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Message from the Medical Director

An Update on COVID-19

28 August 2023

Dear Members, Families, and Friends,

Over the last few months, a number of new forms (also known as “variants”) of COVID-19 virus have appeared in communities across the United States. This has been associated with an increase in the number of people getting sick, and hospitalized, due to COVID-19 infection. .

While the total number of cases remains low, in New York State the number of positive tests has increased 400% since June. Experts are sure this is the beginning of a wave of infections that will continue to increase into the Fall and Winter.

We are keeping track of this but want to make sure the IDD community remains safe. People with IDD, as well as the elderly, and those with chronic illnesses such as lung disease, cancer, heart disease and others, are vulnerable to severe illness, increased risk of hospitalization, and other consequences of COVID-19 infections.

Let’s make sure everyone – people with IDD and those that care for, and about them - is protected and can protect each other.

FIRST, with vaccines that are well-proven to prevent severe illness

Please get a flu vaccine as soon as possible.  The flu and COVID-19 can “look and act alike” and getting a flu vaccine will protect you from a known health risk every Fall and Winter. Care Managers can help ensure you get all the vaccines needed to protect your health.

There will be an updated COVID-19 vaccine that will be available in the Fall, one that will offer protection against some of the new variants. Even if you have not received a booster in the past, you should get this version.

Finally, if you or your loved one is over 60 years of age, talk to your primary care provider about getting the new vaccine against RSV, a virus that can cause severe lung disease in older adults. Last year the rate of hospitalizations for RSV among adults was 10X higher than usual. The RSV vaccine can be given at the same time as the flu and COVID-19 vaccines.

If you have any questions about vaccines, please reach out to your healthcare provider.

AND, with physical precautions

Handwashing, physical distancing, and mask usage are all well-established, easy to use and well proven ways to prevent spread of all respiratory infections. 

Masking remains a personal choice. However, healthcare professionals are increasingly considering a return to masking as a precaution in healthcare and residential settings, like hospitals and nursing homes.  Some experts are suggesting that caregivers for those who are at risk should consider using masks as well. Healthcare settings like clinics and hospitals are also reinforcing the importance of workers – including healthcare professionals like nurses and aides - staying home if they are sick.

FINALLY, with early interventions

If you find yourself with ‘flu-like’ symptoms like fever, cough, headache, or muscle pain, get tested as soon as possible. If you test positive, have mild to moderate symptoms and are in a high-risk group, you should ask your doctor or pharmacist for a medication called Paxlovid. Paxlovid can reduce hospitalization rates by 80% if taken within five days of symptom onset.

People who are positive for COVID-19 should stay home or isolate themselves for at least five (5) days. 

We will keep track of the trends and any changes in recommendations for prevention and treatment. 

Thanks for your attention,

Steven Merahn, MD
Medical Director