Omicron cases are increasing rapidly, and public health response is changing rapidly as well. Here are some important updates that you may find helpful.
Staying safe with Omicron
OHSU is predicting that the Omicron surge will peak on January 27th, and should decline sharply after that. The rapid rise will place severe strains on our hospitals; it is already straining healthcare access everywhere, from emergency rooms to testing sites and even our office. Anything we can do to lower the curve and spread out the peak will help.
- If you’re vaccinated and can be boosted, get boosted.
- If you’re unvaccinated and eligible, get vaccinated. All children ages 5 and up are eligible for the vaccine.
- Hold off on indoor gatherings. We’ve already seen what holiday get-togethers have done.
- Social distancing is important; choose grocery pick-up, avoid large gatherings, and wear masks in public spaces.
- Choose the best mask you have available. A KN94 or KN95 mask is better than a cloth mask; these masks come in children’s sizes, and often fit better than a cloth mask. A cloth mask with multiple layers or a filter is better than one without. Whichever mask you choose, it should fit close to the face without gaps, and not shift as your child moves or talks. Do not use masks with uncovered valves, or gaiter-style masks.
- Stay home and away from others if you have symptoms, even if it’s only the sniffles or feels like “just a cold.”
Boosters & other vaccine updates
Some important vaccine updates happened on January 6th.
- Children ages 12-15 can now get a COVID booster at least five months after their second dose.
- The wait time for a booster dose has been shortened for all to at least five months after receiving the initial series of an mRNA vaccine; it is still 2 months after a Johnson&Johnson vaccine.
- Immunocompromised children ages 5-11 can now receive a third primary series dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
What do I do with my kids under 5?
It’s been a stressful month for parents of children too young to vaccinate against COVID-19, especially since Pfizer announced that their two-dose series did not create sufficient immunity in this age group. We hear you! Pfizer is working on finding a regimen that works well, and Moderna may soon have data to present to the FDA.
Even though they can’t yet be vaccinated, we can surround them with layers of protection: make sure those around them are vaccinated and boosted, avoid large gatherings, social distance, have others wear masks around your children, and if they are old enough have them wear masks as well.
As you know from our update on Friday, testing supplies are limited and our ability to order more is restricted. This is a nationwide problem, and has led to us updating our testing protocols. PCR testing in hospital labs is taking longer as they are inundated with tests. We will continue to do our best provide updated recommendations and tests while we still have them.
The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has updated its guidance, and any positive test, including a home antigen test, is to be considered COVID, regardless of symptoms or other negative tests (the chance of a false-negative test is relatively high, and a false-positive is unlikely). Due to this guidance, schools will respect the results of a home test.
OHA now considers anyone who has had a close-contact exposure to COVID-19 in the last 14 days, and has two of these symptoms to presumptively have COVID, and do not need testing: cough, fever, shortness of breath, new loss of smell or taste.
We have heard from many parents that they are unable to find testing for themselves. The OHA has some resources for helping to find a test on their testing page.
The OHA will no longer have contact tracers calling patients who are positive. They will be establishing a COVID-19 Case Support Hotline to assist those who have tested positive. In the meantime they recommend 211info.org if you need assistance. The OHA also has food and meal assistance, financial and rent resources, and prescription drug pick-up information on the Multnomah County Community Resources page.
Contact tracers usually help with understanding of isolation and quarantine guidelines, and give guidance on telling close contacts if you are positive. You can find this information here:
If anyone in your family tests positive, you should call, email, or text anyone they have been in close contact with going back to 2 days before your symptoms began or 2 days before your test, if you have no symptoms.
Keeping up with cases
OHA provides daily case updates on weekdays. You can sign up for email alerts and check the dashboards on their website as well.
A final word
Hang in there! We are in this together, and as difficult as it may seem and as tired as we may be, we know we and our kids are more than capable of doing hard things. It’s been a long pandemic, but we have made much progress. We so appreciate hearing from you how helpful our office and staff have been to you during this time. It really makes our day! I can’t say enough about the sacrifices made and compassion shown by each and every staff member as they have worked harder than ever before. Your patience with us and willingness to help others is a bright spot in a difficult time; so many of you have already reached out about postponing check-ups so we can see and test and care for ill children. And your kids have been our beacon of hope. Whether it’s babies smiling at our masked faces, children telling us they’re proud to wear masks and excited to get vaccinated, or teens speaking about their willingness to help others and opening up about their mental health… you bring smiles to our (masked) faces and remind us of why we work in pediatrics. Thank you!