COVID-19 is still making us sick in Nevada County, but we can protect ourselves.

Dr. Sherilynn Cooke
Dr. Sherilynn Cooke

Many people think that because the declarations of a state of emergency at the federal, state, and local levels have ended, that COVID-19 is no longer a threat in our community. Unfortunately, many people continue to get sick, and some have to be hospitalized with this disease.

The situation is, in some ways, much better than at the start of the pandemic: There are vaccines available that reduce the risk of severe disease or death if we get infected; many people have developed immunity to the virus through vaccination, and some have temporary immunity to a specific variant through actual infection; there are tests we can use at home to find out if we have COVID-19 and could infect others; if we do get sick, people at risk for complications can receive effective oral medication early in the disease to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death. We know how the virus is spread, so those at the highest risk for complications and who want to protect themselves can use a well-fitting mask in enclosed spaces such as public transportation or crowded places.

The end of the declaration of an emergency also means that testing for COVID-19 is less frequently reported to Public Health, and it is harder to tell how much of the virus is circulating at any one time. Skilled nursing and assisted living facilities continue to have COVID-19 outbreaks, and hospitals in our county continue to receive COVID-19 positive admissions. There has been one recent death, bringing Nevada County’s COVID-19 death total to 140.

Although there are more tools to prevent severe disease and death from COVID-19, the situation can change rapidly if a new, more infectious, and more virulent strain develops.

Here are steps we can take to protect ourselves and others:

  1. Individuals ages sixty-five and older can have a second dose of the bivalent vaccine against COVID-19. The bivalent vaccine is effective against Omicron variants which have been circulating for over a year. Individuals in this age group, especially if immune compromised, should strongly consider getting this extra protection.
  2. Everyone can get vaccinated against COVID-19. If you haven’t done so already, there is still time to do so. Medical providers and pharmacies still have an ample supply of vaccine.
  3. People who want to lower their risk of getting infected can wear a well-fitted mask in crowded indoor spaces such as public transportation.
  4. Paxlovid, an oral antiviral medication, is effective against COVID-19. If a person has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms after exposure to someone with COVID-19, they should contact a healthcare provider to discuss if this medication is right for them as soon as possible. This treatment is most effective if started early while symptoms are still mild.

To lower your risk of contracting COVID-19, get fully vaccinated, including the bivalent vaccine, and wear a mask in crowded indoor settings, especially if you are vulnerable. Stay as healthy as possible with good nutrition, exercise, rest, and stress reduction. If you do get sick, get tested, contact your healthcare provider, and discuss treatment options. Also, if you are ill, stay home to protect others and not spread the disease.

Dr. Sherilynn Cooke is Nevada County’s Public Health Officer.