Boosters

If we need a booster dose, does that mean that vaccines aren't working? 

No. COVID-19 vaccines are working well to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death, but the latest data show that booster doses significantly increase protection against the Omicron variant. The latest CDC recommendations on booster doses help to ensure more people across the U.S. are better protected against COVID-19. The best way to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted if eligible—particularly for groups that are more at risk for severe COVID-19, such as older people and those with underlying medical conditions.

Learn more here

Can I mix and match my COVID-19 vaccine and booster? 

The CDC recommends that people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine get a Pfizer or Moderna booster. The CDC advises people who got a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine to get the same booster as their initial vaccine, but allows them to mix and match (i.e., get a different COVID-19 booster than their initial vaccine) depending on preference or availability—with the exception of adolescents age 12-17 who are only eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

If you received the Pfizer vaccine and are 12 years of age or older, you are eligible to get a booster dose 5 months after your second shot. If you received the Moderna vaccine, you should get the booster dose 6 months after your second shot. If you received the J&J vaccine, you are eligible for a booster two months after getting the initial shot.

If you have questions about your eligibility for booster doses or which booster you should get, speak to your health care provider.

Why will some people get a second booster dose? Will more people need to get additional COVID-19 booster shots?  

On March 29, 2022, the CDC updated booster dose guidance to expand eligibility for some people to get a second vaccine booster. Adults age 50 and older and some immunocompromised individuals are now eligible to get a second Pfizer or Moderna booster dose at least 4 months after their first booster (whether they received a Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson booster). Older adults—especially those with underlying medical conditions—and people with compromised immune systems are at higher risk of severe health impacts if infected by COVID-19, and are therefore among those most likely to benefit from the additional protection of a second booster shot. Individuals in these groups should consult with their health provider if they have questions about getting a second booster.

Booster doses are common for many vaccines. The scientists and medical experts who developed the COVID-19 vaccines will continue to watch for signs of waning immunity, how well the vaccines protect against new mutations of the virus, and how that data differ across age groups and risk factors. To date, booster doses have been effective in boosting immunity against new variants of COVID-19 and extending protection of the vaccine against serious illness.

Why is an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for immunocompromised people? 

People with compromised immune systems may have a reduced ability to respond to vaccines, and having a weakened immune system can increase the risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19. The CDC recommends that immunocompromised people who received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine get an additional dose at least 28 days after their second shot.  All Johnson & Johnson recipients, including immunocompromised people, should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial shot. Data show that an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines helps to increase protection for this group. 

Patients who are immunocompromised should consult with their health care provider to discuss additional precautions and any questions they have about protecting themselves from COVID-19.

Have the death tolls for COVID-19 been inflated?

COVID-19 remains a serious threat to public health, and there is no evidence that the reported number of COVID-19 deaths has been inflated. The CDC has tracked and reported COVID-19 fatalities from the start of the pandemic, with detailed data from the local and state level that originates with each individual death certificate. In fact, experts agree that the number of COVID deaths are probably undercounted because not everyone with COVID will have been tested and diagnosed.

The CDC’s report also gives a detailed account of something we’ve known since the beginning of the pandemic – having pre-existing conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or obesity greatly increases a person’s risk for life-threatening consequences from the infection. We also know that COVID-19 deaths can be caused by related complications, such as pneumonia or respiratory distress. The high rate of chronic illness in the U.S. (6 in 10 adults have a chronic disease) has contributed to the high number of COVID-19 deaths, but it is important to remember that even people with pre-existing conditions may have lived years longer if they had not been infected with COVID-19. For that reason, the cause of these deaths is COVID-19.

**St. Clair County data is obtained from the Michigan Disease Surveillance System. This data is provisional.

Learn more here.

Out of the kids who were quarantined during the 2020/2021 school year due to being a close contact of an infected individual, how many showed symptoms or tested positive?

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been 2,539 cases of COVID-19 among individuals ages 0-18 years old per data as of 9/13/2021. Of those cases, 1,495 cases have a completed case investigation and 645 individuals or 43.1% of cases with a completed investigation reported that they were in quarantine when they became positive for COVID-19. Of the 1,495 cases with a completed case investigation, 1,258 individuals or 84.1% reported having COVID-19 symptoms.

It is unknown how many kids have been quarantined over the last year. The health department identifies close contacts by conducting case investigations but many case investigations were incomplete due to being unable to contact individuals, refusals to participate in the case investigation, or other factors such as high volumes of new cases. Even in cases where a case investigation was completed the individual my refuse to provide close contacts or be unaware of close contacts.

How many athletes tested positive in our county last year? Of those who were identified as close contacts of an infected individual, how many tested positive from this exposure.

Over the last school year the St. Clair County Health Department is aware of over a dozen outbreaks associated with sports teams with 93 known cases of COVID-19 associated with those outbreaks. It is unknown how many individuals were exposed.

How many deaths in the county were "with" or "from" COVID-19?

The death data posted by the Health Department is accurate and is the same data posted by MDHHS. It’s important to note that just because an individual was diagnosed with COVID-19 and died does not mean they are reported as a COVID-19 death. For example, an individual that is positive for COVID-19 but dies from a traumatic cause such as a car accident would not be counted as a COVID death. The criteria for a confirmed/probable death are:

Confirmed Deaths:

  • Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Michigan Disease Surveillance System (MDSS) that have been marked as deceased as identified through case investigation.

 

  • Decedents with a death certificate that lists a COVID-related term (in Part I or II) that are Confirmed cases in MDSS, but were not yet marked as deceased in MDSS.

 

  • Decedents with pending causes of death that are Confirmed cases in MDSS, but were not yet marked as deceased in MDSS.

 

  • Decedents with death certificates that do not specifically list a COVID-related term (in Part I or Part II) that are Confirmed cases in MDSS, but were not yet marked as deceased in MDSS IF they died within 30 days of symptom onset (or referral date if symptom onset not available) AND died in a manner of death deemed to be ‘natural’ on the death certificate.

Probable Deaths:

  • Death certificates that list a COVID-related term (in Part I or II) where there is no available evidence of a confirmatory test result (positive or negative).

These criteria are also posted on the “LEARN MORE” tab of the MDHHS COVID-19 Dashboard here.

How many of the COVID positive deaths in SCC also had underlying issues or contributing factors to the death?

This is a complicated question because we know that we do not have a complete picture of the underlying issues of all of our COVID-19 deaths and how those underlying issues contributed to the individual’s death. Based on the data that we currently have, approximately 12% of COVID-19 deaths had either no preexisting conditions or they had low risk underlying issues, such as individuals with controlled high blood pressure and no other medical issues. The CDC has good information on underlying medical conditions and COVID-19 deaths (link below). Per the CDC, age is the strongest risk factor for severe COVID-19 outcomes and the number of underlying medical conditions an individual has the greater their risk for severe disease.

Learn more here.

How many people who are testing positive now are fully vaccinated?

Between 6/1/2021 and 11/30/2021 there were 1,932 fully vaccinated St. Clair County residents that tested positive for COVID-19. During the same time period there were 7,696 unvaccinated St. Clair County residents that tested positive for COVID-19. As the number of people fully vaccinated differs from those unvaccinated we calculated a rate per 100,000 people to better compare the rate of new infections in both groups.

Full vaccinated: 2,622 cases per 100,000 people
Unvaccinated: 9,007 cases per 100,000 people

Between 6/1/2021 and 11/30/2021 we had a significant difference in death rates among fully vaccinated and not fully vaccinated individuals. Below is the age-adjusted rates for each group.

Full vaccinated: 28.5 deaths per 100,000 people
Unvaccinated: 175.4 deaths per 100,000 people

Between 6/1/2021 and 11/30/2021 we had a significant difference in the average age of those that died between fully vaccinated and not fully vaccinated individuals. Below is the average age of deaths for each group.

Full vaccinated: 76 years
Unvaccinated: 66 years

All rates are per 100,000 people and age-adjustment was computed by the direct method, using the population of St. Clair County as the standard. The data in this report is provisional.  

Helpful Resources:

Why aren’t natural antibodies being used in heard immunity numbers?

The science and technology of antibody detection, quantification, typing and the portative factors of these variables are still very fluid and unreliable. Further, natural immunity can be spotty. Some people can react vigorously and have a great antibody response, while others will not. Vaccine-induced immunity is more standardized and can be longer-lasting.

SCCHD and MDHHS follows CDC guidance in encouraging all eligible individuals to get vaccinated, including those who have had previous covid-19 infection.

The CDC states that:

“Antibody testing is not currently recommended to assess the need for vaccination in an unvaccinated person or to assess for immunity to SARS-CoV-2 following COVID-19 vaccination. Antibody tests currently authorized under an EUA have variable sensitivity, specificity, as well as positive and negative predictive values, and are not authorized for the assessment of immune response in vaccinated people. Furthermore, the serologic correlates of protection have not been established, and antibody testing does not evaluate the cellular immune response, which may also play a role in vaccine-mediated protection.

If antibody testing was performed following vaccination, additional doses of the same or different COVID-19 vaccines are not recommended based on antibody test results at this time. If antibody testing was done after the first dose of an mRNA vaccine, the vaccination series should be completed regardless of the antibody test result.”

Additional resources on testing:

CDC guidance:
Interim Guidelines for COVID-19 Antibody Testing | CDC

FDA: (Discusses both after vaccination and for non-vaccinated populations)
Antibody Testing Is Not Currently Recommended to Assess Immunity After COVID-19 Vaccination: FDA Safety Communication | FDA

For patient education, you can find some wording about vaccination for people who have had previous infection here:
Test for Past Infection | CDC

COVID-19_Vaccine_Public_FAQ_FINAL_710077_7.pdf (michigan.gov)

See also here under “If I have already had COVID-19 and recovered, do I still need to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine?”
Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination | CDC

And here under “Natural immunity versus vaccine immunity”
Answering Patients’ Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination | CDC

Remember, the difference between vaccination and natural infection is the price paid for immunity.

How are the reported new cases being identified?

Case referrals may come from health care providers, local health departments, laboratories, Quarantine Stations, or from contact tracing systems (such as OMS or TraceForce).

Learn more here.

What is the difference between isolation and quarantine?

Isolation and quarantine help protect the public by preventing exposure to people who have or may have a contagious disease.

  • Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
  • Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

Learn more here.

What are the latest quarantine and isolation guidelines for St. Clair County?

Quarantine and Isolation procedures vary for the following groups: 

What are the latest recommendations on wearing a mask? 

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During the recovery phase, masks remain an important tool in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Individuals who feel sick, may be at higher risk of infection or who feel better protected when masked should choose when they are comfortable masking. Residents should consider their individual and family members' risk factors and vaccination status when making the personal decision whether to mask. Those with chronic illness or who are imunocompromised are at higher risk for poor outcomes from COVID-19 and would benefit most from masking in indoor settings. 

Where can I get FREE N95 masks? 

St. Clair County Health Department in partnership with the St. Clair County Library System has free adult KN95 masks available for the public (while supplies last) at all St. Clair County Library branch locations and the St. Clair County Health Department, main office. Pick up times are during regular business hours. Limit three masks per person. 

To find additional distribution sites, visit Michigan.gov/MaskUpMichigan

Can masks help slow the spread of COVID-19?

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While all masks provide some level of protection, properly-fitted high filtration masks such as N95s, KN95s and KN94s provide the best protection. Masks are less effective if they are worn improperly or taken off frequently, so choosing a mask that fits well and that you will wear consistently will help you get the best protection. You can improve the protection of your mask by making sure it fits snugly over your nose and mouth with no gaps, and by wearing two masks (a cloth mask over a disposable mask) if you don’t have access to a high filtration mask.

Refer to CDC guidance for more information about when and how to wear a mask, what kinds of masks there are, how to check a high filtration mask for authenticity, and other guidance. 

What type of face masks are best? 

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Face masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when worn consistently and correctly. Here are considerations to help you choose a mask and ensure you get the best protection from it.

  • Filtration. While all masks provide some level of protection, properly fitted high filtration masks such as N95s, KN95s, and KF94s offer the best protection. In absence of a high filtration mask, people can improve the protection of their masks by wearing two masks (a cloth mask over a disposable mask).
  • Fit. A poorly fitting or uncomfortable mask may be less effective if it is worn improperly or taken off frequently. If you are wearing a high filtration mask, ensure that it seals tightly to your face, which facial hair can interfere with. Masks should fit snugly over your nose and mouth with no gaps. Fit can be improved by combining a cloth mask or disposable mask with a fitter or brace, knotting and tucking ear loops of your mask, or wearing a mask that is secured behind the head instead of with ear loops.
  • Comfort. Some masks are more protective than others, and some are harder to tolerate than others. High filtration masks, such as N95s, KN95s and KF94s are recommended. People can get the best protection from COVID-19 by wearing the most protective mask you can that fits well and that you will wear consistently.

Why did the recommendations change on what type of mask to wear?

As the science and the virus evolves, so do the policies and recommendations. While all masks provide some level of protection, the CDC now recommends using the most protective mask you are able to because the Omicron variant is even more infectious than earlier variants.

The CDC also updated recommendations on N95s based on supply. When there was limited nationwide supply, CDC recommended prioritizing N95 respirators for healthcare workers, but now N95s and KN95s are widely available.

Do masks raise your Carbon Dioxide (CO2) level?

Cloth masks and surgical masks do not provide an airtight fit across the face. The CO2 escapes into the air through the mask when you breathe out or talk. CO2 molecules are small enough to easily pass through mask material. In contrast, the respiratory droplets that carry the virus that causes COVID-19 are much larger than CO2, so they cannot pass as easily through a properly designed and properly worn mask.

Learn more here.

Why do mask requirements differ at the local and state level, and among different businesses, workplaces, and schools?  

The authority for making mask requirements most often resides at the state and local level. The CDC issues recommendations and guidance to help inform policy decisions made at the local levels. Mask requirements often take into account a variety of factors such as new COVID-19 hospital admissions, staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and new COVID-19 cases which may differ across businesses, employers, and schools.

I’m tired of pandemic restrictions — isn’t it time we move on?

We understand that people are tired, but public health measures are not the enemy — they are the roadmap for a faster and more sustainable recovery. The pandemic has posed so many hardships, from the loss of loved ones, to job loss, to loneliness, to parenting in the context of virtual schooling. We’ve made progress in putting the pandemic behind us, but we risk the health of our communities and our economy if we declare victory too soon, particularly in the light of the high degree of contagiousness of the delta variant.

Many communities have made tremendous progress in protecting ourselves and our loved ones from COVID-19, but vaccination rates are still lagging. After months of decreasing in many places, COVID cases are increasing across the country, with infection rates highest in places where vaccination rates are low. The delta variant is roughly twice as contagious as the initial strain and is now the dominant strain in the U.S. and worldwide. Because of how contagious this variant is, it’s more important than ever for eligible adults and adolescents to get vaccinated, and for unvaccinated people to continue wearing a mask in public settings.

We’re all looking forward to a time when we can do all the things we love safely, and the way we get there is by getting vaccinated and following local guidelines.

We have been averaging around 10% of hospital beds being used for COVID, is that not an acceptable number? What percentage of beds used for COVID would be unacceptable and causing an unmanageable burden on our local hospitals?

This is a difficult question to answer as there are many variables to consider when talking about hospital capacity. Most hospitals have the ability to reroute resources and make additional beds available in times when there is a significant need. Meaning the number of beds available does not stay stagnant, and can change over time. However, those rerouted resources can still have an impact on community care as planned surgeries, screenings, and treatments could be delayed as a result.

Additionally, in order to care for people in those beds, hospitals and other medical facilities need staff. Each of our hospital systems have reported a shortage of nurses and other necessary personnel. Employees at those facilities also have frequent exposures to those with the virus and, if unvaccinated, may need to quarantine which can significantly impact the hospitals ability to accept and treat patients.

*In the event that the healthcare system cannot handle an influx of patients from the virus, they may resort to a “Crisis Standards of Care” which allows health systems to prioritize patients for scarce resources, based largely on their likelihood of survival, and even deny treatment. The decisions would affect both COVID and non-COVID patients. 

Health care providers have had months to build capacity and supplies to manage the COVID-19 outbreak. Why are we hearing about shortages of beds and supplies again?

The most serious potential shortage is for hospital intensive care capacity. The only way to prevent such shortages is to control the spread of COVID-19. In the last year, we have seen increased risk for shortages following unprecedented surge in cases, often after holidays or other moments of large gatherings. In those situations, patients may be at risk if the capacity of local hospitals to provide intensive care is exceeded by the number of patients needing that care. That’s why it is vital for us to work together and follow the latest public health guidance to prevent the spread of the virus.

Has the COVID-19 virus never been isolated? 

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has been isolated in a laboratory and is available for research by the scientific and medical community.

Learn more here

Why should people trust public health officials?

Public health officials are trained and experienced in responding to infectious disease outbreaks and life-threatening emergencies. They work closely with scientists and researchers to translate the latest findings into action with the express goal of keeping people as safe and healthy as possible.

Public health officials strive to be guided by science and independent of political or partisan considerations. The most effective way to address COVID-19 is to have state, local, and federal officials working in coordination and operating based on scientific guidance.

What is a public health official’s most important role during a health emergency?

As always, the role of public health officials is to follow the science, develop programs and guidelines that protect health, advise elected officials, work with public and private sector partners, and keep the public informed.

Why did the St. Clair County Health Department let the Public Health Mask Order expire on January 28th, 2022? 

View the fact sheet here. 

Why was the school mask order issued? Can you explain the timing?

The St. Clair County Health Department (SCCHD) was concerned about the potential impacts of the Omicron variant given its increased transmissibility compared to Delta. Additionally, continued high case rates could have made for a perfect storm, taxing our already limited resources including test kits and therapeutics to treat the virus.

Furthermore, strong recommendations encouraging masking within the schools had not been adequate to compel the level of compliance needed to mitigate the spread of the virus. Thus, an Order was issued to require masking which is a critical tool to take care of our kids and keep them in school.

Learn more from the Face Masks in School fact sheet here. 

Why did the mask order only apply to K-12 educational settings?

SCCHD issued the mask order for such settings due to factors that make individuals in those situations particularly vulnerable to disease transmission.

  1. The St. Clair County Health Department understood how difficult virtual learning was for students, parents, and school staff throughout the pandemic and wanted to avoid interruptions to education for our children. Masking was the best way to keep students in school.
  2. A very small number of K-12 students were fully vaccinated. As of January 4th 2022, only 20.9% of St. Clair County residents ages 5 to 19 were fully vaccinated. Statewide 30.7% of residents ages 5 to 19 were fully vaccinated.
  3. Our children are valuable and worth providing extra protection when they are in the care of persons other than their family.  The preponderance of evidence and science supports that using masks in congregate settings like schools reduces the transmission of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19.  We owe our children the best school environment possible in these difficult times.

The virus is not severe enough to hurt children. Why issue a mask order?

It’s true that children don’t typically get as sick as adults when infected with COVID-19. However, some children become severely ill with COVID and may need to be hospitalized, treated in the intensive care unit, or placed on a ventilator to help them breathe. There are also concerns about the long-term physical effects some children may experience after infection (known commonly as COVID long haulers).

Even if the virus is not as severe in children, the unmitigated spread in that population can lead to disruptions in school and in-person education. It can also put those around children at increased risk of virus exposure. Children can transmit virus just as readily as adults and the added burden to them when their family members get sick cannot be underestimated.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), several studies have found similar concentrations of the COVID-19 virus in upper respiratory specimens from children and adults.

  1. To date, most studies of COVID-19 transmission have found that children and adults have a similar risk of transmitting COVID-19 to others.
  2. One study reported that children were more likely to transmit COVID-19 than adults >60 years old.

Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all kids, teachers, staff, and visitors in schools and childcare settings in the U.S. wear masks, whether vaccinated or not.

Learn more here.

Where is the data to support school masking? 

COVID-19 Death Data

From August 2021 to January 5th 2022, 226 St Clair County residents had died due to COVID-19. Those deaths includes one k-12 student and nearly a dozen parents with children in K-12 schools.

Based on referral dates, 11 individuals died in August, 36 in September, 30 in October, 75 in November, 73 in December, and 1 as of January 5th, 2022. 

Deaths by Age Group and Vaccination Status:

Age Group

Vaccinated

Unvaccinated

0 to 18 yrs.

0

1

19 to 36 yrs.

0

5

37 to 54 yrs.

0

24

55 to 72 yrs.

15

86

73+

30

65

Total

45

181


Hospital Data

As of January 4th, 2022

Regionally (St. Clair, Macomb, and Oakland Counties): 1,189 adults and 13 pediatric patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19.

St. Clair County: Of that total 60 adults and 1 pediatric patient were currently hospitalized in St. Clair County hospitals.

Since August 2021, we are aware of 225 St. Clair County residents that have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. We are aware of 10 pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 among St. Clair County residents. It is important to note that hospitalizations are almost certainly undercounted.

Covid-19 Case Data:

Month

0 to 4 yrs

5 to 18 yrs

19 to 29 yrs

30 to 39 yrs

40 to 49 yrs

50 to 59 yrs

60 to 69 yrs

70 to 79 yrs

80+

Grand Total

Aug-21

5

59

139

128

89

96

71

51

24

662

Sep-21

23

348

218

200

197

162

128

76

35

1387

Oct-21

43

401

293

303

261

287

213

131

64

1996

Nov-21

85

659

579

627

529

576

427

229

121

3832

Dec-21

122

446

926

804

613

775

571

280

134

4671

Total

278

1913

2155

2062

1689

1896

1410

767

378

12548

K-12 Masking Data:

Reduction in disease transmission:

Global, national, state, and local data along with the consensus of reputable scientific sources tell us that masking has an effect on reducing the spread of COVID-19. St. Clair County has seen a reduction in cases among K-12 students from November 2021 to December 2021 after mask mandates were put in place by Port Huron Area Schools (Nov. 28th) and Algonac Schools (Dec. 2nd). Cases in the K-12 age group declined from 659 cases in November to 446 cases in December, this was a 32% decline in cases. In the same period, cases in all other age groups increased 33%. If cases in the K-12 age group increased at the same rate as other age groups we would have had 876 cases in December or 430 more cases than we actually had in December. See infographic here. 

Port Huron and Algonac schools account for close to 50% of all students within St. Clair County.

Reduction in future case surges:

When St. Clair County K-12 students returned to their classrooms in August and September 2021 we experienced a surge in cases in that age-group. Cases in the school-aged group (5-18 yrs.) surged 490% from August to September. No school districts had mask mandates in place during that period. In September, school-aged cases accounted for 25% of all cases during the month and then in following months we saw a surge in cases in other age groups. Our number of hospitals and deaths grew quickly as case numbers increased.

In December, our school-aged cases made up 9.6% of all cases in the month. Masking may help us prevent another surge in school-age cases like we experienced back in September. This would help keep our kids safe and in school and reduce the risk of a surge in school-age cases spreading to our older population where we see much high rates of severe disease and death.

Month

0 to 4 yrs

5 to 18 yrs

19 to 29 yrs

30 to 39 yrs

40 to 49 yrs

50 to 59 yrs

60 to 69 yrs

70 to 79 yrs

80+

Grand Total

Aug-21

0.76%

8.91%

21.00%

19.34%

13.44%

14.50%

10.73%

7.70%

3.63%

100.00%

Sep-21

1.66%

25.09%

15.72%

14.42%

14.20%

11.68%

9.23%

5.48%

2.52%

100.00%

Oct-21

2.15%

20.09%

14.68%

15.18%

13.08%

14.38%

10.67%

6.56%

3.21%

100.00%

Nov-21

2.22%

17.20%

15.11%

16.36%

13.80%

15.03%

11.14%

5.98%

3.16%

100.00%

Dec-21

2.61%

9.55%

19.82%

17.21%

13.12%

16.59%

12.22%

5.99%

2.87%

100.00%

Total

1.93%

15.03%

17.66%

15.85%

14.40%

15.59%

11.02%

5.62%

2.88%

100.00%

How do I request free at-home COVID-19 tests?

The federal government is providing free COVID-19 rapid tests. Go to COVIDTests.gov to request 4 free test kits to be mailed to homes. It’s quick and easy. These types of tests are for swabbing inside your nose only; NOT intended for the mouth or throat.

When to use an at home test: 

  • if experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 
  • if exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19 (ideally 5 days after exposure or after experiencing symptoms) 
  • prior to or after traveling
  • prior to or after attending a large gathering 

What are the different kinds of COVID-19 tests?

There are a few options for viral COVID-19 tests. The main two types of tests are PCR tests and rapid antigen tests:

PCR Test (NAAT is an alternative name)

  • Most accurate test currently available 
  • Typically administered by health providers at a clinic or pharmacy and analyzed in a laboratory
  • Results in typically in 24-72 hours

Rapid Antigen Test

  • Less accurate than PCR tests
  • Results in as little as 15 minutes when taken at home
  • Can be self-administered with an at-home testing kit, or taken at a testing site

There’s another kind of test known as an antibody test, which can help indicate whether you have had COVID-19 in the past. Antibody tests are used by scientists to better understand the virus, but they are not used to determine whether you currently have an infection.

When should I get tested, and which test should I take?

Regardless of vaccination status, you should get tested if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or 5 days after close contact with someone with COVID-19.

PCR tests are the most accurate, but may take multiple days to get results, during which time you should behave as if you are positive. Rapid antigen tests are available for self-administration and can provide results within 15 minutes, so they are helpful to get faster results when feeling sick or as a precaution before gatherings. However, rapid tests are not as sensitive, making them more likely to show a false negative than the PCR test. This is particularly true within the first couple days of infection, when there is a lower amount of virus in your body. 

If symptoms are worsening—especially if you are older or have underlying medical conditions and are at risk for severe COVID-19—you should consult with your health provider regardless of test results. 

COVID-19 tests help us prevent the spread of the virus and can help reveal cases in asymptomatic people. If testing is scarce near you, take advantage of whatever testing options you have available. Testing should be used alongside our best tools to stop this pandemic—getting vaccinated, getting boosted, and wearing a mask in indoor public settings.

Additional Resource: The COVID-19 Viral Testing Tool is an interactive web tool designed to help both healthcare providers and individuals understand COVID-19 testing options.

Are rapid tests one of the tests used to positively identify those with COVID-19? I heard that the rapid tests are highly inaccurate and unable to differentiate between the flu and COVID-19.

While molecular tests (PCR tests) remain the gold standard when identifying COVID-19 cases, rapid tests (antigen tests) are FDA authorized and remain an important tool in augmenting testing efforts, especially in settings where molecular testing is limited or testing results are delayed. Depending on the symptoms present in the patient and knowledge of a recent exposure, a confirmatory PCR may be administered within 48 hours after a rapid test is done.

Furthermore, the sensitivity of antigen tests varies but is generally lower than most laboratory-based molecular tests. A highly sensitive test means that there are few false negative results, and thus fewer cases of disease are missed. The specificity of a test is its ability to designate an individual who does not have a disease as negative. The antigen level in specimens collected either before symptom onset, or late in the course of infection, may be below the tests’ limit of detection. This may result in a negative antigen test result, while a more sensitive test, such as most molecular tests, may return a positive result. Studies have shown that antigen tests have comparable sensitivity to laboratory-based molecular tests when viral load in the specimen is high and the person is likely to be most contagious. What this means is that the antigen tests are most likely to result in a FALSE negative test when the person is actually positive, especially when there is a high probability of the person having that disease (like during a High level of community transmission).

The specificity of antigen tests is generally as high as most molecular tests, which means that false positive test results are unlikely when an antigen test is used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Despite the high specificity of antigen tests, false positive results will occur, especially when used in communities where the prevalence of infection is low – a circumstance that is true for all in vitro diagnostic tests. In general, for all diagnostic tests, the lower the prevalence of infection in the community, the higher the proportion of false positive test results.

Finally, rapid COVID-19 tests can distinguish between the COVID-19 virus and the flu.

Learn more here.

Does the St. Clair County Health Department do rapid COVID-19 testing for those that want to travel?

Due to limitations in testing supplies, the St. Clair County Health Department has suspended COVID-19 Rapid PCR testing for Canadian and other travelers. No new appointments or walk-ins will be accommodated.

A complete list of COVID-19 testing locations can be found here.

If you are looking to travel, visit the COVID-19 Travel Recommendations from the CDC to view travel recommendations by destination. 

If you get COVID-19, is ivermectin or hydroxychloquine an approved treatment?

Neither Ivermectin or Hydroxychloquine are FDA approved treatments for COVID-19.

For context, ivermectin is a medication used to treat onchocerciasis (river blindness) and intestinal strongyloidiasis. Topical formulations are used to treat head lice and rosacea. ivermectin is also used in veterinary applications to prevent or treat internal and external parasitic infections in animals. When used in appropriate doses for approved indications, ivermectin is generally well tolerated. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ivermectin dispensing by retail pharmacies has increased, as has use of veterinary formulations available over the counter but not intended for human use. FDA has cautioned about the potential risks of use for prevention or treatment of COVID-19.

Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, in addition to malaria. On July 8 2021, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel recommended against the use of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of COVID-19 in hospitalized and nonhospitalized patients.

What is monoclonal antibody therapy and who is eligible to receive it?

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system's ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.
The therapy is available upon request from a physician and can be treated if there is COVID-19 diagnosis with symptoms for 7 days or less. The drug is the most effective when it is administered early in the infection. Those who test positive for COVID-19 should contact their primary care doctor as soon as possible to ask about the medication.

Learn more here.

What is PAXLOVID and who is eligible to recieve it? 

On December 22, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the medication PAXLOVID. PAXLOVID is an oral antiviral medication used for treating mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg (88 lbs) and who are at high risk for severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death.

A healthcare provider will determine whether PAXLOVID is an appropriate treatment for COVID-19. 

Learn more here. 

What is MOLNUPIRAVIR and who is eligible to recieve it? 

On December 23, 2021, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the medication MOLNUPIRAVIR. MOLNUPIRAVIR is given in the form of a pill that can be taken orally and is available by prescription only. MOLNUPIRAVIR can be used to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease in adults who are at risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hopsitalization or death. 

A healthcare provider will determine whether MOLNUPIRAVIR is an appropriate treatment for COVID-19. 

Learn more here.

What is EVUSHELD and who is eligible to recieve it? 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the emergency use of the unapproved product EVUSHELD for the pre-exposure prophylaxis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in adults and pediatric individuals (12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kg). EVUSHELD is given as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PreP) for those moderately to severely immunocompromised and may not mount an adequate immune response to Covid-19 vaccine. Also available to those whom Covid-19 vaccine is not recommended due to history of severe adverse reaction to vaccine or vaccine component.

To learn more about the different COVID-19 treatments, visit https://combatcovid.hhs.gov/

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (MDHHS) have made significant shifts in COVID-19 response guidance, including new protocols for future response efforts and updated mask recommendations and updated COVID-19 Community Levels, the CDC’s new tool to help communities make decisions about COVID-19 prevention. These steps represent the point our community has hoped to reach throughout the pandemic. However, none of these steps mean that COVID-19 is no longer a threat or that we can abandon all prevention strategies. Enjoy the times when the burden of disease on our community is low and prepare for surges when the burden is more significant.

MDHHS: According to MDHHS’ COVID-19 response cycle, Michigan is currently in the Post-Surge Recovery phase.

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CDC: COVID-19 Community Levels 

COVID-19 Community Levels can help communities and individuals make decisions based on their local context and their unique needs. CDC looks at the combination of three metrics — new COVID-19 admissions per 100,000 population in the past 7 days, the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied by COVID-19 patients, and total new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past 7 days — to determine the COVID-19 community level. New COVID-19 admissions and the percent of staffed inpatient beds occupied represent the current potential for strain on the health system. Data on new cases acts as an early warning indicator of potential increases in health system strain in the event of a COVID-19 surge.

Using these data, the COVID-19 community level is classified as low, medium, or high.

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If someone who is vaccinated can pass, carry, and show symptoms, what is the point of getting the shot?

From the CDC’s discussion of vaccine breakthroughs, COVID-19 vaccines protect people against severe illness, including disease caused by Delta and other variants circulating in the U.S.

  • COVID-19 vaccines protect people from getting infected and severely ill, and significantly reduce the likelihood of hospitalization and death.

 

  • The best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and to prevent infection by Delta or other variants is to get vaccinated.

 

  • For people who are vaccinated and still get infected (i.e., “breakthrough infections”), there is a risk of transmission to others. That is why, if you are vaccinated or unvaccinated and live or work in an area with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19, you – as well as your family and community – will be better protected if you wear a mask when you are in indoor public places.

 

  • People who are immunocompromised may not always build adequate levels of protection after an initial 2-dose primary mRNA COVID-19 vaccine series. They should continue to take all precautions recommended for unvaccinated people, until advised otherwise by their healthcare provider. Further, CDC recommends that moderately to severely immunocompromised people receive an additional dose.

Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I would like to have a baby one day?

Yes. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 5 years of age and older, including people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners. Currently, there is no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause infertility problems in women or men.

Learn more here.

Why should I trust that the vaccine is safe when it was developed so quickly?

FDA approves a vaccine for use only if it is proven safe and effective, after clinical trials have been conducted with thousands of people, and when its benefits outweigh any risks. The COVID-19 vaccine builds on years of scientific research and an unprecedented level of scientific investment and cooperation. Every study and every phase of every trial was carefully reviewed and approved by a safety board and the FDA. The process was transparent and rigorous throughout, with continual oversight and expert approval.

The identification of what is approximately a less than 2-in-a-million risk of a blood clotting disorder associated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a sign that the nation’s safety monitoring system for COVID-19 vaccines is working. After any vaccine is successful in clinical trials and authorizes it for use, the FDA continues to monitor it for safety. The pause in the use of the J&J vaccine allowed scientists to evaluate each incident of the clotting disorder. They determined that the level of risk was very low and that the benefits of continued use of the J&J vaccine greatly outweigh any risk associated with it.

The likelihood of a medically significant reaction is extremely low. Temporary side effects like soreness, headaches, or a mild fever are signs that the body is responding and building an immunity to the virus. They typically go away in a day or two.

Learn more here.

How can I be sure the long-term side effects of the vaccine won’t be worse than having COVID-19?

The threat of COVID-19 is real and urgent, and the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh any risks. The risk of severe adverse events after any COVID-19 vaccination remains very low, and far lower than the risk of adverse health outcomes associated with contracting COVID-19. More than 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide have died from COVID, and we’re still learning about “long COVID” — symptoms and adverse health outcomes that continue to impact people long after the initial infection.

Learn more here.

What is the difference between emergency use authorization and full approval?

Emergency use authorization (EUA) allows the FDA to authorize the use of yet to be approved drugs, or unapproved uses of approved drugs, for life-threatening conditions when there are no other adequate, approved, and available options and other conditions are met. In the case of COVID-19, the FDA issued EUAs for the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, and has now issued full approval for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

In an emergency when lives are at risk, like a pandemic, it may not be possible to have all the evidence that the FDA would usually have before approving a vaccine or drug. If there’s evidence that strongly suggests that patients have benefited from a treatment, the agency can issue an EUA to make it available. For the COVID-19 vaccines, FDA required two months of safety and efficacy data before the EUA was granted. That included clinical trials with tens of thousands of people and rigorous testing and review, and all the vaccines continue to be closely monitored. Compared to emergency use authorization, FDA approval of vaccines requires even more data on safety, manufacturing, and effectiveness over longer periods of time and includes real-world data.

Learn more here.

What is the Omicron variant?

Omicron is a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. The Omicron variant has been detected in a growing number of countries, including the U.S.

Is Omicron causing more serious illness in kids? 

What we know about the Omicron variant continues to evolve, but preliminary data do not suggest that the Omicron variant is causing more severe illness in children. However, the Omicron variant is spreading rapidly, leading to record-breaking case counts, including pediatric cases. As the total number of children with COVID-19 increases, hospitalizations are also rising, even if the proportion of hospitalizations remains small. Lower vaccination and booster rates among children compared to adults may also be a factor contributing to increased cases and hospitalizations in children. 

The best way to protect children from the virus is to follow the leading COVID-19 prevention strategies. Children age 5 and older should get vaccinated, and adolescents age 12 and older are now eligible to get boosted at least 5 months after their second shot for optimal protection against the virus. Parents and adults can help protect their children by getting all eligible family members vaccinated and boosted if eligible—which will also help protect children under 5 who are currently ineligible to be vaccinated. Children over 2 should also wear a well-fitting mask in indoor public settings or crowded environments, wash their hands, stay home if they are feeling sick, and get tested if they were exposed to the virus or are symptomatic.

Why do new COVID-19 variants continue to emerge?

Variants emerge as a result of naturally occurring mutations in viruses. For example, the flu virus changes often, which is why doctors recommend a new flu vaccine each year.

Scientists monitor all COVID-19 variants but may classify certain ones, like Omicron and Delta, as “variants of concern.” Scientists monitor these variants carefully to learn if they spread more easily, cause more severe cases than other variants, or evade vaccine protection.

As long as COVID-19 spreads, mutations and new variants are expected to occur, the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including its variants, is to get vaccinated and boosted. Being vaccinated decreases the likelihood you will get sick, and makes it less likely you will need hospitalization or die if you get infected. Increased vaccination rates around the world will decrease the likelihood that the coronavirus will mutate into other dangerous variants.