The holidays have arrived. Along with the excitement about gathering again with family and friends, the emergence of the Omicron variant introduces the latest health threat to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: a potential for rapid surge of COVID-19 cases in the coming days and weeks. The Sunrise leadership team continues to follow and share expert guidance from Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), and other state/provincial and local health authorities in an ongoing effort to keep our residents, team members, partners, families and friends safe. Until Omicron is fully understood, the CDC recommends using all appropriate resources available to protect yourself and others.
A VARIANT EMERGES
The World Health Organization designated the Omicron variant B.1.1.529 on November 26, 2021. As of December 20, 2021, the variant has been detected in all 50 states and territories and is rapidly increasing the proportion of COVID-19 cases. The CDC is working with state and local public health officials to monitor the spread of Omicron, and continuing to warn of breakthrough infections in people who are fully vaccinated. With other variants, like Delta, vaccines have shown to be effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.
THE IMPORTANCE OF VACCINATING
According to the CDC, vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19. Vaccines slow transmission and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging. The CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. The CDC highlights evidence that demonstrates that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe – including evidence that more than 8.8 Billion vaccine doses have already been given across 184 countries. Vaccines have proven to be highly effective in reducing the risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death. Like many other companies in the senior care industry and beyond, Sunrise Senior Living has made vaccination, including the recommended booster shots, a condition of employment for all team members, subject to applicable laws and Sunrise’s accommodation process, as a way to help safeguard everyone in the communities.
GET YOUR FLU SHOT, TOO
According to the CDC, a yearly flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and remains the best method to help prevent flu and its serious complications. For children, getting an annual flu vaccine can even be lifesaving. In the era of COVID-19, getting a flu vaccine can also help keep people out of the hospital, benefitting COVID-19 patients and others who require hospitalization.
BOOSTING YOUR IMMUNITY
CDC recommends that everyone ages 18 years and older get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna. Evidence from the CDC and other public health authorities has shown that booster shots provide increased effectiveness against the omicron variant.
Regardless of vaccination status, both the World Health Organization and the CDC continue to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission. The WHO recommends that masks are part of a comprehensive “do it all” approach including physical distancing, avoiding crowded, closed and close-contact settings, good ventilation, cleaning hands, covering sneezes and coughs, and more.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF TESTS
The WHO recommends widely used PCR tests to continue to detect COVID-19 infection, including infection with the Omicron variant, as used with other variants as well. Per the CDC rapid antigen tests are also an important tool that may be used to detect infection and inform infection control measures.
As we continue evolving in our commitment to protect as many people as possible from COVID-19, Sunrise leadership will continue to share details from leading scientific organizations with our residents and their families. Please visit our “We Are Prepared” page on our website for the latest updates. For now, we hope that you will take all possible steps to keep yourself and your loved ones safe as you enjoy a very happy, healthy holiday.