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Heading into Year 3: The Latest on COVID-19

Heading into Year 3: The Latest on COVID-19

In Monterey County just like in the rest of the country, we are experiencing a major COVID-19 surge due to the Omicron variant. However, things could be much worse. Melissa Deen, BSN, RN, PHN, Infection Prevention Manager at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital, says the majority of what the hospital is seeing among inpatient areas is people with extremely mild symptoms to completely asymptomatic, which represents a positive shift. The Omicron variant appears to be less severe—even though it is highly communicable in how it spreads. And, an increasing number of people are getting vaccinated, which also reduces the virus’s impact.

“That is hopeful for all of us. We really like to see that. We're isolating people because they've tested positive but generally they’re experiencing mild disease and require minimal support. They're going to go home healthy and happy. That's really important to us,” says Melissa Deen, RN.

Patients who are hospitalized typically have other contributing medical factors or a history of non-COVID disease.

To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Melissa Deen, BSN, RN, PHN, Infection Prevention Manager at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH), click here.

Understanding Medical Isolation and Home Quarantine

Sometimes the terms isolation and quarantine are used interchangeably. Deen wants to provide some clarity, so people understand the purpose of each in both a hospital setting and a home setting.

“Isolation is for people who are symptomatic. Here at the hospital, we put a patient on isolation for the duration of what's required from the CDC. That’s usually 10 days for our mild to moderate patients, 20 days or more for our severe or immunocompromised patients,” she explains.

Home isolation, or what many refer to as quarantine or self-isolation, is when someone tests positive but has only mild or moderate symptoms and is able to remain in their home. Currently, the CDC’s recommendation is for a minimum five-day self-isolation and then masked precaution until you reach day 10. If you continue to have symptoms past day five, you should remain self-isolated until you are symptom-free.

For anyone who is not up to date on their vaccine and is exposed to someone with the virus, the recommendation is to also self-isolate for five days and be watchful for ten. If such a person develops symptoms, they should get tested and quarantine for 10 days.

Which Mask Is Best?

It’s true, some masks are better than others. For example, the KF94/KF95 surgical masks are better than a regular surgical mask, but a regular surgical mask is better than a cloth mask. However, a cloth mask is far better than no mask at all.

Deen advises using a cloth mask that fits well and has at least three layers. “Balaclavas, bandanas, scarves are not the same as a cloth mask. The triple layer is the key. And, it's really important that you're washing them daily in the warmest temperature and drying them at the warmest temperature.”

The highest level of protection comes from an N95 hospital-grade mask. “You don't necessarily need it in the private sector when you're going to the grocery store to buy bananas and milk. But obviously there's a level or scale of what's great and what's just okay. It goes to purpose and why you're wearing it and what you're wearing it for,” adds Deen.

The most crucial factor is to wear a mask and wear it properly. Make sure it fits well and is covering both nose and mouth appropriately. Individuals can find more helpful information about masking on the California Department of Public Health website (www.cdph.org).

Vaccines Protect You, Your Loved Ones, and the Community at Large

One of the most influential steps individuals can take right now to protect themselves and their family members is to get vaccinated and keep up with the boosters (within six to eight months of the last COVID vaccine). Currently, anyone age five and older is eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Deen is anticipating that soon a vaccine will be approved for even younger children.

“We're hopeful and encouraged when we see our admission population for vaccination has increased from this time last year. Even in the past six months we've seen a significant shift. But, it's important for the community at large that we all get vaccinated,” urges Deen.

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