Over the past couple of years, a lot’s been said and done about COVID-19. Now, differing mandates have many people feeling conflicted, and new variants continue to spread. Thankfully, community health workers can educate patients, prevent them from getting this dangerous virus, and avoid its advancement.
At CHWTraining, we compiled the most common questions any CHW may get asked regarding the coronavirus as people head outside for the summer of 2022.
Everything you need to know about COVID-19 and its variants in 2022
What are the new COVID variants in 2022?
Let’s work our way back in time.
The World Health Organization is currently focusing on the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The original strain of Omicron, BA.1, was discovered in Africa in November of 2021 and quickly spread to other countries, including the US.
Its newest subvariants, BA.5 and BA.4, represent an increasing percentage of total COVID-19 infections in the US, according to People’s CDC. In July, more than half of all reported cases were due to these Omicron subvariants.
Omicron BA.2, aka stealth omicron, first emerged in the late winter and early spring of 2022. It caused around 85% of all COVID-19 cases at the time.
Before Omicron, the Delta variant was first discovered in India back in late 2020. And the Beta variant was identified around the same time in South Africa, from where it spread to other countries, although it wasn’t common in the US.
And prior to that, the Alpha variant was the first one to make waves in late 2020. It appeared in the UK, and soon, it was the main variant in the US until Delta started spreading.
In short, the main variant of concern in the summer is Omicron, with its subvariants, BA.5 and BA.4.
How is the new variant different from the previous COVID?
The most significant differences between strains have been transmissibility, symptoms, and how they fare against vaccines.
There’s little information so far regarding the severity of Omicron subvariants BA.5 and BA.4. Still, there’s reason to believe that a full course of vaccination can prevent severe disease and hospitalization for most patients. A full course of vaccination means one dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine and one booster shot, or two doses of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine and one booster shot.
What are the latest COVID symptoms?
The incubation period for Omicron seems to be shorter than before, lasting two to 14 days. This means that symptoms could show up any time after day 2. For reference, Day 0 of a COVID-19 infection is the day a patient is exposed to the virus. Day 1 is the first full day after exposure. This knowledge is essential for tracking symptoms and isolation or quarantine.
Symptoms of Omicron are very similar to the original COVID symptoms, except that fewer people lose their sense of smell and taste, according to a small study. Other Omicron symptoms include:
- A sore throat.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Muscle or body aches, especially in the lower back.
- Fever or chills.
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
It’s important to note that someone with no symptoms can still transmit Omicron and make others sick.
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What are the quarantine guidelines for the summer of 2022?
If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, the CDC recommends staying home for 5 days after exposure. You should also take a test on day 5, if possible.
If you develop symptoms, get tested and start counting from when the first symptom appears. In this case, you’ll have to count 5 days from the start of the symptoms and stay home during this time. If your symptoms improve, you’ll be able to leave home, but keep wearing a mask around others for another 5 days.
If you have a fever, stay home until your fever is gone for at least 24 hours without medication. And then continue to wear a mask for 5 days.
What are the mask guidelines for the summer of 2022?
As of July of 2022, there’s no federal mask mandate in the US. That said, there are recommendations depending on where you are and the COVID situation in the area.
In areas with high COVID-19 community levels, people are recommended to wear a mask when indoors, regardless of vaccination status.
In areas with medium or low COVID-19 community levels, masks are recommended for those at high risk of severe complications because of their age or other conditions.
Previous mandates, like wearing a mask while using public transportation, are no longer enforced by the CDC. But local governments may have different guidelines.
What are the traveling recommendations or guidelines for COVID-19 in 2022?
The CDC keeps an updated list of recommendations by country for international travel.
Other than that, the guidelines for domestic travel are similar to the guidelines for quarantine. If you’ve been in close contact with someone who has COVID, avoid traveling for 5 to 10 days. If you must travel on days 6 to 10, wear a mask when around others.
And check the guidelines of the place you’re visiting, as they may have local requirements you’ll need to stick to.
What are the latest COVID-19 vaccine mandates?
COVID vaccine recommendations are as follows:
- Anyone 6 months old or older should have one or two shots of the vaccine available for their age. The CDC named this the primary series. For Johnson & Johnson, the primary series is one dose. The primary series includes two doses for the other available brands (Pfizer-BioNTech, Novavax, and Moderna).
- Anyone 5 years old or older should get a primary series of vaccines and a booster if eligible. Except in the case of the Novavax vaccine, for which no booster is recommended.
However, different states have different requirements, from vaccine mandates to frequent testing. Visit this resource by the National Academy for State Health Policy to learn more about each US state and its individual COVID vaccine policy.
Can I still Contract COVID if I had it before?
Anyone who’s had COVID-19 can have it again. While having COVID-19 lowers your chances of catching it again, you have to keep in mind that new variants find new ways of transmission.
Considering the risk of breakthrough infections, a full course of vaccines and the use of face masks in indoor spaces and around others is essential for preventing the spread of the virus.
Can I still get COVID if I Have my Vaccines?
Yes. Experts named this a COVID-19 breakthrough infection. Pharmaceutical companies designed COVID-19 vaccines to prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death. But you can still get the virus and pass it on to others. Most importantly, you can catch new variants that have evolved to circumvent the existing vaccines and the immunity you may have built from a previous COVID case.
COVID-19 is still out there
We’re all itching to get back to regular life. But COVID-19 continues to be a threat to most people. It’s a new disease that we’re only now studying, and we don’t know the long-term implications of COVID-19 and its variants.
Preventing the spread of the virus begins with you.