Fall is fast approaching, and along with it comes the increased risk of respiratory infections, including the latest variant of COVID-19 known as BA.2.86. Although the COVID-19 emergency was lifted in May, it is important to remember that the virus is still circulating and can pose a threat to our health.
The good news is that existing tests appear to detect the most recent virus variants effectively. Additionally, vaccines and post-infection treatments have made COVID-19 more manageable, resulting in fewer hospitalizations compared to previous years. The latest variant does not seem to cause more severe illness, and there is currently no indication that it will overwhelm our hospitals.
Nevertheless, it is essential to recognize that COVID-19 continues to be a significant cause of death in the United States, with over 47,000 Americans losing their lives to the virus this year alone. Certain factors, such as age over 65 or underlying medical conditions, can increase the risk of severe disease. If you are unsure about your risk level, consulting with your doctor can help you assess it and make informed decisions about taking precautions.
Even if you are not at high risk, it is still possible for you to become infected and spread the virus to someone who is vulnerable. COVID-19 symptoms may be mild for those who have previously had the virus or have been vaccinated, so it is important to consider testing if you will be around individuals at high risk, even if your symptoms are mild. If you test positive, it is crucial to follow CDC guidelines, including staying home while sick, isolating, wearing masks, and avoiding contact with others.
Fortunately, updated COVID-19 vaccines are expected to be available this fall. The Cincinnati Health Department will offer vaccines at its clinics, even for those who are uninsured. However, it is worth noting that vaccines are no longer covered by the federal government, so uninsured patients will be responsible for any applicable copay or administration fees. The Cincinnati Health Department utilizes sliding scale fees for insured individuals.
For more information about COVID-19, available vaccines, and treatments, you can visit the websites of the Cincinnati Health Department, Hamilton County Public Health, the Ohio Department of Health, or the CDC. If you have any questions, you can contact the Cincinnati Health Department COVID Command Center.
Cincinnati Health Department website
Hamilton County Public Health website
Ohio Department of Health