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COVID-19
News in 2022

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Latest Covid-19 News in September — Updated
        9/23/2022:

           Nothing new to report this week. Stay safe and stall well.
        9/16/2022:

           Nothing new to report this week. Stay safe and stall well.
        9/9/2022:

          
Okay to get Flu Shot & Covid Booster at the same time? New
          
When to Get the New Bivalent Covid Booster — New
        9/2/2022:

           Government No Longer Giving Out Free Covid-19 Tests
           FDA Authorized the New Covid Vaccines Targeting BA.4 & 5
           Blood Abnormalities Found with Long Covid

Latest Covid-19 News in August
        8/26/2022:

          
Expiration Dates on Some Covid Tests Extended
        8/19/2022:

           Two New Variants on the Rise
           How much virus does a person with Covid exhale?
           People with Long Covid Have Blood Abnormalities
           FDA to Approve Omicron-specific Booster
        8/12/2022:

           
CDC Loosens Its Recommendations for Fighting Covid
          
CDC Guidelines for the Fully Vaccinated
           
It Takes 3 Negative Tests To Be Sure About Covid
        8/5/2022:
           
BA.4.6 Variant Already Dominant in 4 States
          
Should you get 2nd booster or wait for the new vaccine?
          
A Third of Those Who Had Covid Experience Rebound

Latest Covid-19 News in July
        7/29/2022:
           
Isolate Until You Test Negative, Not Just 5 Days
          
Check Your Antigen Test Expiration Dates
          
BA.5 Vaccine Coming in the Fall
          
Latest Covid Questions Answered
        7/22/2022:
           
BA.5 Nearly 80% of New Covid Infections
          
More People Catching Covid for 2nd or 3rd Time
          
Florida Averages 10,000 New Infections Daily
        7/15/2022:
          
Walgreens Sees Skyrocketing Covid Cases
          
Strategy to Manage the BA.5 Variant
           Time Between Reinfections Could Be 28 Days
        7/8/2022:

          
Nothing new reported this week. Stay well.
        7/1/2022:

          
FDA Hearings on Boosters for Variants
          
Seniors Suffering Long Covid Easily Overlooked
          
Reinfections Are on the Rise


Latest COVID-19 News in September

Friday, September 23rd

  • Nothing new to report this week. Stay safe and stall well.

Friday, September 16th

  • Nothing new to report this week. Stay safe and stall well.


Friday, September 9th

  • Is it okay to get the seasonal flu vaccine and the coronavirus booster at the same time? Some are concerned about adverse effects following the shots. While each shot has the potential to cause side effects, many are self-resolving within 24 hours. And if you don't usually get side effects from either of those vaccines, getting them together won't increase the odds since the body's immune system reacts differently to flu and coronavirus vaccines. Benjamin Goldman-Israelow, an infectious diseases specialist at Yale School of Medicine doesn't think it should be a concern since we often get several vaccines at the same time. For example, the flu vaccine has four different strains in it, so you're getting exposed to four different viruses already. One thing he does not recommend is spacing your shots. If you usually get sick the day after the flu or covid shot, you would get sick two days if you space the shots as opposed to one day if you get the vaccines together.
  • The new, updated boosters are coming at a good time. Health officials are warning of another likely spike in Covid-19 transmission this fall as people head back indoors again. The reformulated booster doses of the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are "bivalent," meaning they target the original version of SARS-CoV-2 as well as the newer omicron variant. The hope is that these new shots will increase protection against the latest mutations in the virus, and head off a rise in hospitalizations and deaths. How do I know if I'm getting the latest boosters? As bivalent boosters roll out, the older, monovalent boosters will become unavailable, so you won’t have to decide whether to get one or the other. Both a Covid infection and vaccination provide some level of protection against future infections, which can last for a few months.

    • If you’ve recently had Covid-19, you probably want to wait at least 3 months to get a booster shot. A recent preprint (i.e., non-peer-reviewed) study suggested that receiving a booster within two months of infection doesn’t really add much protection, and CDC guidance suggests waiting even longer to get vaccinated. The infection essentially functions as a booster.
    • If you’ve recently been boosted, a CDC tool can help you determine when you're eligible for a booster. Generally, epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina suggested healthy people should wait 4 — 6 months after an infection or vaccination to get a booster (that's a bit longer than the CDC’s recommendations), and shortening that wait to 3 — 4 months for people at high risk for severe infection or those who plan to attend an event where the infection risk is high (e.g., a wedding).


Friday, September 2nd

  • The government will no longer be giving out free Covid-19 tests due to lack of funding. If you ordered tests prior to today, September 2nd, you should get them. But what if your at-home tests are about to expire? First, check last week's link to make sure the expiration date of your tests hasn't been extended. If their viability date is still about to expire, you can still get new tests. Back in January, the administration announced that private insurance companies must cover at-home tests. You can receive 8 free tests a month from a provider-based pharmacy or be reimbursed up to $12 per test purchased. These tests are also eligible expenses for flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA). Medicare was not initially included in the plan to distribute free Covid-19 tests, but on April 4th the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced that participants with Plan B or those in a Medicare Advantage plan were also eligible to receive the tests. Even if you're not insured or covered by Medicare, you still can get free Covid tests. The Department of Health and Human Services has provided millions of free COVID tests to community health centers and Medicare-certified rural health clinics. 
     
  • On Wednesday, the FDA authorized the first redesign of Covid vaccines since 2020. Yesterday, with 400 to 500 Americans still dying daily from Covid-19, with most of those infections caused by BA.5 (almost 90% in the U.S.), the CDC signed off on the new Covid booster shots that target the BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants — one by Moderna and the other by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. More than 170 million doses, which have already been shipped to vaccination sites across the country. The shots will be free to everyone who is eligible, and could be available as soon as this weekend. Some boosters may be available starting this weekend, with more showing up in pharmacies, doctors offices and clinics after Labor Day. These updated boosters meet the FDA’s rigorous standards and are expected to help restore immune protection against Covid-19 and could better protect against long Covid, an unexplained constellation of symptoms that includes fatigue, memory loss and chest pain. This kind of redesign is what we do for the flu vaccine every year.
     
  • A study of people with Long Covid has turned up a host of abnormalities in their blood. The Long Covid patients, most of them struggling with intense fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms, had low levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that helps the body control inflammation, glucose, sleep cycles, and more. Features of their T cells indicated their immune system was battling unidentified invaders, perhaps a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 or a reactivated pathogen such as Epstein-Barr virus, and shares certain features with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), another condition thought to follow an infection. The clues add to a body of evidence hinting at drivers of the condition and potential treatments worth testing. Other groups studying Long Covid patients are finding the same thing, as well as what has been found in the UK. A recent study analyzing a patient database from the Veterans Health Administration found that reinfections dramatically increased the risk of serious health issues, even in people with mild symptoms, adding to their risk for long Covid. With an estimated 82% of Americans having been infected at least once with the coronavirus as of mid-July, most new cases now are reinfections. People’s risk of reinfection depends not just on their immune system, but also on the precautions they're taking, such as masking, getting booster shots, and avoiding crowds. For now, the only surefire way to prevent long Covid is to avoid getting sick.


Latest COVID-19 News in August

Friday, August 26th

  • Have at-home Covid tests that are close to their expiration date? You may not have to throw them away on the expiration date after all. The FDA has extended the shelf life on many brands. The FDA has a website that lists At-Home OTC COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests. Scroll down to find your brand and look at the Expiration Date column to see if your at-home test's expiration date has been updated. If so, click on the link, find the lot number of your test, and mark the new expiration date on your test's box. If your test hasn't been authorized as viable after its extension date hasn't been updated, check back again. The FDA will update the table as additional shelf-life extensions are authorized.


Friday, August 19th

  • Two new variants are gaining ground across the globe. BA.4.6 and BA.2.75, also known as centaurus, are both a part of the omicron lineage which is known for its infectious characteristics and its expertise in evading vaccines and our immune system. The concern is how fast they’re spreading. In fact, Dr. Dean Winslow, a professor of medicine at Stanford, said the way centaurus is moving, reminds him of how fast delta hit us. Omicron was mercifully less likely to kill a person than previous variants, but infectious-disease experts are clear on this point: Future variants could be more pathogenic. As if mutation wasn’t enough of a problem, the virus has another trick up its sleeve: recombination, which happens when two distinct strains infect a single host simultaneously and their genes become entangled. The recombination process is the origin of what’s known as omicron XE. These are all variations of the same virus, despite what seems like a tremendous amount of mutation. Correspondingly, someone who gets infected with one of these new variants has the same disease as people who got infected previously; they got covid.
     
  • People infected with the Alpha, Delta and Omicron variants of SARS-CoV-2 spew out higher amounts of virus than do those infected with other variants. One 'superspreader' with Omicron shed 1,000 times as much viral RNA as those with Alpha or Delta. In addition, individuals who contract COVID-19 after vaccination, and even after a booster dose, still shed virus into the air. Although the test has not yet been peer reviewed, new research shows that all three of those variants come out of the body more efficiently when people talk or shout than the earliest strains. Infected people faced into a cone-shaped apparatus and sang and shouted for 30 minutes, with inevitable coughs and sneezes in between, while an attached machine collected the particles they exhaled. The device, called a Gesundheit-II, separated out the fine 'aerosol' droplets measuring 5 micrometres or less, which can linger in the air and leak through cloth and surgical masks. Study co-author Kristen Coleman, who researches emerging infectious diseases at the University of Maryland in College Park, says this means that people should be "pushing governments to invest in improving indoor air quality by improving ventilation and filtration systems".
     
  • An ambitious study of people with Long Covid, the mysterious, disabling symptoms that can trail a SARS-CoV-2 infection, has turned up a host of abnormalities in their blood. The Long Covid patients, most of them struggling with intense fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms, had low levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that helps the body control inflammation, glucose, sleep cycles, and more. The study also went into granular aspects of the T cells, the antibody response. Features of their T cells indicated their immune system was battling unidentified invaders, perhaps a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 or a reactivated pathogen such as Epstein-Barr virus and other herpesviruses, and reactivation of viruses in patients with neurological issues. Their blood samples were also awash with a category of "exhausted" T cells, suggesting that their bodies are actively fighting something, producing chronic inflammation. Researchers are thinking about what other drugs they can test, like virus-directed antibodies or targeted anti-inflammatories to tame the immune system, and see whether subsets of patients are more likely to respond to certain interventions. Some Long Covid patients have tried short courses of steroids, which can treat low cortisol, but say they haven’t helped.
     
  • The Food and Drug Administration is expected to green light an omicron-specific booster in the U.S. head of its fall booster campaign to dampen the anticipated surge in cases. Moderna and Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech have given assurances that reformulated boosters will be ready in September and could be delivered in early October. Those boosters will contain components from the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the original formula. Studies showed that vaccines tuned to fight a previous version of omicron modestly increased the short-term immune response in people compared with more shots of the original. It is possible that BA.4 and BA.5 will be eclipsed by new variants by the fall, but the hope is that a new shot will help broaden immunity since they are closer to where the virus is today.


Friday, August 12th

  • The CDC loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus on Thursday, a shift that puts more of the onus for limiting viral spread on individuals, putting less emphasis on social distancing and dropping the 6 ft. standard. The agency’s focus now is on highly vulnerable populations and how to protect them, not on the majority of people who have some immunity against the virus at this point. The guidance revisions allow public health officials to focus on "sustainable measures to further reduce medically significant illness, minimize strain on the health care system, while reducing barriers to social, educational, and economic activity." Quarantine procedures have been relaxed. However, some precautionary measures remain (e.g., people who have been exposed but not confirmed infected should still wear a mask and get tested at least 5 days after exposure, people who test positive should still isolate immediately and stay home for 5 full days if positive, children who are exposed at school no longer have to quarantine).
     
  • The Mayo Clinic summarizes the new CDC guidelines for the fully vaccinated. You can now be safely with other people in your private life, in your home or their home, if they are also fully immunized. You can be in the same house, unmasked in close proximity to someone who's unvaccinated who's low risk; that means fully vaccinated grandparents that don't live with their unvaccinated grandchildren can now safely give that child a hug. But, when you're at work or in public, just assume that there are people around you that are probably unvaccinated and keep your mask on.
     
  • The Food and Drug Administration now recommends that if you've been exposed to Covid, you need 3 negative at-home tests, even if they don’t have symptoms. The FDA made the change Thursday based on evidence that asymptomatic people with an omicron infection need multiple negative rapid antigen tests over a number of days to be sure they don’t have Covid. If repeat testing isn't performed after a negative result, you can unknowingly spread Covid to others if you are infected, especially if you're not having symptoms. It's especially important before being around other people.


Friday, August 5th

  • BA.4.6 is the newest COVID-19 variant that has been around for a few weeks and it is already dominant in four states and has also been detected in 43 other countries. Like BA.5, which one epidemiologist called "the worst version of the virus that we've seen" because of its increased transmissibility and ability to evade existing immunity, it looks like BA.4.6 evades immunity, as well, so people who caught COVID-19 before will likely contract it again. Even if BA.4.6 isn’t significantly worse than existing strains, the speed at which new variants of concern are emerging is alarming public health officials. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that it would seek to approve boosters that directly target the BA.5 variant this fall, rather than make more Americans eligible for a 2nd booster based on the original 2020 strain of COVID. Currently, only Americans over age 50 are eligible for a second booster. But new variants might make still-in-development boosters less effective by the time they’re finally ready.
     
  • Should people get their second booster now, in hopes of protecting themselves from this new wave of BA.5 infections? Or should they wait until new vaccines that specifically target Omicron and its subvariants are available, perhaps this fall? Both Moderna and Pfizer say they’re close to releasing new booster shots to the public that target the BA.1 subvariant of Omicron, which was dominant in the U.S. in January. On June 30th, the FDA recommended that the next round of booster shots target BA.4 and BA.5. But even if the new boosters are approved in the fall, it will take time for manufacturers to ramp up production so they are widely available to the public. Even with new vaccines on the way, experts say that Americans eligible for another booster should get one now, as opposed to waiting for a more tailored shot to come in the fall. A study published Tuesday found that a second booster cut the rate of breakthrough infections by 65% among Israeli health care workers. On the other hand, if you are vaccinated and had Covid, your infection essentially functions as a booster, so you probably don’t need to get a booster for anywhere from three to six months after your Covid infection.
     
  • According to a study posted online Tuesday (not yet peer reviewed), about a third of people with Covid will experience a rebound of their symptoms, regardless of whether they’ve been treated with the antiviral Paxlovid. On July 30th, it was reported that President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus again. He had been treated with Paxlovid. The study found that 27% of people with Covid saw a rebound in their symptoms after they had initially improved. Viral rebound (tested positive again several days after testing negative) occurred regardless of whether a person had taken the antiviral treatment. Anyone who has had Covid could see a return of symptoms after they’d gone away, and those symptoms could be worse or not as bad as the first bout. It’s just the variability in the natural course of the infection. The phenomenon of waxing and waning symptoms is not unique to Covid.


Latest COVID-19 News in July

Friday, July 29th

  • It looks like more and more of us are becoming infected with Covid, probably the BA.5 variant, and you may want to bring out your masks again. Two new studies (not yet peer reviewed) say the CDC’s guideline that you should isolate for 5 days after testing positive for COVID-19 are wrong. The Massachusetts General Hospital study says some people are infectious 8 days after testing positive. The key, these researchers say, is to stay isolated until you test negative, as Biden did this week. This study followed health care workers at the University of Chicago who had been infected but were feeling mostly better and went to get tested after days. They found that more than half of them still tested positive on antigen tests after days. If you have enough virus in your system to turn a home antigen test positive, your body still hasn't cleared the infection and you can still be shedding the virus.
  • If you haven't used all your free home antigen tests, check their expiration dates to make sure the tests are still viable. If your at-home tests have expired, go to COVID.gov and order new ones.
     
  • The BA.5 variant, Covid’s most transmissible strain to date and the variant causing reinfections in people who previously recovered from Covid, currently accounts for nearly 82% of confirmed cases. Dr. Fauci believes, "As we get into the fall, you’d want to boost with a BA.5 [vaccine], so if you get BA.5 or something closely related to that, you will enhance the immunity against that particular variant." BA.5 could spread even more aggressively in the fall, as vaccine immunity wanes and people spend more time indoors. Both Pfizer and Moderna hope their updated shots that target two strains: the original Covid strain and BA.5, will provide better protection. They say their shots could be available in October, but federal health officials reportedly told the Washington Post last week that they’re hoping for early- to mid-September instead, before another variant evolves. The U.S. has already reserved 171 million doses ahead of the fall campaign.
     
  • July 15th, The New York Times updated its Latest Covid Questions Answered article. You can scan the questions and jump to the answers to questions you are concerned about.


Friday, July 22nd

  • BA.5, still classified as an omicron variant but with new mutations, makes up nearly 80% of new COVID-19 cases and is causing more Covid reinfections. Clinicians said many BA.5 symptoms (click on image on the left to view video) are similar to those seen in previous variants, including congestion, headaches, cough and fever. Children tend to have more gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Dr. Claire Bocchini, an infectious disease specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital, has seen more cases of croup in kids, as well. The Mayo Clinic defines croup as an infection of the upper airways that obstructs breathing and causes a "barking" cough, with a few requiring hospitalization. As to whether you can get BA.5 twice, not enough data has been collected yet, but experts say it's unlikely to happen within the first month after infection, at least for the first couple weeks if you have a healthy immune system. Protection wanes so if a person is exposed to Covid, it’s possible to get reinfected with the same variant 2-to-4 months after infection.
     
  • As the rapidly spreading BA.5 coronavirus subvariant causes a surge in infections across the U.S., more people are catching Covid-19 for the second or third time, but on average these reinfections do not seem to be happening more rapidly. On average, people who are getting reinfected now were last infected about nine months ago. It was found that people who'd had Covid-19 infections before arrival of the Omicron variant had little protection against a reinfection that caused symptoms during the BA.5 wave (15%) so they can't count on natural immunity to protect them. But protection from a past infection by an Omicron variant was higher (about 76%). Those who get infected more recently with an Omicron variant have pretty good immunity against reinfection although not total immunity.
     
  • Health officials have documented an average of 10,000 new infections daily in Florida since May 28th, as shown by data released Friday by the CDC. But medical staff statewide tended to more than 4,200 COVID-positive patients this week, the most since February 16th. Meanwhile, the positivity rate for PCR tests statewide this past week is 24%, the highest since late January. With the rise in at-home COVID testing, fewer people are opting for PCR or antigen tests administered by professionals, which are the only one the government collects. This has led to official case counts missing an untold number of infections. As of mid-June, unvaccinated people caught the virus at least 4 times more often than boosted people and more than 7 times as likely to die.


Friday, July 15th

  • The latest data posted by Walgreens is that 4 out of 10 people who show up for COVID-19 tests found out they were positive. Nationally, that is a more than 10% increase in one week. The latest variant of the COVID-19 virus, BA.5, now represents 65% of all new cases in the U.S., and it is spreading fast.
     
  • On Tuesday, the White House COVID-19 Team announced its strategy to manage BA.5, which ensures that we continue to have easy and convenient access to the vaccines, treatments, tests, and other tools that protect against and treat COVID-19, like making free high-quality masks available and recommending that people should consider masking.
    Scientists believe it has the ability to dodge antibodies that previous infections and vaccines provide, which means more reinfections and breakthrough infections for people who are vaccinated. Equally worrying, the latest wave of infections is giving the virus the time and space it needs to mutate into even more dangerous variants and subvariants. And, the more times you catch COVID, the sicker you’re likely to get with each reinfection.
     
  • Even though lots of people got infected with the highly contagious variant, many chose to look on the bright side, at least they would now have immunity against the virus, protecting them from getting sick in the future... in theory. But that hasn’t turned out to be true. Many people—even those who are vaccinated, boosted, and previously infected—are again testing positive as Omicron relatives circulate. The period of time in which a COVID-positive person is considered immune after infection may be slashed from 12 weeks to 28 days according to Australian health officials. They found that reinfections may occur as early as 28 days after recovery from a previous COVID-19 infection. Recommendations around booster shots were unchanged despite the immune period being reduced. In South Australia, close contacts are encouraged to stay home, but can leave the house for work and school, and must wear a mask when leaving the house.


Friday, July 8th

  • Nothing new reported this week. Stay well.


Friday, July 1st

  • FDA announced on Tuesday that it's started an important round of hearings that will determine whether there will be a new generation of COVID-19 vaccines formulated to fight variants, and announced that the fall shots would include a component from BA.4 and BA.5, the omicron subvariants gaining ground in the United States.. Back on June 8th, Moderna said it had a booster that is effective against omicron variants. Moderna's new version of vaccine targets the original strain and the omicron variant (known as a bivalent vaccine), and thinks the protection is so strong that it could last a year. Last Saturday, Pfizer said it also had a new formula that does a better job protecting against newer variants. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech studied two ways of updating their shots — targeting just omicron, or a combination booster that adds omicron protection to the original vaccine. In a study of more than 1,200 middle-aged and older adults who'd already had three vaccine doses, Pfizer said both booster approaches spurred a substantial jump in omicron-fighting antibodies. Pfizer's omicron-only booster sparked the strongest immune response against that variant, and a month after people received its combo shot, they had a 9 to 11-fold increase in omicron-fighting antibodies (more than 1.5 times better than another dose of the original vaccine). And, preliminary lab studies show the tweaked shots also produce antibodies capable of fighting omicron's genetically distinct relatives named BA.4 and BA.5, although those levels weren't nearly as high. These boosters should be available before fall and would include a component from BA.4 and BA.5, the omicron subvariants gaining ground in the United States (they currently account for 52% of all cases).
     
  • Seniors suffering from long covid can be easily overlooked. Long covid refers to ongoing or new health problems that occur at least 4 weeks after a covid infection. Common symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, an elevated heart rate, blood clots, muscle and joint pain, sleep disruptions, symptoms of a heart attack, and problems with attention, concentration, speech and memory (known as brain fog). Nonspecific symptoms like fatigue, weakness, pain, confusion and increased frailty may be hard to recognize and are often dismissed as just a part of aging, in spite of it coming on suddenly rather than over years. Or, they might be directed to take medicines to alleviate symptoms, that don't help or make them feel worse. In a study published in the journal BMJ (British Medical Journal), researchers estimated that 32% of older adults in the U.S. who survived covid infections and had symptoms lasting 4 months or longer; that's more than twice the number in adults 18—64. The consequences can be devastating: the onset of disability, the inability to work, reduced ability to carry out activities of daily life, and a lower quality of life.
     
    So what can we do? If you haven’t gotten at least three vaccine shots, make sure you do. They lower your risk of long covid by 15—50% (depending on the study). Continue taking precautions like wearing a mask in public indoor places and crowded places until case rates drop below 10—20 cases per 100,000 per day. As of Tuesday, the current official U.S. case rate is 32 per 100,000 per day. Considering all the unreported cases diagnosed through home testing, the actual count is probably 120—150 per 100,000 per day. Some may see carefulness as excessive, especially since vigilance is no guarantee of remaining covid-free as many of us can attest, I'd rather try and lower my risk of getting long covid... and that's smart.
     
  • Covid reinfection is on the rise. Covid-19 rebound is a rare but real phenomenon that researchers are still trying to understand. Epidemiologist Adrian Esterman says, "I keep hearing tales of people catching it within three or four weeks of recovering." They tested positive, recovered and tested negative, then weeks later were reinfected and tested positive again. Some reinfections seem mild, but others are more severe with each reinfection, especially with the BA.5 variation which is better able to bind to proteins in our lung lining. Deakin University epidemiology chair Catherine Bennett says, "within Omicron, particularly with these waves of subvariants, there is an ongoing risk of continual reinfection." But the number of variables and variants make generalizing about reinfection difficult. According to an advisory issued by the CDC on May 24th, covid-19 rebound has been reported to occur between 2 and 8 days after initial recovery and "may be part of the natural history" of the virus, "independent of treatment with Paxlovid (Paxlovid rebound) and regardless of vaccination status." The big thing to remember is that "If you start testing positive again, you definitely are infectious again."


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