University, county experts answer questions about COVID-19
University, county experts answer questions about COVID-19

University, county experts answer questions about COVID-19

Three doctors and an epidemiologist from UC Davis, Healthy Davis Together and Yolo County Public Health addressed countless questions about COVID-19 on Monday (February 28) in front of a virtual audience of more than 200 at a town hall, “Living with COVID-19: What is it next? “

Mary Croughan

Mary Croughan, Provost and Vice Chancellor of UC Davis and a career epidemiologist, moderated the discussion. The experts answered questions about what science is currently telling us about the pandemic and what we could expect to see in the coming weeks and months.

The questions ranged from standard queries about masking, vaccinations and testing, to whether panelists would continue to wear masks now that they are no longer mandatory in most public settings.

All four responded that they will continue to wear masks indoors in all public settings.

“I have to follow my own recommendations,” said Aimee Sisson, Yolo County’s health worker. She still recommends the N95 or KN95 masks.

The pandemic has taken a turn with a step away from mandates to strong recommendations, Sisson said. As of today (March 1), the state no longer requires unvaccinated people to wear masks in most indoor spaces, and Yolo County will follow suit. From 12 March, pupils in primary and secondary education will no longer be required to wear masks in schools, but it is strongly recommended that teachers and pupils continue to do so.

Sisson said the number of treatment options for COVID-19 is increasing, including oral antiviral agents to help infected individuals and prophylactic injections for immunocompromised humans.

“This is another reason why we feel safe in relaxing restrictions,” Sisson said.

One listener asked why UC Davis is continuing its mask mandate and whether it will change in light of changes in the state and county.

Cindy Schorzman

“We have several factors to consider,” said Cindy Schorzman, medical director of Student Health and Counseling Services. University student housing, of course, has a large number of people living in group situations, and the campus has many places and spaces where people do not have appropriate distance from each other. Change fatigue also plays a role.

Croughan added: “At UC Davis, we have worked hard to meet people’s needs and address concerns while keeping people healthy,” Croughan said.

Test, test

Panelists explained the differences between rapid antigen and PCR tests and when you might want to use one or the other. According to Sisson, the differences are twofold:

  • The accuracy of the test (PCR is more accurate)
  • How fast do you get the results (fast antigen test is more … fast)
Aimee Sisson

“There’s a trade-off for that speed of a quick antigen test, and that trade-off is the ability to determine if you’re really positive,” Sisson said.

UC Davis has committed to having test resources available for campus at least through June. Schorzman said she can not predict whether it will last beyond this point.

“We are really happy with our test program. We have kept our numbers low,” Schorzman said. “That said, we will follow science.” They continue to look at the data and will make future decisions based on the results.

Croughan said she had been tested several times in the past week. “I feel grateful to be working at a university where I can help protect the community by being tested regularly,” she said.

Sheri Belafsky

Healthy Davis Together will continue to offer saliva-based tests to the community through June. And wastewater monitoring will continue through 2023, said Shari Belafsky, who serves as medical director of the Healthy Davis Together initiative as well as director of the UC Davis Medical Surveillance Program. She added that new test resources are available at the county level and also through health care providers and local pharmacies.

Learn to live with COVID-19

COVID-19 will not go away: instead, the world will learn to live with it, just as we do with the flu, Croughan said. This means that communities must continue to be responsive to changes in infection levels.

“We’re entering the next phase of learning to live with COVID,” Sisson said. “We are moving away from mandates and into the world of recommendations. That’s what we’ll be seeing more of in this next phase of COVID. “There will be a shift towards wastewater monitoring and away from saliva and nose tests.

As the state and county move away from mandates, the university will also consider the next step. “We continue to monitor the numbers very closely,” Schorzman said. “But beyond the numbers, we really talk to people and keep listening so we can continue to address those concerns. Our campus community has been incredibly robust and flexible.”

But what about…?

The audience asked several specific questions about some of the most vulnerable populations, including children under the age of 5 who cannot be vaccinated, visiting elderly and immunocompromised friends and relatives, and holding dances for seniors.

The doctors responded by saying that everyone in this environment should be vaccinated and boosted. They strongly recommended that all parties involved with vulnerable people wear high quality masks (masks are not recommended for children under 2 years of age). They also recommended portable HEPA air filters.

Community partnership

“This collaboration has shown how a university and a community can work together in partnership to improve the health and well-being of the entire community,” Croughan said. We would like to express our gratitude to our community for being so responsive in terms of following guidelines and for being so compassionate throughout the pandemic. Please continue to consider the health and safety of yourself and others as we combat the spread of this virus. “

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