Stay Free From COVID-19 This July Fourth Weekend
Amid a Current Increase in COVID-19 Cases and Reinfections, Health Experts Urge Caution This Holiday Weekend
As families and friends plan for fireworks, picnics and fun this July Fourth, they should also prepare for COVID-19 safety.
“We’re currently dealing with a surge of COVID in Los Angeles County, the scope of which has been underestimated given the increased use of home tests,” said Soniya Gandhi, MD, associate chief medical officer and vice president of Medical Affairs at Cedars-Sinai. “It’s likely a large number of positive results are going unreported.”
The latest data—from June 27—showed a testing positivity rate of 9.78% in Los Angeles County, well above the World Health Organization’s 5% benchmark that indicates high spread in a community and cause for concern.
With so many mixing in large numbers and traveling this weekend, the already high risk of transmission becomes even greater. The risk is high even among those who previously had COVID-19 because reinfections are becoming more common.
“Everyone is tired of the pandemic at this point, but if we want to avoid a nasty illness and the potentially devastating effects of long COVID, we can follow a few simple precautions that limit your risk of getting sick,” Gandhi said. “You don’t have to stay home; you just have to be smart.”
Know When to Mask Up
The same precautions that have worked for a long time still limit the spread of COVID-19: getting vaccinated and boosted, testing regularly, staying at least six feet apart, maintaining good hand hygiene and wearing a mask. But 2 ½ years into the public health crisis, many people are tired of isolating and they’re willing to accept more risk in their lives.
For those willing to socialize, staying outside or sticking to well-ventilated spaces is critical. When among large crowds indoors or outdoors, it’s important to wear a mask, said Gandhi. That includes attending outdoor concerts, shopping at the grocery or traveling by plane.
“There are mechanisms on planes to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including HEPA filtration systems, but if you’re sitting in close proximity to someone who isn’t masked and showing symptoms, you’re more likely to become ill if you’re unmasked as well,” Gandhi said. Jetways with little ventilation and crowded terminals also are important places to wear a mask, she added.
“You can’t always control what others are doing, but you can take responsibility for your own health,” Gandhi said.
No Longer ‘One and Done’
As the pandemic evolves and more variants emerge, the virus that causes COVID-19 has changed. Early on, public health experts observed that those who became ill had natural immunity to the virus for at least 90 days and didn’t need to worry about another infection during that period. But those factors are changing.
While individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 still will experience natural immunity to the coronavirus for a period of time, it’s not clear for how long.
“We have good data showing that people who had the Omicron variant in the winter can be reinfected with the subsequent strains or cousins of the original Omicron,” Gandhi said. “This should give people pause. Just because you’ve had COVID in the past doesn’t mean you have a ‘get out of jail free card’ going forward.”
Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: COVID-19 Vaccine and Pregnancy