Berkeley, CA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends everyone 6 months and older to receive the updated COVID-19 vaccine. This announcement comes after the Food and Drug Administration recently approved new COVID boosters that were formulated to more effectively target some of the current dominant variants being spread in the U.S. — allowing pharmacies and clinics to administer doses by the end of the week.
Over the past few years, the virus has mutated so many times — making it hard to keep track of its changes. These mutations have the potential to increase transmissibility, worsen symptoms or reduce the effectiveness of existing COVID vaccines.
On Aug. 23, the CDC announced that they detected a new variant labeled BA.2.86, noting that it has multiple genetic differences from previous variants. Researchers are still in the beginning stages of understanding this new strain, so there is a lot that is unknown.
So far, it seems like medication, testing and treatment for this variant will be similar to other strains. As of right now, it looks as though this variant does not cause more severe illness than those before it. But it is unclear if there are any symptomatic differences from other COVID variants and how it will affect those experiencing long COVID.
There is currently a spike in COVID cases and hospitalizations, as seen in the rise of documented hospitalizations and deaths. Total deaths from COVID have risen 10.5% since the past week, and hospitalizations are up by 8.7%.
There are several other factors that could contribute to the rise in cases, including back-to-school season where large groups of students can spread the virus quickly. But there are ways to reduce the risk of getting yourself and others sick.
If you are able to get vaccinated or receive a booster shot, that can help reduce the risk of infection or reduce the severity of symptoms if you contract COVID. If you haven’t received a bivalent vaccine — whether or not you have received a monovalent vaccine — the CDC recommends you get one as soon as possible. Wearing a mask and staying in ventilated areas can also help with protection in getting COVID.
The current recommendation for being in close contact with someone with COVID is to get tested five days after exposure and wear a mask for 10. And if you have symptoms, take a COVID test as soon as possible and stay home in the meantime. Because there is so much unknown, the best thing to do is to take the necessary and appropriate precautions for you and the people you are surrounded by.
Nina Thompson (she/her), is a high school student from Berkeley, CA.
Edited by Amber Ly