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While life goes “back to normal,” no one told COVID-19 the pandemic is “over,” as the virus continues to swell in the United States. Thousands attended Burning Man, followed by reports of people catching the virus there. School is back in session and kids are missing school due to infections. What’s the latest and how can you stay safe? Dr. Michael Blaivas is here with the essential update everyone should know. Read on, and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.


White House Suspends Free COVID-19 Testing Kit Program

The White House recently suspended its COVID-19 testing program that provided free testing kits to American households. The program is put on pause due to lack of federal funding after congress didn’t replenish the nation’s stock of tests. With fall around the corner, it’s likely we will face a rise in COVID infections and an increase in need for reliable test kits. In order to prepare for this response, it’s best to continue testing even as programs decline, monitor extended expiration dates on test kits, continue to be cautious in public settings, wear masks and follow CDC guidelines if you have symptoms.  


COVID-19 Cases Tripled in Schools in Certain States Compared to Last Year

Following students return to school for the 2022-2023 academic year, recent Chicago Public School data reveals that COVID cases during the first week in public schools are much higher this year compared to past years. In fact, cases in Chicago public schools are 3.3 times higher this year than the first week of cases from the 2021-2022 school year. One conclusion to this could be the highly contagious Omicron BA.5 variant that makes up 90% of cases in the Midwest according to the CDC, compared to the less contagious Delta variants that circulated this time last year. However, another factor could be more readily available rapid testing than ever before and a public more willing to test skewing numbers to some degree. Despite contradicting CDC guidelines, it’s important to continue implementing proper protocols – especially in schools where students are more susceptible to infections and outbreaks. Students should frequently wash their hands, cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing in classrooms, practice social distancing, test frequently, and stay home if they don’t feel well.


COVID Incubation Period Continues to Shift

Recent studies have shown that the incubation periods have shifted to as little as 3 days with the BA.4 and 5 variants. Many components of the initial COVID variants are now moving faster than newer variants of Omicron, factors including infection rate and recovery time. Despite the declining incubation periods, if you test positive you are still advised to quarantine for 5 days and wear a mask the following 5 days.


Testing Discrepancies are More Common with Omicron Variant

Testing discrepancies are becoming increasingly more common with the Omicron variant. The FDA recommends taking 3 home tests to boost accuracy, since at-home test kits may not perform as well, and lead to false results. With more mutations come significant performance challenges for antigen-based tests which were mostly created to target original Covid strains, not all of the new mutations.  If it is important to know for sure molecular or PCR Covid tests are the way to go in order to have a definitive answer.


Federal Regulators Extend Certain COVID Test Kit Expiration Dates 

Federal regulators have extended expiration dates for certain COVID testing kits. The U.S food and drug administration initially authorized a shelf life of only a few months, however manufacturers are testing beyond the expiration dates and finding that the tests are good for longer periods of time. Don’t be so quick to toss those expired test kits, especially with the government suspension of free COVID tests. They are most likely still good for several months. To check extended expiration dates on certain test kits, visit the FDA website for more information.
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