Tag Archives: Coronavirus COVID 19

COVID UPDATE – What it’s like now – are we in the endemic stage?

Is the virus endemic?

New York Times, August 3, 2022

Even though people across the world are trying to move on from Covid, it’s still here, all around us.

Case in point: Half of all infections during the pandemic have taken place this year, as noted by my Times Opinion colleague David Wallace-Wells. Given the current pace, it’s possible that more than 80 percent of all Covid cases will ultimately take place in 2022, he said.

David writes a newsletter for Times subscribers that explores science, climate change, technology and the pandemic. He recently wrote about what endemic Covid would be like. (It’s not good.) I caught up with him to learn more. Continue reading COVID UPDATE – What it’s like now – are we in the endemic stage?

Benicia poets appear in “Yearning To Breathe Free – A Community Journal of 2020”

Benicia Herald’s “Going the Distance” columns published in book form, now available

Yearning To Breathe Free—A Community Journal of 2020, published by Benicia Literary Arts, available at Bookshop Benicia and on the BLA website.  The first of three readings and community conversations will be held on August 28 3-5 p.m at the Benicia Public Library (via Zoom). Everyone is invited – more info at https://www.benicialibrary.org/poet/events.

BENICIA > Yearning To Breathe Free is the collection of “Going the Distance” columns that ran in the Benicia Herald from April 1 through Election Day 2020.

Published by Benicia Literary Arts, the book is now available from the BLA website, http://www.benicialiteraryarts.org/ store/product/17 and at Bookshop Benicia, https://bookshopbenicia.indielite.org/book/9781735499925.

On March 23, 2020, as lives and livelihoods began shutting down due to the COVID pandemic, Mary Susan Gast emailed Galen Kusic, editor of the Benicia Herald, “As the fears grow around the coronavirus and tensions increase about ‘shelter in place,’ I’ve been imagining a column to appear in each edition of the Herald that would voice and speak to the fears, tensions, inspirations, hopes, and oddities we are experiencing.” Kusic responded with encouragement. Continue reading Benicia poets appear in “Yearning To Breathe Free – A Community Journal of 2020”

Covid reinfections may increase likelihood of new health problems

CNN, by Brenda Goodman, CNN, July 5, 2022

Study: Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 clinical isolates. Eakrin Rasadonyindee/Shutterstock

(CNN) Repeatedly catching Covid-19 appears to increase the chances that a person will face new and sometimes lasting health problems after their infection, according to the first study on the health risks of reinfection.

The study, which is based on the health records of more than 5.6 million people treated in the VA Health System, found that, compared with those with just one Covid-19 infection, those with two or more documented infections had more than twice the risk of dying and three times the risk of being hospitalized within six months of their last infection. They also had higher risks for lung and heart problems, fatigue, digestive and kidney disorders, diabetes and neurologic problems.

The findings come as a fresh wave of coronavirus variants, notably Omicron’s BA.5, have become dominant in the United States and Europe, causing cases and hospitalizations to rise once again. BA.5 caused about 54% of cases nationwide last week, doubling its share of Covid-19 transmission over the past two weeks, according to data posted Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Continue reading Covid reinfections may increase likelihood of new health problems

What’s the risk of getting COVID outside? New variants may have changed the answer

A mask-wearing woman stands in the middle of an unmasked crowd at the BottleRock Napa Valley music festival in May. Jungho Kim/Special to The Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle, by Aidin Vaziri, July 7, 2022

Summer in the Bay Area means outdoor parties, weddings and music festivals, where people can worry a little bit less about catching COVID-19. But will fast-spreading offshoots of the omicron coronavirus variant change the equation this year?

The highly infectious and immune-evasive BA.4 and BA.5 sub-lineages of omicron are now the dominant strains in Northern California, according to data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID infections are up across the state as the test-positivity rate nears record levels, meaning the risk is higher in nearly all settings.

“We know they’re more transmissible, so the risk is greater inside or outside,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, an infectious disease expert with UC Berkeley.

Health experts agree that outdoor activities are still much safer than indoors, since viral aerosols don’t have a chance to accumulate in the air. But with the most transmissible variants yet, chances are you have less protection in certain situations.

“Being at parks and outdoor sporting events is still what we should turn to,” said Dr. Anne Liu, an infectious disease doctor at Stanford. “But if you are in a dense crowd or in an outdoor space that has been modified to look like an indoor space, then the risk becomes higher.”

In other words, walking on an isolated hiking trail or a breezy beach is a lot safer than standing shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrants under a tent at a wedding or singing and dancing with fans crammed into an outdoor concert.

Summer means outdoor activities, where the risk of getting coronavirus is supposed to be low. But will new new COVID variants change things? An attendee of Stern Grove Festival’s opening concert was one of the few wearing masks for the event at Sigmund Stern Recreation Grove in San Francisco in early June.  Laura Morton/Special to The Chronicle

The omicron sub-lineages are so new that infectious disease experts are still measuring their potential impact, even in outdoor settings.

“The risk outside is going to be substantially less than inside but we don’t know if it’s changed because we haven’t had a lot of experience with BA.4 and BA.5,” said Swartzberg. “We’re basing our assumptions on BA.1 and BA.2.”

Given the high rate of infection across the Bay Area, there is more virus circulating in the air, so it’s better to be cautious in any environment. That means masking, social distancing, and being aware of your surroundings.

“The chances of being around someone outside or inside who is shedding virus is very high,” said Swartzberg.

Even for those who were recently infected, the new variants don’t offer much protection against catching the virus again, according to Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert with UCSF.

“The newest kids on the block, BA.4 and BA.5, cause a lot more reinfections,” he said.

There are certain outdoor situations when you should even consider wearing a mask.

“If I was crowded together with other people where I couldn’t keep my distance, or if somebody near me was talking loudly or singing, I would just carry a mask with me and put it on if I feel uncomfortable,” said Swartzberg.

Wedding receptions and concerts are some examples of high-risk environments where you would likely slip on a high-quality mask, such as an KN95 or KF94, especially if you need to go inside to use the restroom or pick up drinks from the bar.

“These are really transmissible variants. It doesn’t take much time to pick up the virus,” Liu said.

Some people wear masks as Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd read “You Are Not Alone” on stage during the Bay Area Book Festival at Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park in Berkeley in May.  Brian Feulner/Special to the Chronicle

So far, the CDC guidance for outdoor masking is unchanged: People generally don’t need masks outdoors, regardless of vaccination status. However, face masks are recommended in areas of high transmission for individuals not fully vaccinated in a crowded outdoor setting, or in situations with sustained close contact with others who are not fully vaccinated.

Testing is also an effective tool in helping catch potential infections when large groups of people gather, especially if attendees are traveling from different locations.

Keep in mind that BA.4 and BA.5 are taking longer to detect than previous strains of the virus, so anyone showing symptoms should stay at home and isolate. Swartzberg said it is not unusual to see tests with negative results up to three days after people become infected.

“If I was having a party outside, I would ask everybody to do a rapid test recognizing that it’s not going to be foolproof but might pick up a few positive cases,” he said. “If you wanted to add a layer of protection, you would ask people to do a PCR test the day before. We’re now getting results back for those within 24 hours.”

People should also test if they plan on spending any time inside.

“Outdoor activities are often associated with indoor activities,” said Liu. “Any time people are staying in close quarters, like an Airbnb, it is advisable to do testing. The antigen testing has proven to help detect the presence of infection even if doesn’t completely rule it out.”