Boosters encouraged as hospitalizations rise

Published 5:35 pm Thursday, December 30, 2021

North Carolina/Polk align with CDC on new COVID exposure guidelines

POLK COUNTY—The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the Polk County Department of Health and Human Services are both aligning with new Centers for Disease Control guidelines on COVID-19 exposure. 

The departments are also encouraging everyone to get boosters of the COVID-19 vaccine as hospitalizations from the virus are rising. 

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The NCDHHS announced this week that the most important thing North Carolinians can do to keep themselves and their loved ones out of the hospital is to get the vaccine. 

North Carolina hospitalizations from COVID-19 increased by more than 20 percent in 3 days this week. Hospitals across the state reported 331 admissions in a 24-hour period Wednesday, which was an increase of more than 40 percent from Monday’s 7-day rolling average of 232 hospital admissions per day. 

“Now is the time to get your booster shot,” Kody H. Kinsley, Chief Deputy Secretary for Health and Incoming NCDHHS Secretary said. “We have plenty of vaccine in the state and getting a booster shot or getting vaccinated if you aren’t already, dramatically decreases the risk of severe illness and hospitalization from the Omicron variant.”

The state also announced is adopting new guidance from the CDC, which gives new outlines of what people should do if they contract the virus or are exposed to help slow the spread to others. 

The new guidelines are as follows: 

If you have symptoms, regardless of vaccination status – get tested and isolate from others while you wait for a result. If you are not able to be tested, follow the guidance below as if you are positive.  

If you are exposed to someone with COVID-19 and are

  • Not vaccinated – stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.
  • Vaccinated and eligible for a booster, but have not yet been boosted – stay away from others for 5 days, get tested on day 5 after exposure, and if you test negative, return to normal activities while wearing a mask for 5 additional days.
  • Vaccinated, and have either received your booster or are not yet eligible for a booster – you do not need to stay away from others, but you should wear a mask for 10 days.

If you test positive, regardless of vaccination status, and

  • Do not have symptoms – isolate yourself from others for 5 days, then wear a mask for 5 additional days when you return to normal activities. 
  • Have symptoms – isolate yourself from others until you are fever-free and your symptoms are improving. You should isolate for at least 5 days since your symptoms began. Once you stop isolating, you should wear a mask for 5 additional days.

People who have received two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccines are eligible for a booster shot after six months. Those who got a Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine initially should receive a booster after two months. According to the CDC, those who are eligible for boosters and have not received them should follow the stricter guidance for quarantine and masks.

The CDC guidance differentiates between those who are boosted and those who are eligible but not boosted. It cites initial data from South Africa showing that two mRNA doses provide 35% protection against infection. With a booster shot, that increases to 75%.

In all cases, a well-fitting mask (CDC guidance) is recommended. If possible, wear a surgical or procedure mask, a KN95 or an N95 respirator. In general, the CDC recommends all unvaccinated people 2 years old or older wear a mask indoors. To find a no-cost communtiy testing event or a testing site near you, visit ncdhhs.gov/gettested. Please do not visit the emergency room to get tested.

Vaccines are available for everyone 5 years and older. To find a vaccine or booster vaccine near you visit MySpot.nc.gov. More information on the CDC’s guidance is available online.