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COVID-19 Update: Everything You Need to Know Now

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A new variant has changed how the country is approaching COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Testing and vaccination remain important tools in combating the spread of omicron, the new variant. Use this guide to get more information on the current COVID-19 picture and everything you need to know to navigate the pandemic as safely as possible.

How Is Omicron Different?

Omicron spreads more easily than delta and previous variants of COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, omicron can spread from those who are vaccinated and without symptoms. 

There is also the risk of reinfection if you have had previous strains of the virus. Researchers are not sure how common reinfection is with this new virus, but it appears that this new variant is more likely to evade natural immunity than previous variants.

Symptoms to Expect with Omicron

Omicron symptoms are similar to previous COVID-19 variants. The severity of those symptoms appears less intense than previous variants and in those who are vaccinated. Symptoms can then vary based on vaccination status, overall health, age, and whether someone has pre-existing conditions.

COVID-19 symptoms may include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle and body aches, particularly back pain
  • Loss of taste or smell (less common with omicron)

Some patients who come into contact with omicron are asymptomatic. For those with symptoms, those symptoms may last anywhere from several days to several weeks. Long COVID, where symptoms persist for weeks, even months after infection, is still possible with the omicron variant.

Current COVID-19 Guidelines

California’s economy has reopened thanks to vaccination rates across the state. There are no statewide guidelines as far as capacity restrictions or physical distancing requirements. Counties and cities throughout California have instituted their own guidelines to keep both locals and visitors safe.

Current Los Angeles County guidelines are as follows:

  • Los Angeles County has a vaccine mandate in effect. The mandate covers all county employees and anyone expecting indoor service in breweries, clubs, lounges, bars, and wineries. To attend indoor or outdoor mega events in the county, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test are required. PCR tests may be taken up to 2 days before the event; antigen tests may be taken up a day before the event.
  • The city of Los Angeles goes even further. Proof of vaccine is required for anywhere food or drink is served, gyms and fitness centers, music and entertainment venues, and personal care establishments like nail salons and spas. Mega events follow the county rules for proof of vaccine or negative COVID-19 test before entry.
  • Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate for at least 5 days. Self-isolation can end if you are asymptomatic after day 5 and a viral test after day 5 shows you are negative for COVID-19. If you are unable to test after day 5, remain in isolation for a full 10 days. Wear a highly protective mask indoors and outdoors around others for a total of 10 days.
  • If you have not yet received a booster and come into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, you should quarantine for at least 5 days and test on the last day of quarantine. If you’re unable to test, self-isolate for 10 days. 
  • Masks should be worn by everyone 2 years of age or older on public transit, in school and healthcare settings, at outdoor mega events, and in all indoor public and private businesses. Double masking or wearing respirators is recommended for higher-risk individuals and crowded settings. Masks may only be removed in these settings while actively eating or drinking in an approved dining space. 

Some workplaces have instituted efficient return-to-work testing to allow employees to get back to work as soon as it’s safe to do so. At Reliant, we offer on-site COVID-19 testing to make testing protocols even more convenient.

Those planning travel should follow CDC guidelines updated as of Jan. 18, 2022:

  • Avoid cruise ship travel regardless of vaccination status due to the large number of omicron cases linked back to cruises.
  • Delay travel for at least 10 days if you test positive for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Unvaccinated travelers should quarantine for at least 5 days after travel to prevent possible spread of COVID-19.
  • If you are not fully vaccinated, take a viral COVID-19 test up to 3 days before domestic travel and 3-5 days after travel. Monitor for symptoms for up to 10 days after travel. If you are vaccinated, consider testing anyway for breakthrough infections. 
  • The CDC does not recommend international travel if you are unvaccinated. Note that some countries will not allow entry for unvaccinated travelers.
  • Take extra precautions if you are high-risk for serious illness from COVID-19. Check in with your healthcare provider for specific advice on whether you should travel at this time.

How to Protect Yourself Today

Despite the number of breakthrough infections, vaccination is still the best defense against the omicron variant. Hospitalization rates decrease dramatically with vaccination, particularly among those who have had their booster shots.

Do current COVID-19 vaccines protect against the omicron variant?

Current studies have found that a booster is needed to offer protection against the omicron variant. The 3-dose mRNA combination appears to be most effective. That means getting an additional dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine will offer the most protection.  

If you’re fully vaccinated and received your booster, you should still follow safety precautions that have proven to work to limit the spread of COVID-19, including omicron. Wear masks when indoors, practice good hand washing hygiene, and get tested at the first sign of symptoms or to prevent the spread before/after travel. 

The federal government is currently offering 4 free at-home COVID-19 tests to each household. Get yours by filling out an online order form. You may also be near a participating retailer offering free N95 masks from the federal government. To find out where you could pick up 3 free masks, see the list of healthcare centers from the Health Resources & Services Administration.

COVID Testing in Los Angeles

COVID-19 testing is still available throughout Los Angeles County, including a rapid test screening location at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) from Reliant Urgent Care. If you’re looking for efficient and convenient COVID testing in Los Angeles, Reliant is here to help. The health experts at Reliant are available virtually, too. If you want to talk through any symptoms with a healthcare professional, contact us today.