However, with the widespread adoption of antigen testing, more people are testing for the novel coronavirus at home without having to find a PCR test (although in a different way that a PCR test “detects” the virus). is now available. Officials are urging home testers to report positive results to local health officials, but few have yet done so.
All of this explains why the “real” number of people currently infected with COVID-19 in 2023 is a very difficult number to report, and why the official numbers from PCR testing will almost certainly be significantly undercounted. I can give some explanation as to why.
Is this “summer coronavirus surge” surprising?
UCSF’s Qing Hong said the surge in cases was “somewhat expected” for several reasons, given the spike in cases in the past summer and winter.
The first is how much summer travel people have been and are still doing, he said. “More people are moving, record numbers of tourists, and a mix of people from more dangerous and less dangerous areas.”
Second, the recent heatwaves that have hit across the United States, some even within the Bay Area, have prompted people to stay indoors and maintain moderate temperatures. is to be “It’s like winter drives people indoors,” says Chinhong. I got it.
Third, there is the fact that immunity is weakened. Whether people contracted COVID-19 in the winter and gained immunity, or a vaccine booster in the late fall of 2022, that was about “six months and a change” ago. “People are therefore losing immunity,” said Chinhong.
“CDC data shows that people over the age of 65 have the fastest weakening of the immune system,” he said. “So all of this contributes to a more susceptible host.”
This latest variant has no surprising wildcard symptoms, Chinhong admits. This is the same Covid-19 symptom that we often hear about in previous variants, or at least it seems so at the moment.
In particular, they advise to look out for water, nasal congestion, headaches, fatigue, sneezing, sore throat, coughing, and changes in odor. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Here’s a complete list of possible symptoms of the novel coronavirus:
- fever or chills
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- muscle and body aches
- new taste or loss of smell
- sore throat
- stuffy or runny nose
- nausea or vomiting
what about pink eyes? The most prevalent new coronavirus variant in California right now This is still XBB.1.16, a subvariant of Omicron informally called “Arcturus”. This, in addition to his COVID symptoms above, is also what can cause the symptoms of trendy eye.
Note that you may have multiple of these symptoms, or you may have just one. Some may be mild, while others may feel more severe. However, if any of these apply to you, get tested for COVID-19 (more on this below).
How is EG.5 different from previous Omicron subvariants?
A good way to think about EG.5 and similar Omicron subvariants is, “Instead of thinking about how different it is from the last one, think about how similar it is,” says Chin-Hong. The latest coronavirus variant is “all kinds of XBB,” he said.
“What’s interesting is that Covid-19 hasn’t changed much from winter to now,” said Qinghong. “It’s just a variation on the theme.”
“Of course, every time we look at subsequent generations, they’re just a little bit more slippery than the rest,” he admitted. But at this time there is “no evidence” that EC.5 is more toxic or causes more severe disease. The main thing to know about EG.5 is that it’s “slightly more immune evasive,” Chinhong said, meaning more people are infected.
What are the advantages of EG.5 being similar to previous subvariants? New coronavirus booster scheduled to appear around autumn The latest projections for wide-scale deployment by October are formulated to target XBB, meaning that this vaccine, like EG.5, is “significantly less likely to target these variants”. It’s appropriate,” Ching Hong said.
As the number of COVID-19 cases increases, should you change your behavior?
Everyone should take additional or new measures to protect themselves from COVID-19 while the number of cases is rising, even if it feels like a “setback” at this stage of the pandemic. should consider taking it.
This may include bringing a tight-fitting N95 mask into potentially crowded indoor spaces, such as grocery stores. Alternatively, if you are hosting people indoors in your home, make sure the space is well ventilated by taking measures such as opening windows.
At this time, you may also consider preferring outdoor hangouts and social gatherings with friends and family to reduce your potential risk of contracting COVID-19. The people you meet are likely feeling a little uneasy right now about the recent increase in the number of infected people, but they feel uncomfortable saying it for fear of destroying the social atmosphere. maybe. Do the quiet people around you a favor and consider being the first to raise the issue to keep everyone safe. Remember: It’s not strange not to want to catch COVID-19.
If you are at high risk of serious illness or hospitalization from COVID-19, it is especially recommended to take extra precautions against the virus now. These groups could include the elderly, those with weakened immune systems, those with disabilities, and those who “have not been vaccinated recently, i.e. within the last six months or so,” he said. He advises Mr. Chin-Hong.
Another reason to consider paying extra attention to COVID-19 now is if you’re planning a summer trip. Covid-19, even mild symptoms, can require isolation from others for well over a week. Also, if you have a rebound (i.e. a second) infection, the duration can be doubled. Rebound (second) infections are surprisingly common, even in people who don’t. Do not take the antiviral drug paxlovid.
I think I got infected with the new coronavirus. When should I get tested for COVID-19?
If you’ve heard that the incubation period of the virus, the time between being infected with the virus and testing positive for it, is getting shorter, it’s true. People are testing positive for the novel coronavirus earlier than in 2020, when the average incubation period was five days, but that’s because the incubation period is changing with each new variant, says Ching Hong. Mr. Affirms.
At this stage of the pandemic, there is “not a lot” of up-to-date information on incubation periods, but given this general trend, it makes sense to get tested for COVID-19 within two days, Ching Hong said. . After exposure, if symptoms have already occurred. Even if the test result is negative at that time, if symptoms persist, test again the next day.
good question. At this stage of the pandemic, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a fast and free COVID-19 test, whether it is an at-home antigen test or a PCR test, as more sites and services are shut down. . The federal government also Free new coronavirus test order service that you can do at home Via USPS in June.
So what if you don’t already have a COVID-19 antigen test at home?
Purchase a novel coronavirus home antigen test at your local pharmacy
The quickest way is one of the most expensive up front. That is to purchase an at-home antigen test at your local pharmacy. (Ideally, have someone buy one for you to avoid potentially infecting others at the pharmacy. Also, if you must go yourself, wear a tight-fitting N95 mask. ) These home test kits typically cost about $20 for two antigen tests.
If you have health insurance, you can claim your health insurance company to reimburse you for the cost of up to eight home tests per month, so be careful not to throw away your receipts.
Find a new coronavirus PCR test facility near you
PCR tests are more accurate than antigen tests because they are more sensitive in detecting traces of coronavirus in the body, but results can take longer than home tests.
Currently, there are still a few sites in the state offering free COVID-19 tests. Please try using it:
If you have health insurance, you may be able to pay for a PCR test at the direction of your healthcare provider. If you also have Medicare, ordering a test from your healthcare provider is usually the only way to get the test covered.
If you have health insurance, please contact your medical insurer
If you have insurance with a major Bay Area health provider, such as Kaiser Permanente or Sutter Health, the easiest option to ensure you get a COVID-19 test may be to make an appointment through that provider. Most providers offer online signup through member logins, and you can also book over the phone.
For more information on how to find a free or low-cost COVID-19 test near you, see our KQED guide. The guide includes finding a test through the Bay Area County Public Health Department and finding a test at a private testing facility.
See also our guide on the use and effectiveness of at-home antigen testing in 2023.
Did you test positive for COVID-19? Consider asking for a prescription for Paxlovid
Paxlovid (sometimes pronounced “pax-LOH-vid” or “PAX-loh-vid”) is a highly effective COVID-19 treatment that is available free by prescription in California.
Treatment is very simple and involves taking tablets by mouth twice a day for 5 days. There is evidence that it may help reduce the risk of developing long-term COVID-19, not only reducing the risk of severe illness and hospitalization, but also helping to relieve the symptoms of the infection.