Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 — January 12, 2022

  “Shared expectations lead to predictability.”

445. Guidelines are being made to reflect the changing status of Covid safety.

         QIs the church now closed for in-person services?

         A:  Yes, but as of now only for the month of January.  The knowledge that Omicron is highly infectious, the catastrophic increase in Connecticut’s number of cases each day for the past several weeks, and uncertainty over the specific characteristics of this Omicron variant have led to many in the congregation to feel it was too unsafe to continue to remain partially open.  The decision by the policy board last week to close services, therefore, makes sense.  There is an extremely low risk for the few who continue to produce and perform the online services that will continue.  This includes the staff and volunteers and just a very few others who want to observe in person – all those present on Sunday morning have to be authorized in advance by Josh.

The priority now is to manage our individual exposure to others in the community.  This environment remains highly unsafe.  How many people do you see shopping who are not wearing a mask?  How many times are people standing in line less than 6 feet apart?  With 1 in every 4 people eligible to be vaccinated not taking this protection against Omicron, how many do you pass by each day who are unvaccinated?  What are you doing about this?

446. Only KN95 or N95 face masks can protect against the Omicron virus.  

         Q: Why do many people who routinely wear face masks still contract Covid-19?

         A:  The CDC recommends that the only face masks effective against the Omicron variant are those marked “KN95” or “N95.”    These face masks have passed standards imposed by the Occupational Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) with five layers of “blown fabric” (not “woven” fabric} that filters out  95% of very small (0.3 microns) particles.  Unlike the previous variants, Omicron is multiple times more infectious.  This means that a very small number of varioles are needed to enter human cells to rapidly replicate flooding the person with many times more infectious particles that quickly overcome the person’s ability to ward off the disease.  So we need to toss the cloth face coverings, surgical masks (designed to filter the larger bacteria), the lightweight pleated fiber masks, and the gaiter (or snorkel) face coverings.  Use only KN95 or N95 masks!

447. A pillar of public health may be at risk by a pending Supreme Court decision.

         Q:  What happened to the regulation allowing OSHA to make the workplace Covid safe?

         AFor years, the law has held that for the protection of public health, when infectious disease threatens the community, some people must be inconvenienced by being isolated or quarantined.  People may be inconvenienced by having to get vaccinated to stop the spread of disease. But today, an increasing number of people who are inconvenienced state they are losing their freedom to choose for themselves to be isolated or vaccinated.  The US Supreme Court held a hearing last week to decide if it would act to stay – or stop – two regulations of the Biden administration to give people the “freedom” to make the rest of the public more exposed to Covid.   Dahlia Lithwick, who is senior editor at Slate Magazine and an experienced observer and journalist covering the Supreme Court co-authored an article that was just published.

She wrote the Supreme Court is “supposed to ask whether a federal law properly authorizes an agency’s action (to draft regulations).  It is not supposed to ask whether a federal law is just one part of a nefarious plot to ‘workaround congressional inaction.’”   Chief Justice Roberts faulted OSHA’s creating its regulation on a statute passed “50 years ago,” a time “almost closer to the Spanish Flu than it is to today’s problem.”  The case requires a process of balancing the potential harm to each side.  Justice Sam Alito stated in his position that a stay was urgent.  “He insisted some people will suffer ‘adverse consequences’ because ‘there is some risk.’”  Elizabeth Prelogar, the US Solicitor General defending the mandate, replied  the FDA found the vaccines safe “by orders of magnitude.”  Alito agreed, but kept insisting that risks do exist.  Lithwick reported, he “sounded like he was spreading anti-vax madness.”

She wrote, “During arguments, the liberal justices were forced to address the merits argument while tamping down the anti-science hysteria of the opposing side.”   The Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers insisted that vaccines probably do not stop the spread or transmission of the virus.  “So acute is the contagion of medical misinformation coming from the court itself that the three liberals had to keep clarifying …” the government was creating safe mitigation from a lethal virus.  As Dahlia summarized the session, “the Republican-appointed justices appeared to begin with the premise that existing law could not possibly authorize this rule, then worked backward to justify their skepticism.”   If the court finds that a stay is required, it could be the start of the demolition of any government activity related to the practice of public health.  More details can be found at:

448. A group of experts has started a strategic plan to “return to normal.”

         Q:  How will this Covid catastrophe ever be over and can we ever return to normal?

         A:  On January 6, 2022, the Journal of the American Medical Association published an article entitled “A National Strategy for the “New Normal of Life with COVID.”  Three leading experts not part of government have created an outline for the next stages of strategic thinking:  Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, Ph.D., Michael Osterholm, MD, MPH, and Celine R. Gounder, MD, ScM.  This initial effort recognizes that many variables remain unknown, but will soon be answered.

Without a new strategy, sickness and deaths could continue to threaten when otherwise a “new normal” could emerge.  Two goals are stated:

  1. Redefining the appropriate national risk level: We won’t be able to eradicate the disease. Instead, we must accept that Covid will be like other respiratory infectious diseases.  We should retire the separate classifications and stop reporting separately on the cases of pneumonia, influenza, and Covid.  Instead, we need to report on the aggregate risk of all respiratory viral infections.  The risk threshold for different forms of respiratory infections should be seen as comparable.  We have not held the other forms of viral respiratory infections as requiring emergency responses, even though they have caused more deaths and illnesses in the past than Covid is now.  The perception of acceptable risk is not yet known but will emerge to guide a collective acceptance of the disease in the future.
  2. Rebuilding public health: First, an integrated, comprehensive public health data collection system is needed. Second, there needs to be an established and permanent public health workforce to more rapidly detect and respond to future threats.  Third, steps are needed to allow medical care to transcend state boundaries when regional resources become overwhelmed.  This includes changes to state-limited provider licenses, telemedicine restrictions, and billing limitations.  Fourth, “It is essential to rebuild trust in public health institutions and a belief in collective action in service of public health.”

 449. Exposure to or contracting Covid should lead to 10 (not 5) days of isolation.

          Q:  What is the actual CDC recommendation for isolation if I am exposed to Covid-19?

          A. The CDC recently recommended that if you have or were exposed to Covid, you should isolate for 5 days. This has caused a great deal of controversy, in part because it contradicts other recommendations offered by CDC.  In an article by Hilary Brueck published in Yahoo!News, explanations are offered.  The original guidance as issued in 2020 was to answer to the shortage of hospital healthcare workers.  It was based on two years of old data, not on how the Omicron variant behaves.  Bringing together all CDC guidance and what is known about Omicron, Hilary points out that all people with or exposed to Covid should be careful for a full 10 days after exposure or after symptoms of the disease are gone – “no matter what.”

450. Hospitalizations are an important metric for Covid – but for different reasons.

         Q:  Why isn’t more attention being paid to the metric of hospitalizations?

         A. The Covid Act Now metric of “hospitalizations” focuses on the percentage of licensed ICU beds filled with Covid-19 patients. In the past, Covid patients needing hospitalizations and ICU beds were spread out over time allowing beds to become available as new patients came in for care.  But with the Omicron variant, things are different.  First, for example, if the number of cases needing hospital care is half of those with other variants, but the number of cases each week increases to four times what it was months ago, the number requiring hospital beds daily would be twice that of the past.  The second difference is that the Omicron variant is now infecting hospital staff in greater numbers, creating staff shortages for the beds available.  The availability of beds depends on staffing, not the number of beds.