guidance from your local health department.
Stick with the basics: In addition to being up-to-date on vaccinations, staying at home if you are sick, washing your hands thoroughly and often, covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze, maintaining physical distance, and taking other simple precautions will help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Whether it’s labeled a pandemic or not, COVID-19 is and will remain an unpredictable foe, COVID-19 vaccines are a proven way to protect yourself and those around you, and there are effective ways to guard against COVID-19 and other communicable diseases.