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AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

Experts answer your questions related to COVID-19

Bill Walsh: Hello. I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you'd like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

(Español)

Bill Walsh: AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. As we begin 2022, the omicron variant is surging. The U.S. is averaging more than half a million new COVID cases a day, and on Monday saw more than 1 million new infections. While the omicron variant appears to be less severe than previous variants, hospital emergency rooms are once again filling up and COVID deaths have risen since the start of the New Year. And there is growing frustration over a national shortage of COVID tests, major travel disruptions, and shifting health and safety guidelines. Today, we'll hear from an impressive panel of experts about these issues and more.

If you've participated in one of our tele-town halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your question live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you'd like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. If you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

Hello, if you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important decision about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with leading experts and taking your questions live.

We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including a COVID-19 Task Force officer and a leading epidemiologist. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded, and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up.

Now I would like to welcome our special guests. First is David Kessler, M.D. Dr. Kessler is the chief science officer for the COVID-19 Task Force at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He's also the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Welcome to the program, Dr. Kessler.

David Kessler: My pleasure.

Bill Walsh: All right. I'd also like to welcome Katie Passaretti, M.D., vice president and enterprise chief epidemiologist with Atrium Health. Welcome back to the program, Dr. Passaretti.

Katie Passaretti: Thank you so much. Pleasure to be here.

Bill Walsh: All right. Great to have you both. So let's get started with you, Dr. Kessler. On Monday, the U.S. reported more than 1.35 million new COVID infections as a result of the omicron surge. What do we need to know about omicron, and how likely is it to cause severe illness? And who is the most vulnerable?

David Kessler: It's clearly different than anything we've seen before. It's different than we saw with the prototype virus, different than alpha, and different than delta. Very different clinical characteristics. Greatly more transmissible. You know, cases are everywhere, but everything we have seen, first in South Africa, then in European countries, the U.K., and now data that we're seeing in the United States really indicates that there's less hospitalizations per case. And less, once you're in the hospital, less chance of ending up on a ventilator requiring mechanical ventilation, and likely less death. Now the problem is that there's so many more cases that our hospitals are really crushed. So I think that, again, Dr. Passaretti can discuss it, but you know the curve is very different. I mean, it is a straight line up, and we're starting, just starting, we'll say in some cities, maybe it's plateauing. We certainly know that in South Africa, there was a steep drop, and in cities like London we're seeing that to follow. So hopefully, certainly in the middle Atlantic, maybe, you know, we're at the peak. I really do hope this comes down. There is no doubt, and when you look at who's in the ICU, it's really two types of people. Those who are unvaccinated, and those who are vaccinated who have certain what was called comorbidities or high risk factors. They are still more vulnerable to omicron, a very different type of virus than we've seen.

Bill Walsh: You anticipated my next question, which is about what we can expect from omicron here in the United States given the experience in South Africa and Britain. If we follow that same trend, which is to say omicron, you know, leaves as quickly as it comes, does that mean the nation will return to normal? What will it mean for people?

David Kessler: You know I think that we have to see. I think one thing about this virus is that it's very humbling. There's a lot we do not know. I do think this is going to come down. It's not going to come down in just one peak. I mean, you know, this country is very large, very diverse, and I think we're going to have multiple peaks. Even in South Africa. You know, when I looked at the data with our South African colleagues over the weekend, it seems to have come down dramatically, but there's still some residual, and I don't think we know what's next. The only thing we know is every time we've gotten a curve down, there's always something around the corner. I mean, I would be, you know really just burying my head in the sand if I didn't, you know, didn't be concerned that out there somewhere with the great deal of transmission, replication of this virus — and it's also mixing, you know, there's some, a little residual delta — somewhere because of all that replication of that virus, it keeps on replicating, that there's going to be new mutations, new combinations, and we have to see whether any of those combinations can compete against omicron and whatever immunity omicron leaves in its wake.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that, Dr. Kessler. Let me turn to you, Dr. Passaretti. Why are vaccinated people getting COVID-19? If the highly contagious omicron variant eludes vaccines, then what are the benefits of vaccinations, and are there other steps that vaccinated people should be taking to protect themselves?

Katie Passaretti: Yeah, so first I'll just say, I completely agree with Dr. Kessler. I think hopefully we're nearing the peak and we'll start to come down. I will kind of reiterate a comment he made in there, just, you know, as someone that's seeing patients in the hospital and, you know, experiencing the surge that I worry a little bit about the message that omicron is less severe so that we don't have to worry about it as much, because given the tremendous number of cases, we're still very much feeling the impact on hospitalizations with higher numbers than ever before. So, at the individual level, absolutely less, you know, seems, early data suggests that it's less severe, but that's still translates with, as you said over 1.35 million cases to a lot of hospitalizations and a lot of burden on our health care system. As far as the question about vaccinated individuals, so omicron has, you know, we've seen different variants over time and they've all changed slightly from the initial strain of COVID. So omicron has had a number of mutations and some of those impact what's called immune evasiveness — the ability for vaccines to prevent infection and also the ability of prior infection to protect that individual. So we're seeing higher numbers of reinfection with people that were maybe infected a year ago, six months ago, that kind of thing. And we're seeing more vaccine breakthrough cases. The good news mixed in all that is that the vaccines continue to be protective against what we need them most to do, which is protect against hospitalization and severe disease. So there is absolutely still a benefit to getting vaccinated. You know, it's the difference between a mild cold and ending up in the ICU. As Dr. Kessler said, you know, the people that are still, even with omicron, having more severe disease, are the unvaccinated people with weaker immune systems. So vaccines absolutely are beneficial at preventing that severe disease, which is really what we most want them to do. And I would say, you know, that vaccinate, the initial vaccine series is important, but we're also, we've also seen data that getting the booster on top of that, we know we have plenty of opportunities across the country for improving booster uptake rates, and that that can add an additional level of protection. So if you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're vaccinated and eligible for a booster, go ahead and get it. While we're in this time of large amount of transmission in our communities and our country, the other things that can protect us and kind of tamp down that spread are the same things that have been recommended throughout the pandemic. If you're sick, stay home. Don't go to your workplace. Don't go out to a public gathering and expose other people. Wearing masks, good quality masks, medical masks, or N95s provide, you know, protection, what we call source control from spreading to other people. And, you know, that's especially important when you're in indoor settings with larger groups of people. So vaccinate, boost, wear a mask when you're out and about, particularly in indoor settings with people whose vaccine status you don't know. And please, please stay home if you're sick.

Bill Walsh: OK, let me do a quick follow-up on that. You know it seems like the three approved vaccines have become household names here in the United States, but I was wondering if you can give us a high-level review of those approved vaccines and the boosters, as well as the antivirals and treatments. Those have been in the news a lot recently. So what's available now, and who are they most effective for?

Katie Passaretti: Sure, Dr. Kessler, did you want to add something?

David Kessler: I just wanted to add one thing, one plea, for all AARP members. Please urge your grandkids, if they're older than 5, or your kids who have kids that are older than 5, to also get vaccinated. You know, we've done a great job with vaccinating, and my hat’s off to AARP on the work on individuals over 65, over 75, and those who are at risk. We still, we're only about 28 percent of kids between 5 and 11 who are vaccinated. So to the extent that grandparents can use their influence and serve as models so that we get school-age children vaccinated, really would appreciate that.

Bill Walsh: Thanks for that, Dr. Kessler. Yeah, go ahead.

Katie Passaretti: Absolutely. Couldn't emphasize that more as well. So really now everyone over the age of 5 is eligible to get vaccinated. So as much work as we can do to encourage that, vaccines are an ongoing debate. So encouraging our friends, our family members, our communities to get vaccinated. There's been some new recommendations specifically surrounding boosters over the past couple of weeks to a month. So now anyone 12 and up, if they got either Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine for their initial series, can get a booster if they're more than five months out from that second dose. So, you know, previously it was six months, now it's five months, so that opens the door to more boosters, more opportunities to protect people. In addition, if people are immunocompromised, so a weakened immune system because of a transplant, or medications, chemotherapy, those individuals, what's considered fully vaccinated for them is three doses initially. And they can get even a fourth dose specifically for immunocompromised. That's their booster five months after they got the third dose. So please, you know, know when you're eligible for a booster, get your vaccine. Again, additional levels of protection. As far as treatments, you know, there's been a ton of evolution of treatments over the past month or so. And with omicron, some of our old treatments don't work as well, and we've had to kind of shift how we kind of treat patients with COVID, particularly those that aren't sick enough to end up in the hospital. So many have heard of, and maybe have received in the past, monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID. And that's particularly important for people that are over the age of 65 and have high risk conditions. Unfortunately, with omicron, several of the monoclonal antibodies that we've used in the past are not as useful. So there's a new medication, a new monoclonal antibody called Sotrovimab, that is the best choice for omicron and really what is being given now that we know the vast, vast, vast majority of cases of COVID in our country are due to omicron. But, with that, we have a limited supply. So, you know, definitely talk to your physician about whether you meet the high-risk criteria, age criteria to get that Sotrovimab, which is an infusion medication. In addition, there are two by-mouth medications that have been approved over the past month or so. One called Paxlovid, and one called Molnupiravir. Again, these are by-mouth medications that really are most effective when given very early in symptom onset to those that are high risk of illness. So over 65, multiple medical problems, weakened immune system, those are the groups that benefit from this. And, you know, unfortunately, what you heard me say with the monoclonal antibodies applies here as well. The supply of these medications is being ramped up, but right now there is a limited supply. So it's important, if you have symptoms, especially if you're in a high-risk group, attempt to get tested quickly, and then talk to your physician about what treatment options would be available to you, and know that all of these medications are most useful if they're given relatively early, less than five to seven days in your onset of symptoms.

Bill Walsh: OK, that's a lot of information. For a summary of a lot of those updates our listeners can check out the latest at aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there, and you'll see frequently asked questions and regular updates about the coronavirus, as well as some of the information that Dr. Passaretti just provided. But before we do, I want to bring in my AARP colleague, Bill Sweeney. Bill is the senior vice president of government affairs at AARP. Welcome to the program, Bill.

Bill Sweeney: Thanks. It's a delight to be here with you.

Bill Walsh: All right. So in addition to sharing the most current coronavirus updates, we like to take a few minutes to update our listeners on issues facing Congress in a segment we call Fighting for You. Bill, what can you share about legislation impacting older adults?

Bill Sweeney: Well, on the advocacy front, AARP's number one priority is making sure Congress lowers prescription drug prices. You know, this year an estimated 18 million Americans were unable to afford a prescription due to the high cost. And the U.S. pays three times more than other countries for the exact same brand-name drugs. So we believe this is unacceptable and we are urging the U.S. Senate to act.

Bill Walsh: So I believe you're referring there to the historic prescription drug relief in the Build Back Better Act currently pending in the Senate. What are those provisions and what does AARP want to see happen?

Bill Sweeney: Well, number one, we want Medicare to be allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices. More than 80 percent of voters of all parties support this change, and it would save seniors and Medicare billions of dollars. In addition, the big pharmaceutical companies would be penalized if they increase prices faster than the rate of inflation. And there'll be a new annual cap on what seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D would pay out of pocket for prescriptions as well as a monthly cap on copays for insulin. These are not just cost-saving measures, but lifesaving ones. We've never been closer to seeing prescription drug price relief passed, and we're urging the Senate to see this through. Older Americans really just can't afford to wait any longer.

Bill Walsh: Is there something our listeners can do to help?

Bill Sweeney: Definitely. If you want to help, you can raise your voice, contact your senators and your members of Congress, and urge them to pass prescription drug relief. This week, AARP members have signed petitions, sent thousands of emails and made important phone calls to Capitol Hill. The message is simple and it's clear: Ask Congress to lower drug prices now.

Bill Walsh: OK. It's a critical time. Now we know nearly 1 in 10 nursing home residents have died from the coronavirus. This is a national tragedy. What's AARP doing to protect the vulnerable nursing home residents?

Bill Sweeney: Well, we believe the failure to protect the nursing home community is nothing less than a national disgrace. AARP is urging elected officials at the federal and the state levels to ensure that public funds provided to nursing homes are being used for vaccines, for boosters, testing, proper staffing, and to improve the health and the safety of nursing home residents. The pandemic brought to light problems that have plagued nursing homes for decades, including the staffing problems and shortages, poor infection control practices, a lack of transparency or accountability. AARP will continue to push for these long-overdue, long-term reforms in the nursing home industry.

Bill Walsh: OK, and like the rest of the country, many nursing homes are seeing new surges of infection rates, especially with omicron and the cold winter months. For listeners who may have a family member in a nursing home, what do you suggest?

Bill Sweeney: Well, if you do have a loved one in a nursing home, please advocate for their safety. They need you right now to be an advocate for them. Most nursing home residents were vaccinated in early 2021, and they're now eligible for booster shots. Don't take for granted that your loved one has received theirs. It's really important that you contact the facility directly, ask for their vaccination and booster rates among both staff and residents. And make sure your family member receives their booster shot as soon as possible. Nursing home residents are the most vulnerable among us. We need to make sure that they're protected.

Bill Walsh: OK, Bill. Great advice, and thanks so much for the update. All right. It's now time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Katie Passaretti.

Bill Walsh: I'd now like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

Jesse Salinas: So good to be here today, Bill.

Bill Walsh: All right, Jesse. Who do we have first on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Our first call is going to be Rose from Wisconsin.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Rose. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Rose: Hi there. I'm getting confused. So far, I'm COVID free. I've been fully vaccinated, have my booster. Should I be figuring out if I need to get a COVID test, how do I do it? And which ones should I try to get? And I'm just really wondering about this.

Bill Walsh: All right. How are you feeling? It sounds like we may have lost her. OK. Dr. Passaretti? Do you want to answer that question for Rose?

Katie Passaretti: Sure. You know, it is, I will admittedly say at least in my area, and I know many areas of the country, testing access is a bit limited, and there is longer time to get your results than we've seen previously because of the huge volume of cases. You know, I do think the most important thing is, you know, for the AARP members who really are at a higher risk due to age, if you have symptoms, getting tested is important. The two types of tests out there are the home tests, what are called antigen tests. If you can get your hands on those, they perform best when you have symptoms. So those are a decent option. Or if there is availability to get a PCR test in your area, usually those are done in larger labs, get sent off, you get the results and right now it's taking several days to come back. That's the other option. So certainly if you're at high risk and having symptoms, get tested so we can talk to your doctor about potential treatments to make sure you're as protected as you can. The other time where it is recommended to get tested is if you had a known exposure. So if you had someone in your household turn positive a couple of days after your exposure to them, then attempting to get tested is important. Absolutely challenges right now, and Dr. Kessler may have other kind of comments on that, but you know, really trying at least for when you have symptoms, getting tested so we can get you treated if treatment is available is still very important.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Passaretti. Jesse, let's take another call.

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next call is going to be from Harriet in New York.

Bill Walsh: Harriet, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Harriet: Thank you. I have two great-grandchildren, and the parents are my grandchildren, and they want me to come this weekend to stay over. I'm alone and they have not been, they did not get the shots. I have had all the shots, the booster, the flu shot, and I am in a quandary. Do I go, do I not go? Can you help me?

Bill Walsh: That's a great question. A question I think in a lot of people's minds. Dr. Kessler, do you want to weigh in on that? Maybe Dr. Passaretti, you have something to say on it too.

David Kessler: Sure. Let's just go, I just want to make sure I understand the facts and I hear it. So Harriet's vaccinated and she's boosted, correct?

Bill Walsh: Correct.

David Kessler: And she's wants to go to family members who have children and younger adults. And did I hear that they are not vaccinated, and they are not boosted?

Bill Walsh: Yes, I believe so. So she's in a quandary about that.

David Kessler: Right. So, you know, so I think that, you know, there are a number of options. Look, we're at the stage where certain things are absolutely critical, very important in life. And if things are important, and you gotta do it, and it can't be delayed, then you find a way to do it. I mean, we choose which risks  we take. Saying that, to be honest, Harriet said she was in New York, if you can get me a couple of more weeks, I would appreciate it, because I think the curve is still pretty high on omicron, and I'd like to see that the viral amount in the community is down. And you know Dr. [Janet] Woodcock [acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration] said something, you know, it was a little bit you know, caught everyone's attention: “Everyone's going to get omicron.” Well, I really would prefer not everyone get omicron, because I think it does have, you know, it's going to affect different people, but there's a lot of omicron out there. And my guess is I prefer that you can wear a mask, you can wear N95s, you can test everybody. So there are ways to make things work. There's a lot of virus out there and if you have some doubt, see if you can put it off for a couple of weeks. Let's get to spring.

Bill Walsh: All right. Thanks for that, Dr. Kessler. Jesse, let's take another caller.

Jesse Salinas: Yeah, Bill, our next question is going to be from Patricia in Arizona.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Patricia. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

Patricia: Hi. Thank you. I tested positive for COVID December 21, and you know, hibernated, whatever, for 12 days and no one in my family got it. And I test every week. I get a PCR test for a study I'm in about COVID, and I continue to test positive. I've had three positive COVID tests since December 21. My only symptoms are kind of fatigue in the afternoon. And I mean, I don't feel completely myself, but I'm not, you know, I don't have a fever, I don't have the severe aches, et cetera, and I'm just concerned about being around other people. My whole family is around me all the time. They did not get COVID through any of this. How safe is this for me to just continue? I wear a KN94 wherever I go, always have. Still got it. I'm also vaccinated, boosted, and I have a flu shot.

Bill Walsh: OK. Let's ask Dr. Passaretti her views on this. Do you have any suggestions for Patricia, Dr. Passaretti?

Katie Passaretti: Yeah, absolutely. Really good question, so thank you for asking it. You know, the type of tests that are used to diagnose COVID can stay positive for some time. We actually tell people not to retest, unless they have new symptoms, for about three months after you test positive for that reason. So I think if you're vaccinated and boosted, that improves your odds of clearing out the virus. I would say if your fevers are gone for more than a day or two, and your symptoms are overall improved, it's very, very unlikely that you would spread to anyone else. The only group I will kind of caveat is if — I didn't hear you say — but if you have a weakened immune system, you know, on chemotherapy, those people can maybe carry virus for a longer period of time, but you being vaccinated, boosted, and as long as you've stuck with your isolation frame, I think it's low risk.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much for that. Jesse. Let's take another question.

Jesse Salinas: OK, Bill, we're getting a lot of questions on Facebook today. And a number of them are asking about if you've gotten your third shot sometime in the end of August or late in the third or fourth quarter, and now, you know, when do I get a fourth shot? Am I supposed to be thinking about a fourth shot? I know you talked about this earlier, but can you clarify?

Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, can you help us with that question?

David Kessler: Yeah, the answer is: collecting a lot of data, no decisions yet, no reason to jump. We're definitely going to need a fourth shot. Or we're not going to need a fourth shot. The hope among the best immunologists is that three shots, spaced out — the two primary series and then one a number of months down — really can mature the immune system. So we're working on that question. We've not called for a fourth shot. Colleagues and friends and patients who asked me, I said, hold it. We're not ready. You should be well protected with the booster. But saying that, we've got a lot of work to do. It may be that we need annual shots, depending on what emerges after omicron. We may need something that makes sure that we have coverage there. But not ready to make any decisions on the fourth boost. Let’s make sure everybody gets, with regard to the mRNAs, their three shots. That's the main focus right now.

Bill Walsh: OK. Very good. Thanks so much for that, Dr. Kessler. And thanks for all of those questions.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Passaretti, I'd like to pose another question to you about omicron. You know, is this, you know, we talked about, is it peaking? If it does peak, what does it mean for the country? We know that omicron is highly contagious, but it's a less virulent strain of COVID-19. And I guess I'm wondering if this signals a transition from a pandemic to an endemic, such as seasonal flu, or are there more serious variants potentially lurking out there?

Katie Passaretti: Yeah. So I'm going to quote Dr. Kessler in what he said earlier on that this virus continuously keeps us humble. I think certainly the hope is that omicron becoming a little bit less severe, more transmissible may be kind of morphing into acting more like our common cold and less at risk for severe disease and crowding our hospitals and whatnot, which is where we ultimately think we're going to end up, that endemic state, where there are cases and they kind of come and go, but it's not overwhelming to our health care system in the vast majority of people causes a mild cold. So, you know, the hope certainly is with this transition in the virus, we're headed that way. Having said that, you know, COVID virus has thrown us a number of curveballs over the past two and a half years, and there's always the risk that we could be faced with yet another variant that has different characteristics in a completely different way. So I think that's the hope but only time will tell if we're truly getting close to the end.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that, Dr. Passaretti. And I'd like to turn back to you, Dr. Kessler. You know, it's been mentioned a couple of times so far in the program about the supply shortages in COVID tests around the country. What's contributing to that shortage and what's being done to increase supply? We're wondering also when will the home kits and PCR tests become more widely available?

David Kessler: So there's different kinds as Dr. Passaretti said, different kinds of tests. There actually is not a shortage of the PCR tests. Where the shortage is, is of the home tests, you know, getting them. And so the laboratory tests, you know, the ones you either send off or you go into a pharmacy, and they send off, enormous capacity to do that. The president announced today, even another 500 million, so that brings it to a billion, these are the home tests, the rapid tests, the antigen tests, all called the same thing. So we are investing more in those tests and should have more shortly.

Bill Walsh: Well, let me put a finer point on that. When do you expect consumers will begin to start seeing those antigen tests available in pharmacies and elsewhere?

David Kessler: I think Dr. Passaretti wanted to get in here.

Katie Passaretti: Oh, sorry. I was just going to say, there's plenty of PCR tests, but your ability, the places that have spots to actually do the test can be a challenge, so just be aware of that when you're scheduling. And I'll just put a tiny, tiny plug in for people not to utilize our emergency rooms — which are slammed right now with patients sick with COVID and other things — as the place you go to get tested. It’s really important to use the medical care settings for the purpose they're intended. So I get that there are challenges with testing, but just please try to protect our emergency rooms for sick people that need that level of care.

Bill Walsh: Yeah, that's great. And Dr. Kessler, I just asked when consumers might start seeing those new home test available.

David Kessler: End of this month, this new increased supply should start, and then emerge even greater over the following weeks.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks very much, both of you, for those comments. Let's turn back to our phone lines to take more of your questions with Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Katie Passaretti.   Jesse, who do we have on next?

Jesse Salinas: Yep. I'm going to take one from Facebook. This is from Edward, and he says, "We've been reusing our masks after cooking them at 170 degrees for 30 minutes in the oven. Is this a good idea?"

Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, maybe you can address that. I think there's been some recent guidance on cloth masks as well.

David Kessler: Yeah, so we'll just talk a little about masks. There's no doubt that masks vary in the degree of protection, right, and they range, because there's a lot of confusion. And just from a filtration protection point of view, there's N95s that are most protective from filtration, then you go to the KN95s, and then you go to these surgical masks, and then you go to these cloth masks. I mean, I think the thing that is most important is to use the highest-quality masks that you can tolerate, or that fits well. I mean, you know, I can use an N95   when I'm going in and out for short periods of time. Put me into an N95 for hours, and I'm pretty uncomfortable. So I think it's important to use the highest-quality mask that you can tolerate. But with regard to cooking them in the oven, I'm not sure exactly what masks we're talking about. I would stay away from cooking masks. I don't know exactly what it does to the chemicals, et cetera, in there. No doubt that masks can be reused. You know, I reuse my masks, my N95s, repeatedly. You try to use them until they get dirty, they get stained. I know Dr. Passaretti, wants to comment.

Katie Passaretti: No, I completely agree with everything you said. You know, if it gets kind of not fitting your face well or moist or dirty, throw it out. But otherwise I do the same for kind of public use, different for health care obviously.

David Kessler: Right.

Bill Walsh: And Dr. Kessler, I understand the president announced just today that the administration would be sending masks to Americans. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

David Kessler: Yeah, I think there are more to come next week. You'll remember, we already did that with more procedure masks, but I think there is an intent to send high-quality masks to people, and I think there'll be further announcements on that next week.

Bill Walsh: Fantastic. Thanks so much for that. Jesse, who do we have on next?

Jesse Salinas: You have our next question is going to come from Donald, from Arizona.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Donald, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Donald: Thank you. I'm calling about Medicare recipients and whether or not they are or will be reimbursed for the cost of acquiring the home test, the PCR test? I know the home tests are not readily available to all, but we have acquired four of them; two for my wife, and two for myself. But going forward, I've seen no information regarding reimbursement other than private insurance companies and Medicaid recipients.

Bill Walsh: OK, well, that's a great question, Donald. Let's ask Dr. Kessler about Medicare reimbursement for those in-home tests.

David Kessler: As I understand it, I'm not a reimbursement expert, but as I understand it there's now a requirement that insurance companies need to cover eight, I think it's eight, home tests a month. But I'm sure, Bill, your experts may even know those requirements even better than I do.

Bill Walsh: Yeah, Dr. Passaretti, I don't know if you have any insight on that. I'll ask our staff to do a little research and see if we can get an answer before the end of the program.

Katie Passaretti: Yeah, sorry, not so much my gig either.

Bill Walsh: OK, well, that's fine. Donald, stay with us, and we'll try to get you an answer. Jesse, in the meantime let's go back to the phones.

Jesse Salinas: Yep. I've got one more from Facebook. This is from Katie. She says, "Do vaccinated and boosted people need to wear masks when visiting each other indoors?"

Bill Walsh: Hmm, Dr. Passaretti?

Katie Passaretti: Yeah. So I think it all comes down you know, we talked a little bit earlier about your kind of risk-benefit ratio. We do see people that are vaccinated having mild cases and people with boosters, although at lower numbers, getting mild cases of COVID. I think, you know, it depends, me as a health care worker, if I'm with anyone outside of my household indoors, I wear a mask because me, taking me out of the workforce right now, when we're already stretched thin can be, you know, would be additionally challenging. Or if you live with someone that is high risk or you're high risk yourself, then it may make sense, but it's all kind of levels of risk. What you're willing to accept, how important that interaction is. I think, you know, certainly you're setting yourself up for success by both individuals being vaccinated and boosted. And, you know, if you're low risk and not going home to someone that's a transplant recipient or something like that, then maybe, maybe lower risk. But certainly, you know, where I say for sure, regardless of, you know, vaccine status, booster status, if you're in crowded indoor spaces, you know, the more people there, the more crowded the space, you know, the more variability in there. And then it just gets increasingly tricky.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks very much for that, Dr. Passaretti. And Donald had asked a moment ago about Medicare covering the cost of at-home tests. We've got some information from medicare.gov, which is the program's website. And it says that Medicare does not pay for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at this point. People with original Medicare can pick up free at-home tests from community health centers and Medicare certified health clinics. Some of the Medicare Advantage plans may pay for those at home or over-the-counter tests. So thanks to our staff for getting that answer. Jesse, let's go back to our callers. Who do we have up next?

Jesse Salinas: Let's bring on Elaine from Texas.

Bill Walsh: Hey Elaine, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Jesse Salinas: Yeah, I wanted to know, my son-in-law and I got our three shots. I went with him each time, and two weeks ago he came down with COVID anyway after the three shots, and he doesn't go out hardly at all. I mean, he really doesn't, you know, go out there where he can get it. So it was, it was upsetting to see that he got COVID anyway. Why does that happen?

Bill Walsh: Right. I mean, these are breakthrough infections and Dr. Passaretti, we're seeing a lot of these, right. What can you tell our listeners about breakthrough infections and what they can expect?

Katie Passaretti: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the transmissibility of omicron, how easily it is spread, gives little wiggle room to kind of preventing people from getting infected. What I said earlier and what I would kind of reiterate, vaccines and boosters are very good at preventing severe disease, but with the volume of cases that are going on, and the volume of spread in our community right now, we are seeing breakthrough infections. The good news, it is frustrating, and you know, you're like, I'm doing everything I should. I should be protected. But the good news is that those cases are milder and less likely to end your son or you up in the hospital with more severe COVID. So again, vaccines and boosters, very, very good at preventing severe disease. We are going to see breakthrough cases due to the nature of the mutations in omicron and how this particular strain acts, but rest assured that the prevention of severe disease, which is again, the most important thing remain strong with vaccines and boosters.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Passaretti. Jesse, who do we have next on the line?

Jesse Salinas: The next one we're going to bring on Cheryl from Ohio.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Cheryl. Welcome to our program today. What's your question?

Cheryl: Well, I didn't have the vaccination and neither has one of my brothers. And what I said I would do is when he had it, I would get it. But he has no intention of getting it, and I started thinking that I would get it after a year, after a year of it being in … like last year, it just started last year. I had a whole year for this vaccine to be out here and be safe for everybody. That's the way I was looking at it. Now I am 66, just turned 66 this year. And I don't know if that's considered high risk, but I do have multiple sclerosis, and I just wanted to know if I get the vaccine, which one was first? I know the three that are out there. I'm not thinking about Johnson & Johnson, so which was the best between the Pfizer and the other one?

Bill Walsh: Moderna?

Cheryl: Yeah. You have to do two of those.

Bill Walsh: So it sounds like you're, you're beginning to think about getting the vaccine now. Have you decided for sure?

Cheryl: I haven't decided for sure. My doctor wants me to do it. She's done it. One of my brothers has done it. And I'm just trying to keep that in consideration because of the omicron coming out also, along with that delta, too.

Bill Walsh: Sure. Well, Cheryl, let's ask our, let's ask our experts about that and see what they have to say. Dr. Kessler, do you want to weigh in on that? First, on whether Cheryl should get vaccinated, and if she should choose one vaccine over another?

David Kessler: You know, I think it's great that she's on the verge of doing it. I can only support that decision just very strongly. I think we can tell Cheryl that there are hundreds of millions of people who've gotten this safely, so her waiting a year, she can be absolutely certain, you know, that this is among the safest vaccines we have. I'd urge Cheryl to go get it sooner rather than later, because there's a lot of virus out there and I'd want her to be protected. Whichever vaccine they have available where you walk in or where you go, I would take it. That's the most important thing. Moderna, Pfizer, you know, Dr. Passaretti and I could probably spend the next hour talking about little differences between the two. Not going to make a difference to you, Cheryl, just go get whatever is available, but do me a favor, your decision to go get it is a smart one. And let's get it done in the next couple of days. It makes a big, big, big difference whether you end up in the hospital or not. So great decision.

Bill Walsh: All right. Thank you, Dr. Kessler, and thanks Cheryl for calling in. Go ahead and get your brother, make sure you get, your brother gets vaccinated too in the process. Jesse, let's go back to the phones. Who do we have next?

Jesse Salinas: Yep. We're going to take a question from Anna in South Carolina.

Bill Walsh: All right. Hey, Anna, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Anna: Hi, my question is, you have COVID, and I need the isolation process explained. Are you isolating from the day you went and got your test, isolating from the date you got results, and then the process moving forward from that. It's very confusing.

Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, would you want to help Anna out with this? There have been some changes in recommendations recently, haven't there?

David Kessler: Correct. But I think that usually, Dr. Passaretti can correct me, I think generally we count from the day of onset of symptoms, and right now what CDC is recommending is isolation. If you test positive for five days and then there are tests available, but if you test positive where you have symptoms or fever, you know stay in isolation for another five days. But if you have no fever and no symptoms and test negative, then feel free to go about. But make sure you wear high quality masks for at least the next five days. Dr. Passaretti may want to correct me and see if I got that right.

Katie Passaretti: No, you got it completely right. So it starts from date of symptom onset, five days, at least. And then if you're improved from a symptom standpoint, all the way better. You can come out and wear a mask. If you do take a test, then it depends on that test, but a test isn't mandatory. You shouldn't feel like you have to track one down to decide whether you can come out or not.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for you both for that. Jesse, let's go back to the phone lines. Who do we have up next?

Jesse Salinas: Yep. We're going to take another question. This is going to be from Wynonna in Missouri.

Bill Walsh: Hey, Wynonna, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

Wynonna: Thank you. Well, I've had COVID, and I've gotten over it. I didn't have any symptoms of it. The reason why I went and got tested is because my granddaughter’s boyfriend got it. That's the way I got it. So that's why I went to be tested. And then when I went, I was positive. And then what I was wondering, OK, I'm negative now. So and I've had both flu shot, I had Moderna; I had both shots from Moderna, and I had my flu shot, but I didn't get my booster, like I said, but I wasn't sick at all. But what I want to know, when can I get my booster since I just tested negative. Do I have to wait? I've been told I'm supposed to wait three months before I can take the booster. Is that right?

Bill Walsh: Yeah, let's get an answer. Dr. Passaretti, can you help Wynonna?

Katie Passaretti: Yeah, sure, Wynonna. It's a really good question, and one we get a lot. So you actually don't have to wait three months after COVID to get your, you know, if you're unvaccinated, get your vaccine or to get your booster. Really the minimum amount of time that we say to wait is until you're feeling better, and for you, awesome, you didn't have any symptoms with your infection and the time frame when you're infectious to other people. So you don't want to go get a shot while you're still infectious and could spread to other people. But once you're beyond that time frame, you can consider going ahead and getting the booster. So there's no need to wait three months. Certainly, you may have some short-term protection from infection for a period of time, but there's no harm in getting it as long as you're cleared from isolation or you're told you're no longer at risk of infecting other people. So as long as you're feeling better and out of isolation, you can get the booster. I typically tell people not to wait much longer than three or four months, because then your risk of getting a second infection with COVID tends to go up a little bit.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks doctor, for that. Jesse, let's take another question.

Jesse Salinas: Yep, let's do Carmen from New York.

Bill Walsh: Hey Carmen, Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question, Carmen.

Carmen: OK, my question is for my brother-in-law, who lives in Harris County, Texas. And they have very high rates of omicron there. And he had Guillain-Barré syndrome. But he was told by his doctors he cannot get the vaccine. And I don’t know, I don't feel that that's safe. I think that is there anything you can do for people with this syndrome? He would love the vaccine, but you know, what do you do when you're told....

Bill Walsh: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let's ask our doctors. I'm not sure if Dr. Passaretti could answer this one, or Dr. Kessler? Dr. Passaretti, why don't you jump in first?

Katie Passaretti: Sure, so you know, certainly I wouldn't kind of assume, you know, your, your brother-in-law's doctor knows that medical situation the best, but a history of Guillain-Barré is not a strict contraindication to going ahead and getting vaccinated. So I think, you know, first your family member can go ahead and consider getting vaccinated for that extra protection, you know, weighing the risk of the, you know, the omicron circulating in his area, and you know what infection might do to him. There are, as we kind of talked about earlier, potential treatments for higher-risk individuals, unvaccinated individuals, if he chooses to not get vaccinated, but you know, mostly I would say, you know, even with a history of Guillain-Barré, you can consider proceeding with one of the mRNA vaccines and getting that protection against future COVID infection.

Bill Walsh: So either Moderna or Pfizer would be the best option in that case.

Katie Passaretti: I mean in general Johnson & Johnson isn't our first line anymore. In general we recommend Pfizer and Moderna.

Bill Walsh: OK. Fantastic. Dr. Kessler, did you want to add anything to that?

David Kessler: No, I think that Dr. Passaretti got it exactly right. Obviously check with your doctor, but the best expertise is Guillain-Barré is not a contraindication to getting the vaccine. The earlier call, you know, raised the question that, you know, again, I think Dr. Passaretti got it exactly right, when should you, if you've gotten COVID, when should you get your boost? And, you know, I was talking to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky about that question, so Dr. Fauci said, you know, we don't have great data to be able to answer that. I mean, I think there may be an advantage of waiting. I mean, and again, I agree 100 percent with Dr. Passaretti. You want to do it within three to four months. But there may be an advantage of waiting about a month because you really do want to allow —the immune system really works by maturation of response. So you give it a little time to be able to have that maturation. But again, you know, that's why we're practicing medicine, and there are sometimes there are not perfect data. But, you know, my sense is if you've had COVID recently and you're due for a boost, you know, sometime between a month and three months probably makes sense.

Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Kessler, and I think we're going to have to leave it at that. We are at the top of the hour. This has been a really informative discussion and thanks to both of our experts for being with us and providing all of the updates. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers, and listeners for participating in this discussion today. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization and has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others, while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of the Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, January 14. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you'll find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please join us again January 27, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time for another live coronavirus Q&A event. We hope you can join us then. In the meantime, stay safe, thank you, and have a good day. This concludes our call.

[00:00:00] Bill Walsh: Hello. I am AARP Vice President Bill Walsh, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the coronavirus. Before we begin, if you'd like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now.

[00:00:14] [Español]

[00:00:20] AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. As we begin 2022, the omicron variant is surging. The U.S. is averaging more than half a million new COVID cases a day, and on Monday saw more than 1 million new infections. While the omicron variant appears to be less severe than previous variants, hospital emergency rooms are once again filling up and COVID deaths have risen since the start of the New Year. And there is growing frustration over a national shortage of COVID tests, major travel disruptions, and shifting health and safety guidelines. Today, we'll hear from an impressive panel of experts about these issues and more.

[00:01:20] If you've participated in one of our tele-town halls in the past, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your question live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you'd like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff member who will note your name and question and place you in a queue to ask that question live. If you're joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your question in the comments.

[00:01:50] Hello, if you're just joining, I'm Bill Walsh with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important decision about the global coronavirus pandemic. We're talking with leading experts and taking your questions live.

[00:02:11] We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including a COVID-19 Task Force officer and a leading epidemiologist. We'll also be joined by my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas, who will help facilitate your calls today. This event is being recorded, and you can access the recording at aarp.org/coronavirus 24 hours after we wrap up.

[00:02:51] Now I would like to welcome our special guests. First is David Kessler, M.D. Dr. Kessler is the chief science officer for the COVID-19 Task Force at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He's also the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Welcome to the program, Dr. Kessler.

[00:03:10] David Kessler: My pleasure.

[00:03:11] Bill Walsh: All right. I'd also like to welcome Katie Passaretti, M.D., vice president and enterprise chief epidemiologist with Atrium Health. Welcome back to the program, Dr. Passaretti.

[00:03:24] Katie Passaretti: Thank you so much. Pleasure to be here.

[00:03:26] Bill Walsh: All right. Great to have you both. So let's get started with you, Dr. Kessler. On Monday, the U.S. reported more than 1.35 million new COVID infections as a result of the omicron surge. What do we need to know about omicron, and how likely is it to cause severe illness? And who is the most vulnerable?

[00:03:59] David Kessler: It's clearly different than anything we've seen before. It's different than we saw with the prototype virus, different than alpha, and different than delta. Very different clinical characteristics. Greatly more transmissible. You know, cases are everywhere, but everything we have seen, first in South Africa, then in European countries, the U.K., and now data that we're seeing in the United States really indicates that there's less hospitalizations per case. And less, once you're in the hospital, less chance of ending up on a ventilator requiring mechanical ventilation, and likely less death. Now the problem is that there's so many more cases that our hospitals are really crushed. So I think that, again, Dr. Passaretti can discuss it, but you know the curve is very different. I mean, it is a straight line up, and we're starting, just starting, we'll say in some cities, maybe it's plateauing. We certainly know that in South Africa, there was a steep drop, and in cities like London we're seeing that to follow. So hopefully, certainly in the middle Atlantic, maybe, you know, we're at the peak. I really do hope this comes down. There is no doubt, and when you look at who's in the ICU, it's really two types of people. Those who are unvaccinated, and those who are vaccinated who have certain what was called comorbidities or high risk factors. They are still more vulnerable to omicron, a very different type of virus than we've seen.

[00:06:28] Bill Walsh: You anticipated my next question, which is about what we can expect from omicron here in the United States given the experience in South Africa and Britain. If we follow that same trend, which is to say omicron, you know, leaves as quickly as it comes, does that mean the nation will return to normal? What will it mean for people?

[00:06:56] David Kessler: You know I think that we have to see. I think one thing about this virus is that it's very humbling. There's a lot we do not know. I do think this is going to come down. It's not going to come down in just one peak. I mean, you know, this country is very large, very diverse, and I think we're going to have multiple peaks. Even in South Africa. You know, when I looked at the data with our South African colleagues over the weekend, it seems to have come down dramatically, but there's still some residual, and I don't think we know what's next. The only thing we know is every time we've gotten a curve down, there's always something around the corner. I mean, I would be, you know really just burying my head in the sand if I didn't, you know, didn't be concerned that out there somewhere with the great deal of transmission, replication of this virus — and it's also mixing, you know, there's some, a little residual delta — somewhere because of all that replication of that virus, it keeps on replicating, that there's going to be new mutations, new combinations, and we have to see whether any of those combinations can compete against omicron and whatever immunity omicron leaves in its wake.

[00:08:32] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that, Dr. Kessler. Let me turn to you, Dr. Passaretti. Why are vaccinated people getting COVID-19? If the highly contagious omicron variant eludes vaccines, then what are the benefits of vaccinations, and are there other steps that vaccinated people should be taking to protect themselves?

[00:08:53] Katie Passaretti: Yeah, so first I'll just say, I completely agree with Dr. Kessler. I think hopefully we're nearing the peak and we'll start to come down. I will kind of reiterate a comment he made in there, just, you know, as someone that's seeing patients in the hospital and, you know, experiencing the surge that I worry a little bit about the message that omicron is less severe so that we don't have to worry about it as much, because given the tremendous number of cases, we're still very much feeling the impact on hospitalizations with higher numbers than ever before. So, at the individual level, absolutely less, you know, seems, early data suggests that it's less severe, but that's still translates with, as you said over 1.35 million cases to a lot of hospitalizations and a lot of burden on our health care system. As far as the question about vaccinated individuals, so omicron has, you know, we've seen different variants over time and they've all changed slightly from the initial strain of COVID. So omicron has had a number of mutations and some of those impact what's called immune evasiveness — the ability for vaccines to prevent infection and also the ability of prior infection to protect that individual. So we're seeing higher numbers of reinfection with people that were maybe infected a year ago, six months ago, that kind of thing. And we're seeing more vaccine breakthrough cases. The good news mixed in all that is that the vaccines continue to be protective against what we need them most to do, which is protect against hospitalization and severe disease. So there is absolutely still a benefit to getting vaccinated. You know, it's the difference between a mild cold and ending up in the ICU. As Dr. Kessler said, you know, the people that are still, even with omicron, having more severe disease, are the unvaccinated people with weaker immune systems. So vaccines absolutely are beneficial at preventing that severe disease, which is really what we most want them to do. And I would say, you know, that vaccinate, the initial vaccine series is important, but we're also, we've also seen data that getting the booster on top of that, we know we have plenty of opportunities across the country for improving booster uptake rates, and that that can add an additional level of protection. So if you're not vaccinated, get vaccinated. If you're vaccinated and eligible for a booster, go ahead and get it. While we're in this time of large amount of transmission in our communities and our country, the other things that can protect us and kind of tamp down that spread are the same things that have been recommended throughout the pandemic. If you're sick, stay home. Don't go to your workplace. Don't go out to a public gathering and expose other people. Wearing masks, good quality masks, medical masks, or N95s provide, you know, protection, what we call source control from spreading to other people. And, you know, that's especially important when you're in indoor settings with larger groups of people. So vaccinate, boost, wear a mask when you're out and about, particularly in indoor settings with people whose vaccine status you don't know. And please, please stay home if you're sick.

[00:12:21] Bill Walsh: OK, let me do a quick follow-up on that. You know it seems like the three approved vaccines have become household names here in the United States, but I was wondering if you can give us a high-level review of those approved vaccines and the boosters, as well as the antivirals and treatments. Those have been in the news a lot recently. So what's available now, and who are they most effective for?

[00:12:45] Katie Passaretti: Sure, Dr. Kessler, did you want to add something?

[00:12:48] David Kessler: I just wanted to add one thing, one plea, for all AARP members. Please urge your grandkids, if they're older than 5, or your kids who have kids that are older than 5, to also get vaccinated. You know, we've done a great job with vaccinating, and my hat’s off to AARP on the work on individuals over 65, over 75, and those who are at risk. We still, we're only about 28 percent of kids between 5 and 11 who are vaccinated. So to the extent that grandparents can use their influence and serve as models so that we get school-age children vaccinated, really would appreciate that.

[00:13:40] Bill Walsh: Thanks for that, Dr. Kessler. Yeah, go ahead.

[00:13:43] Katie Passaretti: Absolutely. Couldn't emphasize that more as well. So really now everyone over the age of 5 is eligible to get vaccinated. So as much work as we can do to encourage that, vaccines are an ongoing debate. So encouraging our friends, our family members, our communities to get vaccinated. There's been some new recommendations specifically surrounding boosters over the past couple of weeks to a month. So now anyone 12 and up, if they got either Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine for their initial series, can get a booster if they're more than five months out from that second dose. So, you know, previously it was six months, now it's five months, so that opens the door to more boosters, more opportunities to protect people. In addition, if people are immunocompromised, so a weakened immune system because of a transplant, or medications, chemotherapy, those individuals, what's considered fully vaccinated for them is three doses initially. And they can get even a fourth dose specifically for immunocompromised. That's their booster five months after they got the third dose. So please, you know, know when you're eligible for a booster, get your vaccine. Again, additional levels of protection. As far as treatments, you know, there's been a ton of evolution of treatments over the past month or so. And with omicron, some of our old treatments don't work as well, and we've had to kind of shift how we kind of treat patients with COVID, particularly those that aren't sick enough to end up in the hospital. So many have heard of, and maybe have received in the past, monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID. And that's particularly important for people that are over the age of 65 and have high risk conditions. Unfortunately, with omicron, several of the monoclonal antibodies that we've used in the past are not as useful. So there's a new medication, a new monoclonal antibody called Sotrovimab, that is the best choice for omicron and really what is being given now that we know the vast, vast, vast majority of cases of COVID in our country are due to omicron. But, with that, we have a limited supply. So, you know, definitely talk to your physician about whether you meet the high-risk criteria, age criteria to get that Sotrovimab, which is an infusion medication. In addition, there are two by-mouth medications that have been approved over the past month or so. One called Paxlovid, and one called Molnupiravir. Again, these are by-mouth medications that really are most effective when given very early in symptom onset to those that are high risk of illness. So over 65, multiple medical problems, weakened immune system, those are the groups that benefit from this. And, you know, unfortunately, what you heard me say with the monoclonal antibodies applies here as well. The supply of these medications is being ramped up, but right now there is a limited supply. So it's important, if you have symptoms, especially if you're in a high-risk group, attempt to get tested quickly, and then talk to your physician about what treatment options would be available to you, and know that all of these medications are most useful if they're given relatively early, less than five to seven days in your onset of symptoms.

[00:17:30] Bill Walsh: OK, that's a lot of information. For a summary of a lot of those updates our listeners can check out the latest at aarp.org/coronavirus. Go there, and you'll see frequently asked questions and regular updates about the coronavirus, as well as some of the information that Dr. Passaretti just provided. But before we do, I want to bring in my AARP colleague, Bill Sweeney. Bill is the senior vice president of government affairs at AARP. Welcome to the program, Bill.

[00:18:14] Bill Sweeney: Thanks. It's a delight to be here with you.

[00:18:16] Bill Walsh: All right. So in addition to sharing the most current coronavirus updates, we like to take a few minutes to update our listeners on issues facing Congress in a segment we call Fighting for You. Bill, what can you share about legislation impacting older adults?

[00:18:34] Bill Sweeney: Well, on the advocacy front, AARP's number one priority is making sure Congress lowers prescription drug prices. You know, this year an estimated 18 million Americans were unable to afford a prescription due to the high cost. And the U.S. pays three times more than other countries for the exact same brand-name drugs. So we believe this is unacceptable and we are urging the U.S. Senate to act.

[00:19:00] Bill Walsh: So I believe you're referring there to the historic prescription drug relief in the Build Back Better Act currently pending in the Senate. What are those provisions and what does AARP want to see happen?

[00:19:14] Bill Sweeney: Well, number one, we want Medicare to be allowed to negotiate for lower drug prices. More than 80 percent of voters of all parties support this change, and it would save seniors and Medicare billions of dollars. In addition, the big pharmaceutical companies would be penalized if they increase prices faster than the rate of inflation. And there'll be a new annual cap on what seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D would pay out of pocket for prescriptions as well as a monthly cap on copays for insulin. These are not just cost-saving measures, but lifesaving ones. We've never been closer to seeing prescription drug price relief passed, and we're urging the Senate to see this through. Older Americans really just can't afford to wait any longer.

[00:20:03] Bill Walsh: Is there something our listeners can do to help?

[00:20:08] Bill Sweeney: Definitely. If you want to help, you can raise your voice, contact your senators and your members of Congress, and urge them to pass prescription drug relief. This week, AARP members have signed petitions, sent thousands of emails and made important phone calls to Capitol Hill. The message is simple and it's clear: Ask Congress to lower drug prices now.

[00:20:31] Bill Walsh: OK. It's a critical time. Now we know nearly 1 in 10 nursing home residents have died from the coronavirus. This is a national tragedy. What's AARP doing to protect the vulnerable nursing home residents?

[00:20:47] Bill Sweeney: Well, we believe the failure to protect the nursing home community is nothing less than a national disgrace. AARP is urging elected officials at the federal and the state levels to ensure that public funds provided to nursing homes are being used for vaccines, for boosters, testing, proper staffing, and to improve the health and the safety of nursing home residents. The pandemic brought to light problems that have plagued nursing homes for decades, including the staffing problems and shortages, poor infection control practices, a lack of transparency or accountability. AARP will continue to push for these long-overdue, long-term reforms in the nursing home industry.

[00:21:30] Bill Walsh: OK, and like the rest of the country, many nursing homes are seeing new surges of infection rates, especially with omicron and the cold winter months. For listeners who may have a family member in a nursing home, what do you suggest?

[00:21:45] Bill Sweeney: Well, if you do have a loved one in a nursing home, please advocate for their safety. They need you right now to be an advocate for them. Most nursing home residents were vaccinated in early 2021, and they're now eligible for booster shots. Don't take for granted that your loved one has received theirs. It's really important that you contact the facility directly, ask for their vaccination and booster rates among both staff and residents. And make sure your family member receives their booster shot as soon as possible. Nursing home residents are the most vulnerable among us. We need to make sure that they're protected.

[00:22:19] Bill Walsh: OK, Bill. Great advice, and thanks so much for the update. All right. It's now time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Katie Passaretti.

[00:22:53] I'd now like to bring in my AARP colleague Jesse Salinas to help facilitate your calls today. Welcome, Jesse.

[00:23:00] Jesse Salinas: So good to be here today, Bill.

[00:23:02] Bill Walsh: All right, Jesse. Who do we have first on the line?

[00:23:05] Jesse Salinas: Our first call is going to be Rose from Wisconsin.

[00:23:09] Bill Walsh: Hey, Rose. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:23:13] Rose: Hi there. I'm getting confused. So far, I'm COVID free. I've been fully vaccinated, have my booster. Should I be figuring out if I need to get a COVID test, how do I do it? And which ones should I try to get? And I'm just really wondering about this.

[00:23:33] Bill Walsh: All right. How are you feeling? It sounds like we may have lost her. OK. Dr. Passaretti? Do you want to answer that question for Rose?

[00:23:44] Katie Passaretti: Sure. You know, it is, I will admittedly say at least in my area, and I know many areas of the country, testing access is a bit limited, and there is longer time to get your results than we've seen previously because of the huge volume of cases. You know, I do think the most important thing is, you know, for the AARP members who really are at a higher risk due to age, if you have symptoms, getting tested is important. The two types of tests out there are the home tests, what are called antigen tests. If you can get your hands on those, they perform best when you have symptoms. So those are a decent option. Or if there is availability to get a PCR test in your area, usually those are done in larger labs, get sent off, you get the results and right now it's taking several days to come back. That's the other option. So certainly if you're at high risk and having symptoms, get tested so we can talk to your doctor about potential treatments to make sure you're as protected as you can. The other time where it is recommended to get tested is if you had a known exposure. So if you had someone in your household turn positive a couple of days after your exposure to them, then attempting to get tested is important. Absolutely challenges right now, and Dr. Kessler may have other kind of comments on that, but you know, really trying at least for when you have symptoms, getting tested so we can get you treated if treatment is available is still very important.

[00:25:26] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Passaretti. Jesse, let's take another call.

[00:25:30] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next call is going to be from Harriet in New York.

[00:25:37] Bill Walsh: Harriet, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:25:40] Harriet: Thank you. I have two great-grandchildren, and the parents are my grandchildren, and they want me to come this weekend to stay over. I'm alone and they have not been, they did not get the shots. I have had all the shots, the booster, the flu shot, and I am in a quandary. Do I go, do I not go? Can you help me?

[00:26:09] Bill Walsh: That's a great question. A question I think in a lot of people's minds. Dr. Kessler, do you want to weigh in on that? Maybe Dr. Passaretti, you have something to say on it too.

[00:26:18] David Kessler: Sure. Let's just go, I just want to make sure I understand the facts and I hear it. So Harriet's vaccinated and she's boosted, correct?

[00:26:27] Bill Walsh: Correct.

[00:26:29] David Kessler: And she's wants to go to family members who have children and younger adults. And did I hear that they are not vaccinated, and they are not boosted?

[00:26:42] Bill Walsh: Yes, I believe so. So she's in a quandary about that.

[00:26:46] David Kessler: Right. So, you know, so I think that, you know, there are a number of options. Look, we're at the stage where certain things are absolutely critical, very important in life. And if things are important, and you gotta do it, and it can't be delayed, then you find a way to do it. I mean, we choose which risks we take. Saying that, to be honest, Harriet said she was in New York, if you can get me a couple of more weeks, I would appreciate it, because I think the curve is still pretty high on omicron, and I'd like to see that the viral amount in the community is down. And you know Dr. [Janet] Woodcock [acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration] said something, you know, it was a little bit you know, caught everyone's attention: “Everyone's going to get omicron.” Well, I really would prefer not everyone get omicron, because I think it does have, you know, it's going to affect different people, but there's a lot of omicron out there. And my guess is I prefer that you can wear a mask, you can wear N95s, you can test everybody. So there are ways to make things work. There's a lot of virus out there and if you have some doubt, see if you can put it off for a couple of weeks. Let's get to spring.

[00:28:14] Bill Walsh: All right. Thanks for that, Dr. Kessler. Jesse, let's take another caller.

[00:28:20] Jesse Salinas: Yeah, Bill, our next question is going to be from Patricia in Arizona.

[00:28:25] Bill Walsh: Hey, Patricia. Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:28:29] Patricia: Hi. Thank you. I tested positive for COVID December 21, and you know, hibernated, whatever, for 12 days and no one in my family got it. And I test every week. I get a PCR test for a study I'm in about COVID, and I continue to test positive. I've had three positive COVID tests since December 21. My only symptoms are kind of fatigue in the afternoon. And I mean, I don't feel completely myself, but I'm not, you know, I don't have a fever, I don't have the severe aches, et cetera, and I'm just concerned about being around other people. My whole family is around me all the time. They did not get COVID through any of this. How safe is this for me to just continue? I wear a KN94 wherever I go, always have. Still got it. I'm also vaccinated, boosted, and I have a flu shot.

[00:29:32] Bill Walsh: OK. Let's ask Dr. Passaretti her views on this. Do you have any suggestions for Patricia, Dr. Passaretti?

[00:29:39] Katie Passaretti: Yeah, absolutely. Really good question, so thank you for asking it. You know, the type of tests that are used to diagnose COVID can stay positive for some time. We actually tell people not to retest, unless they have new symptoms, for about three months after you test positive for that reason. So I think if you're vaccinated and boosted, that improves your odds of clearing out the virus. I would say if your fevers are gone for more than a day or two, and your symptoms are overall improved, it's very, very unlikely that you would spread to anyone else. The only group I will kind of caveat is if — I didn't hear you say — but if you have a weakened immune system, you know, on chemotherapy, those people can maybe carry virus for a longer period of time, but you being vaccinated, boosted, and as long as you've stuck with your isolation frame, I think it's low risk.

[00:30:38] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much for that. Jesse. Let's take another question.

[00:30:43] Jesse Salinas: OK, Bill, we're getting a lot of questions on Facebook today. And a number of them are asking about if you've gotten your third shot sometime in the end of August or late in the third or fourth quarter, and now, you know, when do I get a fourth shot? Am I supposed to be thinking about a fourth shot? I know you talked about this earlier, but can you clarify?

[00:31:01] Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, can you help us with that question?

[00:31:04] David Kessler: Yeah, the answer is: collecting a lot of data, no decisions yet, no reason to jump. We're definitely going to need a fourth shot. Or we're not going to need a fourth shot. The hope among the best immunologists is that three shots, spaced out — the two primary series and then one a number of months down — really can mature the immune system. So we're working on that question. We've not called for a fourth shot. Colleagues and friends and patients who asked me, I said, hold it. We're not ready. You should be well protected with the booster. But saying that, we've got a lot of work to do. It may be that we need annual shots, depending on what emerges after omicron. We may need something that makes sure that we have coverage there. But not ready to make any decisions on the fourth boost. Let’s make sure everybody gets, with regard to the mRNAs, their three shots. That's the main focus right now.

[00:32:24] Bill Walsh: OK. Very good. Thanks so much for that, Dr. Kessler. And thanks for all of those questions.

[00:32:33] Dr. Passaretti, I'd like to pose another question to you about omicron. You know, is this, you know, we talked about, is it peaking? If it does peak, what does it mean for the country? We know that omicron is highly contagious, but it's a less virulent strain of COVID-19. And I guess I'm wondering if this signals a transition from a pandemic to an endemic, such as seasonal flu, or are there more serious variants potentially lurking out there?

[00:33:29] Katie Passaretti: Yeah. So I'm going to quote Dr. Kessler in what he said earlier on that this virus continuously keeps us humble. I think certainly the hope is that omicron becoming a little bit less severe, more transmissible may be kind of morphing into acting more like our common cold and less at risk for severe disease and crowding our hospitals and whatnot, which is where we ultimately think we're going to end up, that endemic state, where there are cases and they kind of come and go, but it's not overwhelming to our health care system in the vast majority of people causes a mild cold. So, you know, the hope certainly is with this transition in the virus, we're headed that way. Having said that, you know, COVID virus has thrown us a number of curveballs over the past two and a half years, and there's always the risk that we could be faced with yet another variant that has different characteristics in a completely different way. So I think that's the hope but only time will tell if we're truly getting close to the end.

[00:34:38] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for that, Dr. Passaretti. And I'd like to turn back to you, Dr. Kessler. You know, it's been mentioned a couple of times so far in the program about the supply shortages in COVID tests around the country. What's contributing to that shortage and what's being done to increase supply? We're wondering also when will the home kits and PCR tests become more widely available?

[00:35:04] David Kessler: So there's different kinds as Dr. Passaretti said, different kinds of tests. There actually is not a shortage of the PCR tests. Where the shortage is, is of the home tests, you know, getting them. And so the laboratory tests, you know, the ones you either send off or you go into a pharmacy, and they send off, enormous capacity to do that. The president announced today, even another 500 million, so that brings it to a billion, these are the home tests, the rapid tests, the antigen tests, all called the same thing. So we are investing more in those tests and should have more shortly.

[00:36:02] Bill Walsh: Well, let me put a finer point on that. When do you expect consumers will begin to start seeing those antigen tests available in pharmacies and elsewhere?

[00:36:13] David Kessler: I think Dr. Passaretti wanted to get in here.

[00:36:16] Katie Passaretti: Oh, sorry. I was just going to say, there's plenty of PCR tests, but your ability, the places that have spots to actually do the test can be a challenge, so just be aware of that when you're scheduling. And I'll just put a tiny, tiny plug in for people not to utilize our emergency rooms — which are slammed right now with patients sick with COVID and other things — as the place you go to get tested. It’s really important to use the medical care settings for the purpose they're intended. So I get that there are challenges with testing, but just please try to protect our emergency rooms for sick people that need that level of care.

[00:36:58] Bill Walsh: Yeah, that's great. And Dr. Kessler, I just asked when consumers might start seeing those new home test available.

[00:37:08] David Kessler: End of this month, this new increased supply should start, and then emerge even greater over the following weeks.

[00:37:20] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks very much, both of you, for those comments. Let's turn back to our phone lines to take more of your questions with Dr. David Kessler and Dr. Katie Passaretti. Jesse, who do we have on next?

[00:37:45] Jesse Salinas: Yep. I'm going to take one from Facebook. This is from Edward, and he says, "We've been reusing our masks after cooking them at 170 degrees for 30 minutes in the oven. Is this a good idea?"

[00:37:57] Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, maybe you can address that. I think there's been some recent guidance on cloth masks as well.

[00:38:04] David Kessler: Yeah, so we'll just talk a little about masks. There's no doubt that masks vary in the degree of protection, right, and they range, because there's a lot of confusion. And just from a filtration protection point of view, there's N95s that are most protective from filtration, then you go to the KN95s, and then you go to these surgical masks, and then you go to these cloth masks. I mean, I think the thing that is most important is to use the highest-quality masks that you can tolerate, or that fits well. I mean, you know, I can use an N95 when I'm going in and out for short periods of time. Put me into an N95 for hours, and I'm pretty uncomfortable. So I think it's important to use the highest-quality mask that you can tolerate. But with regard to cooking them in the oven, I'm not sure exactly what masks we're talking about. I would stay away from cooking masks. I don't know exactly what it does to the chemicals, et cetera, in there. No doubt that masks can be reused. You know, I reuse my masks, my N95s, repeatedly. You try to use them until they get dirty, they get stained. I know Dr. Passaretti, wants to comment.

[00:39:44] Katie Passaretti: No, I completely agree with everything you said. You know, if it gets kind of not fitting your face well or moist or dirty, throw it out. But otherwise I do the same for kind of public use, different for health care obviously.

[00:39:56] David Kessler: Right.

[00:39:57] Bill Walsh: And Dr. Kessler, I understand the president announced just today that the administration would be sending masks to Americans. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

[00:40:07] David Kessler: Yeah, I think there are more to come next week. You'll remember, we already did that with more procedure masks, but I think there is an intent to send high-quality masks to people, and I think there'll be further announcements on that next week.

[00:40:29] Bill Walsh: Fantastic. Thanks so much for that. Jesse, who do we have on next?

[00:40:34] Jesse Salinas: You have our next question is going to come from Donald, from Arizona.

[00:40:38] Bill Walsh: Hey, Donald, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:40:42] Donald: Thank you. I'm calling about Medicare recipients and whether or not they are or will be reimbursed for the cost of acquiring the home test, the PCR test? I know the home tests are not readily available to all, but we have acquired four of them; two for my wife, and two for myself. But going forward, I've seen no information regarding reimbursement other than private insurance companies and Medicaid recipients.

[00:41:20] Bill Walsh: OK, well, that's a great question, Donald. Let's ask Dr. Kessler about Medicare reimbursement for those in-home tests.

[00:41:29] David Kessler: As I understand it, I'm not a reimbursement expert, but as I understand it there's now a requirement that insurance companies need to cover eight, I think it's eight, home tests a month. But I'm sure, Bill, your experts may even know those requirements even better than I do.

[00:41:55] Bill Walsh: Yeah, Dr. Passaretti, I don't know if you have any insight on that. I'll ask our staff to do a little research and see if we can get an answer before the end of the program.

[00:42:05] Katie Passaretti: Yeah, sorry, not so much my gig either.

[00:42:08] Bill Walsh: OK, well, that's fine. Donald, stay with us, and we'll try to get you an answer. Jesse, in the meantime let's go back to the phones.

[00:42:16] Jesse Salinas: Yep. I've got one more from Facebook. This is from Katie. She says, "Do vaccinated and boosted people need to wear masks when visiting each other indoors?"

[00:42:24] Bill Walsh: Hmm, Dr. Passaretti?

[00:42:27] Katie Passaretti: Yeah. So I think it all comes down you know, we talked a little bit earlier about your kind of risk-benefit ratio. We do see people that are vaccinated having mild cases and people with boosters, although at lower numbers, getting mild cases of COVID. I think, you know, it depends, me as a health care worker, if I'm with anyone outside of my household indoors, I wear a mask because me, taking me out of the workforce right now, when we're already stretched thin can be, you know, would be additionally challenging. Or if you live with someone that is high risk or you're high risk yourself, then it may make sense, but it's all kind of levels of risk. What you're willing to accept, how important that interaction is. I think, you know, certainly you're setting yourself up for success by both individuals being vaccinated and boosted. And, you know, if you're low risk and not going home to someone that's a transplant recipient or something like that, then maybe, maybe lower risk. But certainly, you know, where I say for sure, regardless of, you know, vaccine status, booster status, if you're in crowded indoor spaces, you know, the more people there, the more crowded the space, you know, the more variability in there. And then it just gets increasingly tricky.

[00:43:41] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks very much for that, Dr. Passaretti. And Donald had asked a moment ago about Medicare covering the cost of at-home tests. We've got some information from medicare.gov, which is the program's website. And it says that Medicare does not pay for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests at this point. People with original Medicare can pick up free at-home tests from community health centers and Medicare certified health clinics. Some of the Medicare Advantage plans may pay for those at home or over-the-counter tests. So thanks to our staff for getting that answer. Jesse, let's go back to our callers. Who do we have up next?

[00:44:27] Jesse Salinas: Let's bring on Elaine from Texas.

[00:44:29] Bill Walsh: Hey Elaine, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:44:34] Jesse Salinas: Yeah, I wanted to know, my son-in-law and I got our three shots. I went with him each time, and two weeks ago he came down with COVID anyway after the three shots, and he doesn't go out hardly at all. I mean, he really doesn't, you know, go out there where he can get it. So it was, it was upsetting to see that he got COVID anyway. Why does that happen?

[00:45:01] Bill Walsh: Right. I mean, these are breakthrough infections and Dr. Passaretti, we're seeing a lot of these, right. What can you tell our listeners about breakthrough infections and what they can expect?

[00:45:12] Katie Passaretti: Yeah, absolutely. You know, the transmissibility of omicron, how easily it is spread, gives little wiggle room to kind of preventing people from getting infected. What I said earlier and what I would kind of reiterate, vaccines and boosters are very good at preventing severe disease, but with the volume of cases that are going on, and the volume of spread in our community right now, we are seeing breakthrough infections. The good news, it is frustrating, and you know, you're like, I'm doing everything I should. I should be protected. But the good news is that those cases are milder and less likely to end your son or you up in the hospital with more severe COVID. So again, vaccines and boosters, very, very good at preventing severe disease. We are going to see breakthrough cases due to the nature of the mutations in omicron and how this particular strain acts, but rest assured that the prevention of severe disease, which is again, the most important thing remain strong with vaccines and boosters.

[00:46:27] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Passaretti. Jesse, who do we have next on the line?

[00:46:32] Jesse Salinas: The next one we're going to bring on Cheryl from Ohio.

[00:46:36] Bill Walsh: Hey, Cheryl. Welcome to our program today. What's your question?

[00:46:41] Cheryl: Well, I didn't have the vaccination and neither has one of my brothers. And what I said I would do is when he had it, I would get it. But he has no intention of getting it, and I started thinking that I would get it after a year, after a year of it being in … like last year, it just started last year. I had a whole year for this vaccine to be out here and be safe for everybody. That's the way I was looking at it. Now I am 66, just turned 66 this year. And I don't know if that's considered high risk, but I do have multiple sclerosis, and I just wanted to know if I get the vaccine, which one was first? I know the three that are out there. I'm not thinking about Johnson & Johnson, so which was the best between the Pfizer and the other one?

[00:48:03] Bill Walsh: Moderna?

[00:48:03] Cheryl: Yeah. You have to do two of those.

[00:48:08] Bill Walsh: So it sounds like you're, you're beginning to think about getting the vaccine now. Have you decided for sure?

[00:48:15] Cheryl: I haven't decided for sure. My doctor wants me to do it. She's done it. One of my brothers has done it. And I'm just trying to keep that in consideration because of the omicron coming out also, along with that delta, too.

[00:48:33] Bill Walsh: Sure. Well, Cheryl, let's ask our, let's ask our experts about that and see what they have to say. Dr. Kessler, do you want to weigh in on that? First, on whether Cheryl should get vaccinated, and if she should choose one vaccine over another?

[00:48:51] David Kessler: You know, I think it's great that she's on the verge of doing it. I can only support that decision just very strongly. I think we can tell Cheryl that there are hundreds of millions of people who've gotten this safely, so her waiting a year, she can be absolutely certain, you know, that this is among the safest vaccines we have. I'd urge Cheryl to go get it sooner rather than later, because there's a lot of virus out there and I'd want her to be protected. Whichever vaccine they have available where you walk in or where you go, I would take it. That's the most important thing. Moderna, Pfizer, you know, Dr. Passaretti and I could probably spend the next hour talking about little differences between the two. Not going to make a difference to you, Cheryl, just go get whatever is available, but do me a favor, your decision to go get it is a smart one. And let's get it done in the next couple of days. It makes a big, big, big difference whether you end up in the hospital or not. So great decision.

[00:50:14] Bill Walsh: All right. Thank you, Dr. Kessler, and thanks Cheryl for calling in. Go ahead and get your brother, make sure you get, your brother gets vaccinated too in the process. Jesse, let's go back to the phones. Who do we have next?

[00:50:26] Jesse Salinas: Yep. We're going to take a question from Anna in South Carolina.

[00:50:30] Bill Walsh: All right. Hey, Anna, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:50:35] Anna: Hi, my question is, you have COVID, and I need the isolation process explained. Are you isolating from the day you went and got your test, isolating from the date you got results, and then the process moving forward from that. It's very confusing.

[00:50:54] Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, would you want to help Anna out with this? There have been some changes in recommendations recently, haven't there?

[00:51:00] David Kessler: Correct. But I think that usually, Dr. Passaretti can correct me, I think generally we count from the day of onset of symptoms, and right now what CDC is recommending is isolation. If you test positive for five days and then there are tests available, but if you test positive where you have symptoms or fever, you know stay in isolation for another five days. But if you have no fever and no symptoms and test negative, then feel free to go about. But make sure you wear high quality masks for at least the next five days. Dr. Passaretti may want to correct me and see if I got that right.

[00:52:02] Katie Passaretti: No, you got it completely right. So it starts from date of symptom onset, five days, at least. And then if you're improved from a symptom standpoint, all the way better. You can come out and wear a mask. If you do take a test, then it depends on that test, but a test isn't mandatory. You shouldn't feel like you have to track one down to decide whether you can come out or not.

[00:52:23] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks for you both for that. Jesse, let's go back to the phone lines. Who do we have up next?

[00:52:29] Jesse Salinas: Yep. We're going to take another question. This is going to be from Wynonna in Missouri.

[00:52:38] Bill Walsh: Hey, Wynonna, welcome to our program. Go ahead with your question.

[00:52:41] Wynonna: Thank you. Well, I've had COVID, and I've gotten over it. I didn't have any symptoms of it. The reason why I went and got tested is because my granddaughter’s boyfriend got it. That's the way I got it. So that's why I went to be tested. And then when I went, I was positive. And then what I was wondering, OK, I'm negative now. So and I've had both flu shot, I had Moderna; I had both shots from Moderna, and I had my flu shot, but I didn't get my booster, like I said, but I wasn't sick at all. But what I want to know, when can I get my booster since I just tested negative. Do I have to wait? I've been told I'm supposed to wait three months before I can take the booster. Is that right?

[00:53:44] Bill Walsh: Yeah, let's get an answer. Dr. Passaretti, can you help Wynonna?

[00:53:48] Katie Passaretti: Yeah, sure, Wynonna. It's a really good question, and one we get a lot. So you actually don't have to wait three months after COVID to get your, you know, if you're unvaccinated, get your vaccine or to get your booster. Really the minimum amount of time that we say to wait is until you're feeling better, and for you, awesome, you didn't have any symptoms with your infection and the time frame when you're infectious to other people. So you don't want to go get a shot while you're still infectious and could spread to other people. But once you're beyond that time frame, you can consider going ahead and getting the booster. So there's no need to wait three months. Certainly, you may have some short-term protection from infection for a period of time, but there's no harm in getting it as long as you're cleared from isolation or you're told you're no longer at risk of infecting other people. So as long as you're feeling better and out of isolation, you can get the booster. I typically tell people not to wait much longer than three or four months, because then your risk of getting a second infection with COVID tends to go up a little bit.

[00:55:03] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks doctor, for that. Jesse, let's take another question.

[00:55:07] Jesse Salinas: Yep, let's do Carmen from New York.

[00:55:10] Bill Walsh: Hey Carmen, Welcome to the program. Go ahead with your question, Carmen.

[00:55:18] Carmen: OK, my question is for my brother-in-law, who lives in Harris County, Texas. And they have very high rates of omicron there. And he had Guillain-Barré syndrome. But he was told by his doctors he cannot get the vaccine. And I don’t know, I don't feel that that's safe. I think that is there anything you can do for people with this syndrome? He would love the vaccine, but you know, what do you do when you're told....

[00:55:54] Bill Walsh: Yeah. Yeah. Well, let's ask our doctors. I'm not sure if Dr. Passaretti could answer this one, or Dr. Kessler? Dr. Passaretti, why don't you jump in first?

[00:56:03] Katie Passaretti: Sure, so you know, certainly I wouldn't kind of assume, you know, your, your brother-in-law's doctor knows that medical situation the best, but a history of Guillain-Barré is not a strict contraindication to going ahead and getting vaccinated. So I think, you know, first your family member can go ahead and consider getting vaccinated for that extra protection, you know, weighing the risk of the, you know, the omicron circulating in his area, and you know what infection might do to him. There are, as we kind of talked about earlier, potential treatments for higher-risk individuals, unvaccinated individuals, if he chooses to not get vaccinated, but you know, mostly I would say, you know, even with a history of Guillain-Barré, you can consider proceeding with one of the mRNA vaccines and getting that protection against future COVID infection.

[00:57:03] Bill Walsh: So either Moderna or Pfizer would be the best option in that case.

[00:57:07] Katie Passaretti: I mean in general Johnson & Johnson isn't our first line anymore. In general we recommend Pfizer and Moderna.

[00:57:14] Bill Walsh: OK. Fantastic. Dr. Kessler, did you want to add anything to that?

[00:57:19] David Kessler: No, I think that Dr. Passaretti got it exactly right. Obviously check with your doctor, but the best expertise is Guillain-Barré is not a contraindication to getting the vaccine. The earlier call, you know, raised the question that, you know, again, I think Dr. Passaretti got it exactly right, when should you, if you've gotten COVID, when should you get your boost? And, you know, I was talking to Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, Dr. [Rochelle] Walensky about that question, so Dr. Fauci said, you know, we don't have great data to be able to answer that. I mean, I think there may be an advantage of waiting. I mean, and again, I agree 100 percent with Dr. Passaretti. You want to do it within three to four months. But there may be an advantage of waiting about a month because you really do want to allow —the immune system really works by maturation of response. So you give it a little time to be able to have that maturation. But again, you know, that's why we're practicing medicine, and there are sometimes there are not perfect data. But, you know, my sense is if you've had COVID recently and you're due for a boost, you know, sometime between a month and three months probably makes sense.

[00:58:45] Bill Walsh: OK, thanks so much, Dr. Kessler, and I think we're going to have to leave it at that. We are at the top of the hour. This has been a really informative discussion and thanks to both of our experts for being with us and providing all of the updates. And thank you, our AARP members, volunteers, and listeners for participating in this discussion today. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization and has been working to promote the health and well-being of older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of this crisis, we're providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them protect themselves from the virus, prevent its spread to others, while taking care of themselves. All of the resources referenced today, including a recording of the Q&A event, can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus beginning tomorrow, January 14. Go there if your question was not addressed, and you'll find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. We hope you learned something that can help keep you and your loved ones healthy. Please join us again January 27, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time for another live coronavirus Q&A event. We hope you can join us then. In the meantime, stay safe, thank you, and have a good day. This concludes our call.

Teleasamblea de AARP sobre coronavirus:

cómo mantenerte seguro durante tiempos cambiantes
 

Bill Walsh: Hola. Soy Bill Walsh, vicepresidente de AARP, y quiero darles la bienvenida a este importante debate sobre el coronavirus. Antes de comenzar, si desean escuchar esta teleasamblea en español, presionen *0 en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

[En español]

AARP es una organización de membresía sin fines de lucro y sin afiliación política que ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores del país durante más de 60 años. Ante la pandemia mundial de coronavirus, AARP brinda información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan.

A medida que comenzamos el 2022, la variante ómicron está aumentando. Estados Unidos tiene un promedio de más de medio millón de nuevos casos de COVID-19 por día, y el lunes vio más de un millón de nuevas infecciones. Si bien la variante ómicron parece ser menos grave que las variantes anteriores, las salas de emergencia de los hospitales se están llenando nuevamente y las muertes por COVID-19 han aumentado desde el comienzo del nuevo año. Y existe una creciente frustración por la escasez nacional de pruebas de COVID-19, graves interrupciones en los viajes y los cambios en las pautas de salud y seguridad.

Hoy escucharemos a un impresionante panel de expertos hablar sobre estos temas y otros. Si han participado en alguna de nuestras teleasambleas en el pasado, saben que esto es similar a un programa de entrevistas de radio, y tienen la oportunidad de hacer su pregunta en vivo. Para aquellos de ustedes que se unan a nosotros por teléfono, si desean hacer una pregunta sobre la pandemia de coronavirus, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP que anotará su nombre y pregunta y los ubicará en lista para hacer esa pregunta en vivo. Si participan por medio de Facebook o YouTube, pueden publicar su pregunta en los comentarios.

Hola, si acaban de unirse, soy Bill Walsh, de AARP y quiero darles la bienvenida a esta importante discusión sobre la pandemia mundial de coronavirus. Hoy hablaremos con los principales expertos y responderemos sus preguntas en vivo. Para hacer una pregunta, presionen * 3, y si participan por medio de Facebook o YouTube, pueden publicar su pregunta en la sección de comentarios.

Hoy nos acompañan unos invitados destacados, incluido un oficial del Grupo de trabajo para COVID-19 y una líder en epidemiología. También nos acompañará mi colega de AARP, Jesse Salinas, quien ayudará a facilitar sus llamadas. Este evento está siendo grabado y podrán acceder a la grabación en aarp.org/coronavirus 24 horas después de que terminemos. Nuevamente, para hacer una pregunta, presionen * 3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP o, si se participan por Facebook o YouTube, dejen su pregunta en la sección de comentarios.

Ahora me gustaría dar la bienvenida a nuestros invitados especiales. El primero es el Dr. David Kessler. El Dr. Kessler es el director científico del Grupo de trabajo para COVID-19 en el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Humanos de EE.UU. También fue comisionado de la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos de Estados Unidos. Bienvenido al programa, Dr. Kessler.

David Kessler: Un placer.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. También me gustaría dar la bienvenida a la Dra. Katie Passaretti, vicepresidenta y directora de epidemióloga empresarial de Atrium Health. Bienvenida de nuevo al programa, Dra. Passaretti.

Katie Passaretti: Muchas gracias. Es un placer estar aquí.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Genial tenerlos a ambos. Entonces, sigamos adelante y comencemos con nuestra discusión, y solo un recordatorio, para hacer una pregunta, presionen * 3 en el teclado de su teléfono o colóquenla en la sección de comentarios en Facebook o YouTube. Entonces, comencemos con usted, Dr. Kessler. El lunes, en el país se reportaron más de 1.35 millones de nuevas infecciones por COVID-19 como resultado del aumento de ómicron. ¿Qué necesitamos saber sobre ómicron y qué probabilidades hay de que cause una enfermedad grave? ¿Y quiénes son los más vulnerables?

David Kessler: Es claramente diferente a todo lo que hemos visto hasta ahora. Es diferente a lo que vimos con el virus prototipo, diferente al alfa y diferente al delta. Tiene características clínicas muy diferentes. Es mucho más transmisible. Los casos están en todas partes, pero todo lo que hemos visto, primero en Sudáfrica, luego en los países europeos, el Reino Unido y ahora los datos que estamos viendo en Estados Unidos realmente indican que hay menos hospitalizaciones por caso. Y menos, una vez en el hospital, menos posibilidades de acabar en un respirador que requiera ventilación mecánica, y probablemente menos muertes.

Ahora el problema es que hay tantos casos más que nuestros hospitales están realmente colapsados. Así que creo que, nuevamente, la Dra. Passaretti puede hablar de esto, pero la curva es muy diferente. Es una línea recta hacia arriba, y estamos comenzando, recién comenzando, digamos, en algunas ciudades, tal vez se esté estabilizando. Ciertamente, sabemos que en Sudáfrica hubo una fuerte caída, y en ciudades como Londres estamos viendo que sigue esa línea.

Así que espero que, ciertamente en el Atlántico medio, tal vez, ya sabe, estamos en el pico. Realmente espero que esto se resuelva. No hay duda, y cuando mira quién está en la UCI, realmente son dos tipos de personas. Los que no están vacunados, y los que están vacunados que tienen ciertas comorbilidades o factores de alto riesgo. Todavía son más vulnerables a ómicron, un tipo de virus muy diferente al que hemos visto.

Bill Walsh: Anticipó mi próxima pregunta, que es lo que podemos esperar de ómicron aquí en Estados Unidos dada la experiencia en Sudáfrica y Gran Bretaña. Si seguimos esa misma tendencia, es decir, que ómicron se va tan rápido como llega, ¿eso significa que la nación volverá a la normalidad? ¿Qué significará para las personas?

David Kessler: Dra. Passaretti, ¿quiere responder o que responda yo?

Bill Walsh: Adelante, Dr. Kessler.

David Kessler: Sabe, creo que tenemos que ver. Creo que una cosa sobre este virus es que genera respeto. Hay mucho que no sabemos. Creo que esto va a bajar. No va a bajar en un solo pico. Este país es muy grande, muy diverso y creo que vamos a tener múltiples picos. Incluso en Sudáfrica, cuando miré los datos con nuestros colegas sudafricanos durante el fin de semana, vi que parece que se han reducido drásticamente, pero aún quedan algunos residuos y no creo que sepamos qué sigue.

Lo único que sabemos es que cada vez que baja una curva, siempre hay algo a la vuelta de la esquina. Quiero decir, estaría ocultando la cabeza en la arena si no me preocupara que, en algún lugar, con la gran cantidad de transmisión y replicación de este virus -y también se está mezclando, ya sabe, hay un poco de delta residual- en algún lugar, debido a toda esa replicación de ese virus, sigue replicándose, habrá nuevas mutaciones, nuevas combinaciones, y tenemos que ver si alguna de esas combinaciones puede competir contra ómicron y cualquier inmunidad que ómicron deje a su paso.

Bill Walsh: Bien, gracias por eso, Dr. Kessler. Permítame dirigirme a usted, Dra. Passaretti. ¿Por qué las personas vacunadas contraen COVID-19? Si la variante ómicron altamente contagiosa elude las vacunas, ¿cuáles son los beneficios de las vacunas y hay otras medidas que las personas vacunadas deberían tomar para protegerse?

Katie Passaretti: Sí, primero diré que estoy completamente de acuerdo con el Dr. Kessler. Creo que con suerte nos estamos acercando al pico y comenzaremos a bajar. Reiteraré un comentario que hizo, como alguien que está viendo pacientes en el hospital y experimentando la oleada, de que me preocupa un poco el mensaje de que ómicron es menos grave y entonces no tenemos que preocuparnos tanto por eso, porque dada la enorme cantidad de casos, todavía estamos sintiendo mucho el impacto en las hospitalizaciones con números más altos que nunca.

Entonces, a nivel individual, absolutamente, los primeros datos sugieren que es menos grave, pero eso todavía se traduce, como dijo, en más de 1.35 millones de casos en muchas hospitalizaciones y una gran carga para nuestro sistema de atención médica. En cuanto a la pregunta sobre las personas vacunadas, ómicron tiene... hemos visto diferentes variantes a lo largo del tiempo y todas han cambiado ligeramente desde la variante inicial de COVID-19.

Entonces, ómicron ha tenido una serie de mutaciones y algunas de ellas afectan lo que se llama evasión inmunitaria: la capacidad de las vacunas para prevenir infecciones y también la capacidad de una infección previa para proteger a ese individuo. Entonces, estamos viendo un mayor número de reinfecciones en personas que tal vez se infectaron hace un año, hace seis meses, ese tipo de cosas. Y estamos viendo más casos de infección posvacunación.

La buena noticia mezclada con todo eso es que las vacunas continúan protegiendo contra lo que más necesitamos que hagan, que es proteger contra la hospitalización y enfermedades graves. Así que todavía hay absolutamente un beneficio en vacunarse. Ya sabe, es la diferencia entre un resfriado leve y terminar en la UCI. Como dijo el Dr. Kessler, las personas que tienen una enfermedad más grave, incluso con ómicron, son las personas no vacunadas o con sistemas inmunitarios más débiles.

Por lo tanto, las vacunas son absolutamente beneficiosas para prevenir esa enfermedad grave, que es realmente lo que más queremos que hagan. Y yo diría, ya sabe, que vacunar, la serie de vacunas inicial es importante, pero también hemos visto datos que indican que recibir el refuerzo además de eso, sabemos que tenemos un montón de oportunidades en todo el país para mejorar las tasas de uso del refuerzo, y que eso puede añadir un nivel más de protección.

Entonces, si no están vacunados, vacúnense. Si están vacunados y pueden recibir un refuerzo, adelante, consíganlo. Si bien estamos en este momento de gran cantidad de transmisión en nuestras comunidades y nuestro país, las otras cosas que pueden protegernos y reducir esa propagación son las mismas cosas que se han recomendado durante la pandemia. Si están enfermos, quédense en casa. No vayan a su lugar de trabajo. No vayan a una reunión pública y expongan a otras personas.

El uso de mascarillas de buena calidad, mascarillas médicas o N95 brindan protección, lo que llamamos control de fuente para que no se propague a otras personas. Y eso es especialmente importante cuando uno está en espacios cerrados con grupos más grandes de personas. Así que vacúnense, pónganse el refuerzo, usen mascarilla cuando estén fuera de casa, especialmente en espacios cerrados con personas cuyo estado de vacunación no conocen. Y por favor, quédense en casa si están enfermos.

Bill Walsh: Bien, déjeme hacer un seguimiento rápido de eso. Parece que las tres vacunas aprobadas se han convertido en nombres familiares aquí en Estados Unidos, pero me preguntaba si puede darnos un repaso completo de esas vacunas aprobadas y de los refuerzos, así como de los antivirales y los tratamientos. Esos han estado en las noticias mucho recientemente. Entonces, ¿qué hay disponible ahora y para quiénes son más eficaces?

Katie Passaretti: Claro, Dr. Kessler, ¿quería agregar algo?

David Kessler: Solo quería agregar una cosa, una súplica, para todos los socios de AARP. Insten a sus nietos, si tienen más de 5 años, o a sus hijos que tengan hijos mayores de 5 años, a que también se vacunen. Hemos hecho un gran trabajo con la vacunación, y me quito el sombrero ante AARP por el trabajo con las personas mayores de 65, mayores de 75 años y aquellas que están en riesgo. Aún así, sólo el 28% de los niños entre 5 y 11 años están vacunados. Entonces, en la medida en que los abuelos puedan usar su influencia y servir como modelos para que vacunemos a los niños en edad escolar, realmente lo agradeceríamos.

Bill Walsh: Gracias por eso, Dr. Kessler. Sí, adelante.

Katie Passaretti: Absolutamente. No podría enfatizar eso más también. Entonces, realmente ahora todos los mayores de 5 años pueden vacunarse. Por mucho trabajo que podamos hacer para alentar eso, las vacunas son un debate continuo. Así que alentamos a nuestros amigos, a nuestros familiares, a nuestras comunidades a que se vacunen. Ha habido algunas recomendaciones nuevas relacionadas específicamente con los refuerzos durante las últimas semanas a un mes.

Así que ahora cualquier persona de 12 años en adelante, si recibió Moderna o la vacuna de Pfizer para su serie inicial, puede recibir un refuerzo si pasaron más de cinco meses de esa segunda dosis. Entonces, antes eran seis meses, ahora son cinco meses, lo que abre la puerta a más refuerzos, más oportunidades para proteger a las personas.

Además, si las personas están inmunocomprometidas, es decir, tienen un sistema inmunitario debilitado debido a un trasplante, o medicamentos, quimioterapia, esas personas, lo que se considera completamente vacunado para ellas, son tres dosis inicialmente. Y pueden recibir incluso una cuarta dosis específica para personas inmunocomprometidas. Ese es su refuerzo cinco meses después de recibir la tercera dosis.

Entonces, por favor, cuando les corresponda recibir un refuerzo, háganlo. Nuevamente, otros niveles de protección. En cuanto a los tratamientos, ha habido una gran evolución de los tratamientos durante el último mes más o menos. Y con ómicron, algunos de nuestros tratamientos anteriores no tienen tan buen resultado, y tuvimos que cambiar la forma en que tratamos a los pacientes con COVID-19, particularmente a aquellos que no están lo suficientemente enfermos como para terminar en el hospital.

Muchos han oído hablar, y tal vez hayan recibido anticuerpos monoclonales para tratar la COVID-19. Y eso es particularmente importante para las personas mayores de 65 años que tienen trastornos de alto riesgo. Desafortunadamente, con ómicron, varios de los anticuerpos monoclonales que hemos usado en el pasado, no son tan eficaces. Entonces, hay un nuevo medicamento, un nuevo anticuerpo monoclonal llamado Sotrovimab, que es la mejor opción para ómicron y realmente lo que se está dando ahora es que sabemos que la gran, gran, gran mayoría de los casos de COVID-19 en nuestro país se deben a ómicron. Pero, con eso, tenemos un suministro limitado.

Entonces, definitivamente hablen con su médico acerca de si cumple con los criterios de alto riesgo, los criterios de edad para obtener Sotrovimab, que es un medicamento de infusión. Además, hay dos medicamentos por vía oral que han sido aprobados durante el último mes más o menos. Uno llamado Paxlovid y otro llamado Molnupiravir. Nuevamente, estos son medicamentos por vía oral que realmente son más eficaces cuando se administran muy temprano en el inicio de los síntomas a aquellos que tienen un alto riesgo de enfermedad.

Entonces, los mayores de 65 años, quienes tienen múltiples problemas médicos o el sistema inmunitario debilitado, esos son los grupos que se benefician de esto. Y, desafortunadamente, lo que me escucharon decir con los anticuerpos monoclonales también se aplica aquí. El suministro de estos medicamentos se está incrementando, pero en este momento hay un suministro limitado.

Por lo tanto, es importante que si uno tiene síntomas, especialmente si está en un grupo de alto riesgo, intente hacerse la prueba rápidamente y luego hablen con su médico sobre las opciones de tratamiento disponibles para uno y sepan que todos estos medicamentos son más útiles si se administran relativamente temprano, menos de cinco a siete días después de la aparición de los síntomas.

Bill Walsh: Bien, eso es mucha información. Para obtener un resumen de muchas de esas actualizaciones, nuestros oyentes pueden consultar lo último en aarp.org/coronavirus. Vayan allí y verán preguntas frecuentes y actualizaciones periódicas sobre el coronavirus, así como parte de la información que acaba de proporcionar la Dra. Passaretti. Como recordatorio para nuestros oyentes, para hacer una pregunta, presionen *3, y llegaremos a esas preguntas pronto. Pero antes de hacerlo, quiero traer a mi colega de AARP, Bill Sweeney. Bill es el vicepresidente sénior de asuntos gubernamentales de AARP. Bienvenido al programa, Bill.

Bill Sweeney: Gracias. Es un placer estar aquí con ustedes.

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Entonces, además de compartir las actualizaciones más recientes sobre el coronavirus, nos gusta tomarnos unos minutos para actualizar a nuestros oyentes sobre los problemas que enfrenta el Congreso en un segmento que llamamos Fighting for You (AARP lucha por ti). Bill, ¿qué puede compartir sobre la legislación que afecta a los adultos mayores?

Bill Sweeney: Bueno, en lo que respecta a la promoción, la prioridad número uno de AARP es asegurarse de que el Congreso reduzca los precios de los medicamentos recetados. Este año, aproximadamente 18 millones de personas en el país no pudieron pagar una receta debido al alto costo. Y EE.UU. paga tres veces más que otros países por exactamente los mismos medicamentos de marca. Así que creemos que esto es inaceptable e instamos al Senado de Estados Unidos a que actúe.

Bill Walsh: Creo que se está refiriendo al alivio histórico de medicamentos recetados en la Ley Build Back Better actualmente pendiente en el Senado. ¿Cuáles son esas disposiciones y qué quiere AARP que suceda?

Bill Sweeney: Bueno, número uno, queremos que se permita a Medicare negociar precios de medicamentos más bajos. Más del 80% de los votantes de todos los partidos apoyan este cambio, y ahorraría miles de millones de dólares a las personas mayores y a Medicare. Además, las grandes farmacéuticas serían penalizadas si aumentan los precios más rápido que la tasa de inflación. Y habrá un nuevo límite anual en lo que las personas mayores inscritas en Medicare Parte D pagarían de su bolsillo por recetas, así como un límite mensual en los copagos de insulina.

Estas no son solo medidas para ahorrar costos, sino también para salvar vidas. Nunca habíamos estado más cerca de lograr que se aprobara el alivio del precio de los medicamentos recetados, y estamos instando al Senado a que lo lleve a cabo. Los adultos mayores realmente no pueden darse el lujo de esperar más.

Bill Walsh: ¿Hay algo que los oyentes puedan hacer para ayudar?

Bill Sweeney: Definitivamente. Si desean ayudar, pueden alzar la voz, comunicarse con sus senadores y miembros del Congreso e instarles a que aprueben medidas de alivio de medicamentos recetados. Esta semana, los socios de AARP firmaron peticiones, enviaron miles de correos electrónicos y realizaron importantes llamadas telefónicas al Capitolio. El mensaje es simple y claro: Pídanle al Congreso que baje los precios de los medicamentos ahora.

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Es un momento crítico. Ahora, sabemos que casi 1 de cada 10 residentes de hogares de ancianos ha muerto a causa del coronavirus. Esta es una tragedia nacional. ¿Qué está haciendo AARP para proteger a los residentes vulnerables de hogares de ancianos?

Bill Sweeney: Creemos que la falta de protección en los hogares de ancianos es una desgracia nacional. AARP insta a los funcionarios electos a nivel federal y estatal a garantizar que los fondos públicos proporcionados a los hogares de ancianos se utilicen para vacunas, refuerzos, pruebas, dotación de personal adecuada y para mejorar la salud y la seguridad de los residentes de los hogares de ancianos.

La pandemia sacó a la luz los problemas que han afectado a los hogares de ancianos durante décadas, incluidos los problemas y la escasez de personal, las prácticas deficientes de control de infecciones, la falta de transparencia o responsabilidad. AARP continuará impulsando estas reformas a largo plazo en la industria de los hogares de ancianos.

Bill Walsh: Bien, y como el resto del país, muchos hogares de ancianos están experimentando nuevos aumentos en las tasas de infección, especialmente con ómicron y los fríos meses de invierno. Para los oyentes que pueden tener un miembro de la familia en un hogar de ancianos, ¿qué les sugiere?

Bill Sweeney: Bueno, si tienen un ser querido en un hogar de ancianos, defiendan su seguridad. Necesitan que uno sea su defensor en este momento. La mayoría de los residentes de hogares de ancianos se vacunaron a principios del 2021 y ahora les corresponde recibir vacunas de refuerzo. No den por sentado que su ser querido ha recibido el suyo.

Es muy importante que se comuniquen directamente con el centro, pregunten por sus tasas de vacunación y refuerzo, tanto para el personal como para los residentes. Y asegúrense de que su familiar reciba su vacuna de refuerzo lo antes posible. Los residentes de hogares de ancianos son los más vulnerables entre nosotros. Tenemos que asegurarnos de que estén protegidos.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien, Bill. Gran consejo, y muchas gracias por la actualización. Está bien. Ahora es el momento de abordar sus preguntas sobre el coronavirus con el Dr. David Kessler y la Dra. Katie Passaretti. Por favor presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del equipo de AARP y compartir su pregunta en vivo. Y si desean escuchar en español, presionen *0 en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

[En español]

 

Bill Walsh: Ahora me gustaría traer a mi colega de AARP, Jesse Salinas, para ayudar a facilitar sus llamadas. Bienvenido, Jesse.

Jesse Salinas: Qué bueno estar aquí hoy, Bill.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien, Jesse. ¿A quién tenemos primero en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra primera llamada será Rose de Wisconsin.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Rose. Bienvenida al programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Rose: Hola. Estoy confundida. Hasta ahora, no he tenido COVID-19. He sido completamente vacunada, tengo mi refuerzo. Debería estar averiguando si necesito hacerme una prueba de COVID-19, ¿cómo lo hago? ¿Y cuáles debería intentar conseguir? Y realmente me estoy preguntando acerca de esto.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. ¿Como se siente? Parece que la hemos perdido. Está bien. ¿Dra. Passaretti, quiere responder la pregunta de Rose?

 

Katie Passaretti: Claro. Admito que al menos en mi área, y conozco muchas áreas del país, el acceso a las pruebas es un poco limitado y hay más tiempo para obtener los resultados de lo que hemos visto anteriormente debido al enorme volumen de casos. Sabe, creo que lo más importante es, para los socios de AARP que realmente corren un mayor riesgo debido a la edad, si tienen síntomas, es importante hacerse la prueba.

Los dos tipos de pruebas que existen son las pruebas caseras, que se llaman pruebas de antígenos. Si puede conseguirlas, funcionan mejor cuando uno tiene síntomas. Así que esas son una opción decente. O si hay disponibilidad para hacerse una prueba de PCR en su área, por lo general, se realizan en laboratorios más grandes, se envían, se obtienen los resultados y en este momento tardan varios días en regresar. Esa es la otra opción.

Entonces, si tiene un alto riesgo y tiene síntomas, hágase la prueba para poder hablar con su médico sobre posibles tratamientos para asegurarnos de que estén lo más protegidos posible. El otro momento en el que se recomienda hacerse la prueba es si uno tuvo una exposición conocida.

Entonces, si alguien en su hogar dio positivo un par de días después de su exposición a ellos, entonces es importante intentar hacerse la prueba. Sin duda son dificultades en este momento, y el Dr. Kessler puede tener otro tipo de comentarios al respecto, pero ya sabe, realmente intentar al menos cuando tiene síntomas, hacerse la prueba para que podamos tratarla, si hay tratamientos disponibles, sigue siendo muy importante.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias, Dra. Passaretti. Jesse, tomemos otra llamada.

Jesse Salinas: Sí, nuestra próxima llamada será de Harriet en Nueva York.

 

Bill Walsh: Harriet, bienvenida a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Harriet: Gracias. Tengo dos bisnietos, y los padres son mis nietos, y quieren que vaya este fin de semana a quedarme con ellos. Estoy sola y ellos no se han puesto las vacunas. Recibí todas las vacunas, el refuerzo, la vacuna contra la gripe, y estoy en un dilema. ¿Me voy, no me voy? ¿Me pueden ayudar?

 

Bill Walsh: Esa es una gran pregunta. Una pregunta que pienso que está en la mente de muchas personas. Dr. Kessler, ¿quiere opinar sobre eso? Quizá, Dra. Passaretti, usted también tenga algo que decir al respecto.

David Kessler: Seguro. Solo quiero asegurarme de que entiendo los hechos y los escucho. Harriet está vacunada y con refuerzos, ¿correcto?

 

Bill Walsh: Correcto.

 

David Kessler: Y ella quiere ir a visitar a los miembros de la familia que tienen niños y adultos jóvenes. ¿Y escuché que no están vacunados y no recibieron el refuerzo?

 

Bill Walsh: Sí, creo que sí. Así que ella está en un dilema sobre eso.

 

David Kessler: Bien. Bueno, creo que hay varias opciones. Mire, estamos en la etapa donde ciertas cosas son absolutamente críticas, muy importantes en la vida. Y si las cosas son importantes, y tiene que hacerlo, y no se pueden retrasar, entonces encuentra la manera de hacerlo. Quiero decir, elegimos qué riesgos tomamos. Habiendo dicho eso, para ser honesto, Harriet dijo que estaba en Nueva York, si puede esperar un par de semanas más, se lo agradecería, porque creo que la curva sigue siendo bastante alta en ómicron, y me gustaría ver que la cantidad viral en la comunidad ha bajado.

Y la Dra. Woodcock dijo algo, que llamó la atención de todos: "Todos van a tener ómicron". Bueno, realmente preferiría que no todos se contagien de ómicron, porque creo que va a afectar a diferentes personas, pero hay mucho ómicron por ahí. Y supongo que prefiero que pueda usar mascarilla, puede usar N95, que puedan todos hacerse una prueba. Así que hay maneras de hacer que las cosas funcionen. El virus está dando vueltas por ahí y si tiene alguna duda, mire si puede posponerlo por un par de semanas. Vamos en la primavera.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Gracias por eso, Dr. Kessler. Jesse, tomemos otra llamada.

Jesse Salinas: Sí, Bill, nuestra próxima pregunta será de Patricia en Arizona.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Patricia. Bienvenida al programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Patricia: Hola. Gracias. Di positivo de COVID-19 el 21 de diciembre, me aislé durante doce días y nadie en mi familia lo contrajo, y me hago una prueba todas las semanas. Me hago una prueba de PCR para un estudio en el que participo sobre COVID-19 y sigo dando positivo. He tenido tres pruebas de COVID-19 positivas desde el 21 de diciembre. Mis únicos síntomas son un poco de fatiga por la tarde. Y quiero decir, no me siento completamente yo misma, pero no tengo fiebre, no tengo dolores graves, etcétera, y solo me preocupa estar cerca de otra gente. Toda mi familia está a mi alrededor todo el tiempo. No contrajeron COVID-19 en ningún momento. ¿Qué tan seguro es que simplemente continúe? Llevo una KF94 donde quiera que vaya, siempre lo hago. Aún la tengo. También estoy vacunada, recibí el refuerzo y tengo una vacuna contra la gripe.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Preguntemos a la Dra. Passaretti su opinión sobre esto. ¿Tiene alguna sugerencia para Patricia, Dra. Passaretti?

 

Katie Passaretti: Sí, absolutamente. Muy buena pregunta, y causa mucha confusión en mucha gente, así que gracias por hacerla. El tipo de pruebas que se utiliza para diagnosticar COVID-19 puede permanecer positiva durante algún tiempo. De hecho, les decimos a las personas que no se vuelvan a realizar la prueba a menos que tengan nuevos síntomas, durante aproximadamente tres meses después de recibir un resultado positivo, por ese motivo.

Entonces, creo que si uno está vacunado y tiene el refuerzo, eso mejora sus probabilidades de eliminar el virus. Diría que si la fiebre desaparece durante más de uno o dos días y los síntomas mejoran en general, es muy, muy poco probable que contagie a otra persona. El único grupo que exceptuaría, no la escuché mencionarlo, pero si tiene un sistema inmunitario debilitado, si está en quimioterapia, esas personas tal vez puedan portar el virus durante un período más largo, pero si uno está vacunado, tiene el refuerzo y siempre que haya mantenido aislado, creo que es de bajo riesgo.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias por eso. Jesse, tomemos otra pregunta.

Jesse Salinas: De acuerdo, Bill, estamos recibiendo muchas preguntas en Facebook hoy. Y varia personas preguntan si uno recibió su tercera dosis en algún momento a fines de agosto o al final del tercer o cuarto trimestre, ahora, ¿cuándo recibirán la cuarta dosis? ¿Se supone que debo estar pensando en una cuarta dosis? Sé que habló de esto antes, pero ¿puede aclararlo?

 

Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, ¿puede ayudarnos con esa pregunta?

 

David Kessler: Sí, la respuesta es esta. Se está recopilando una gran cantidad de datos, aún no hay decisiones, no hay razón para adelantarse. Definitivamente vamos a necesitar una cuarta dosis o no vamos a necesitar una cuarta dosis. La esperanza entre los mejores inmunólogos es que tres dosis, espaciadas, las dos series primarias y luego varios meses después, realmente puedan madurar el sistema inmunitario. Así que estamos trabajando en esa pregunta.

No hemos pedido una cuarta dosis. A colegas y amigos y pacientes que me preguntaron, les dije que esperaran, que no estamos listos. Deben estar bien protegidos con el refuerzo. Pero dicho esto, tenemos mucho trabajo por hacer. Puede ser que necesitemos vacunas anuales, dependiendo de lo que surja después de ómicron. Es posible que necesitemos algo que asegure que tenemos cobertura. Pero no estoy listo para tomar ninguna decisión sobre el cuarto refuerzo. Asegurémonos de que todos reciban, con respecto a los ARNm, sus tres dosis. Ese es el enfoque principal en este momento.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Muy bien. Muchas gracias por eso, Dr. Kessler. Y gracias por todas esas preguntas. Vamos a responder más preguntas pronto, y recuerden, si desean hacer una pregunta, presionen *3 en el teclado de su teléfono o escriban su pregunta en la sección de comentarios de Facebook o YouTube. Y si desean escuchar en español, presionen *0 en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

[En español]

 

Bill Walsh: Dra. Passaretti, me gustaría hacerle otra pregunta sobre ómicron, ya hablamos de esto, ¿está llegando a su punto máximo? Si llega a su punto máximo, ¿qué significa para el país? Sabemos que ómicron es altamente contagioso, pero es una variante menos virulenta de COVID-19. Y supongo que me pregunto si esto indica una transición de una pandemia a una endemia, como la gripe estacional, o ¿existen variantes más graves potencialmente al acecho?

 

Katie Passaretti: Sí. Voy a citar al Dr. Kessler en lo que dijo anteriormente que este virus nos mantiene continuamente humildes. Creo que ciertamente la esperanza es que ómicron se vuelva un poco menos grave, más transmisible y se transforme en algo más parecido a nuestro resfriado común y con menos riesgo de causar enfermedades graves y de abarrotar nuestros hospitales y todo eso, que es donde, en última instancia, creemos que vamos va a terminar, ese estado endémico, donde hay casos y van y vienen, pero no es abrumador para nuestro sistema de atención médica en la gran mayoría de las personas que causa un resfriado leve.

Entonces, ya sabe, la esperanza ciertamente es que con esta transición en el virus, nos dirigimos en esa dirección. Habiendo dicho eso, el virus de la COVID-19 nos ha lanzado una serie de obstáculos en los últimos dos años y medio, y siempre existe el riesgo de que podamos enfrentarnos a otra variante que tiene características diferentes de una manera completamente diferente. Así que creo que esa es la esperanza, pero solo el tiempo dirá si realmente nos estamos acercando al final.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, gracias por eso, Dra. Passaretti. Y me gustaría volver a usted, Dr. Kessler. Ya sabe, se ha mencionado un par de veces hasta ahora en el programa sobre la escasez de suministros para las pruebas de COVID-19 en todo el país. ¿Qué está contribuyendo a esa escasez y qué se está haciendo para aumentar la oferta? También nos preguntamos cuándo estarán más disponibles los kits caseros y las pruebas PCR.

 

David Kessler: Hay diferentes tipos, como dijo la Dra. Passaretti, diferentes tipos de pruebas. En realidad, no hay escasez de pruebas PCR. Donde está la escasez es de las pruebas caseras, ya sabe, para conseguirlas. Entonces, las pruebas de laboratorio, ya sabe, las que se envían o se llevan a una farmacia y ellos las envían, tienen una enorme capacidad para hacerlo. El presidente anunció hoy que habrá incluso otros 500 millones, entonces eso lo lleva a mil millones, estas son las pruebas caseras, las pruebas rápidas, las pruebas de antígenos, todas se llaman lo mismo. Así que estamos invirtiendo más en esas pruebas y deberíamos tener más en breve.

 

Bill Walsh: Bueno, permítame hilar más fino sobre eso. ¿Cuándo espera que los consumidores comiencen a ver esas pruebas de antígenos disponibles en las farmacias y en otros lugares?

 

David Kessler: Creo que la Dra. Passaretti quería acotar algo.

 

Katie Passaretti: Oh, lo siento. iba a decir que hay muchas pruebas de PCR, pero su capacidad, los lugares que tienen citas disponibles para hacer la prueba pueden ser un reto, así que tenga en cuenta eso a la hora de concertar la cita. Y solo daré un diminuto complemento, que las personas no utilicen nuestras salas de emergencia, que ahora mismo están llenas de pacientes enfermos de COVID-19 y otras cosas, como lugar donde hacerse la prueba. Es muy importante utilizar los lugares de atención médica para el fin previsto. Así que entiendo que hay dificultades con las pruebas, pero solo traten de proteger nuestras salas de emergencia para las personas enfermas que necesitan ese nivel de atención.

 

Bill Walsh: Sí, eso es genial. Y Dr. Kessler, solo pregunté cuándo los consumidores podrían comenzar a ver disponibles esas nuevas pruebas caseras.

 

David Kessler: A finales de este mes debería comenzar este nuevo aumento de la oferta, que será aún mayor en las semanas siguientes.

 

Bill Walsh: De acuerdo, muchas gracias a ambos por esos comentarios. Volvamos a nuestras líneas telefónicas para atender más de sus preguntas con el Dr. David Kessler y la Dra. Katie Passaretti. Como recordatorio, presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del equipo de AARP y colocarse en una fila para hacer su pregunta en vivo. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Voy a tomar una de Facebook. Es de Edward, y dice: "Hemos estado reutilizando nuestras mascarillas después de ponerlas en el horno a 170 grados durante 30 minutos. ¿Es una buena idea?"

 

Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, tal vez pueda abordar eso. Creo que también ha habido alguna orientación reciente sobre las mascarillas de tela.

 

David Kessler: Sí, hablaremos un poco sobre las mascarillas. No hay duda de que las mascarillas varían en el grado de protección, porque hay mucha confusión. Y solo desde el punto de vista de la protección contra la filtración, están las N95 que son más protectoras contra la filtración, luego las KN95, luego las mascarillas quirúrgicas, y luego las de tela.

Quiero decir, creo que lo más importante es usar mascarillas de la más alta calidad que pueda tolerar o que le queden bien. Quiero decir, puedo usar un N95 cuando entro y salgo por poco tiempo. Si me pongo una N95 durante horas, estoy bastante incómodo. Creo que es importante usar la mascarilla de la más alta calidad que pueda tolerar. Pero con respecto a ponerlas en el horno, no estoy seguro exactamente de qué mascarillas estamos hablando.

No las pondría en el horno. No sé exactamente qué le hace a los químicos, etcétera. No hay duda de que las mascarillas se pueden reutilizar. Ya sabe, reutilizo mis mascarillas, mis N95, repetidamente. Uno intenta usarlas hasta que se ensucian, se manchan. Sé que la Dra. Passaretti quiere comentar algo.

 

Katie Passaretti: No, estoy completamente de acuerdo con todo lo que dijo. Ya sabe, si no le queda bien en la cara o se humedece o ensucia, tírela. Pero por lo demás, hago lo mismo para el tipo de uso público, diferente para el cuidado de la salud, obviamente.

 

David Kessler: Correcto.

 

Bill Walsh: Y Dr. Kessler, entiendo que el presidente anunció hoy que la administración enviaría mascarillas a las personas del país. ¿Puede contarnos un poco sobre eso?

 

David Kessler: Sí, creo que vendrán más la próxima semana. Recordarán que ya lo hicimos con más mascarillas quirúrgicas, pero creo que hay una intención de enviar mascarillas de alta calidad a las personas, y creo que habrá más anuncios al respecto la próxima semana.

 

Bill Walsh: Fantástico. Muchas gracias por eso. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Nuestra siguiente pregunta vendrá de Donald, de Arizona.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Donald, bienvenido a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Donald: Gracias. Llamo sobre los beneficiarios de Medicare y si se les reembolsará o no el costo de adquirir la prueba casera, la prueba PCR. Sé que las pruebas caseras no están disponibles para todos, pero hemos adquirido cuatro de ellas; dos para mi esposa y dos para mí. Pero no he visto información sobre el reembolso que no sean las compañías de seguros privadas y los beneficiarios de Medicaid.

 

Bill Walsh: De acuerdo, bueno, esa es una gran pregunta, Donald. Preguntémosle al Dr. Kessler sobre el reembolso de Medicare por esas pruebas para el hogar.

 

David Kessler: Por lo que tengo entendido, no soy un experto en reembolsos, pero por lo que entiendo, ahora hay un requisito de que las compañías de seguros deben cubrir ocho, creo que son ocho, pruebas caseras al mes. Pero estoy seguro, Bill, de que sus expertos pueden conocer esos requisitos incluso mejor que yo.

 

Bill Walsh: Sí, Dra. Passaretti, no sé si tiene alguna idea al respecto. Le pediré a nuestro personal que investigue un poco y veamos si podemos obtener una respuesta antes de que finalice el programa.

 

Katie Passaretti: Sí, lo siento, tampoco es de mi especialidad.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien, bueno, está bien. Donald, quédese con nosotros e intentaremos darle una respuesta. Jesse, mientras tanto, volvamos a los teléfonos.

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Tengo una más de Facebook. Esta es de Katie. Ella dice: "¿Las personas vacunadas y con refuerzos necesitan usar mascarilla cuando visitan espacios cerrados?"

 

Bill Walsh: Mmmm, ¿Dra. Passaretti?

 

Katie Passaretti: Sí. Creo que todo se reduce a, hablamos un poco antes, sobre la relación riesgo-beneficio. Vemos personas vacunadas que tienen casos leves y personas con refuerzos, aunque en números más bajos, que tienen casos leves de COVID-19. Yo creo que depende. Yo como trabajadora de la salud, si estoy con alguien fuera de mi hogar en un lugar cerrado, uso una mascarilla porque con mi trabajo hoy en día, cuando ya estamos al límite, sería un desafío adicional. O si vive con alguien que es de alto riesgo o uno mismo es de alto riesgo, entonces puede tener sentido, pero hay todo tipo de niveles de riesgo. Lo que está dispuesto a aceptar, lo importante que es esa interacción.

Creo que, ciertamente, se está preparando para el éxito si ambos individuos están vacunados y recibieron el refuerzo. Y si tiene un riesgo bajo y no va a casa con alguien que es un receptor de trasplante o algo así, entonces tal vez es un riesgo menor. Pero ciertamente, donde diría con seguridad que independientemente del estado de la vacuna, el estado de refuerzo, si está en espacios interiores abarrotados, cuanta más gente hay, más abarrotado está el espacio, más variabilidad hay. Y luego se vuelve cada vez más complicado.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias, Dra. Passaretti. Y Donald había preguntado hace un momento si Medicare cubre el costo de las pruebas para el hogar. Tenemos información de medicare.gov, que es el sitio web del programa. Y dice que Medicare no paga las pruebas de COVID-19 de venta libre en este momento. Las personas con Medicare original pueden obtener pruebas caseras gratuitas en centros de salud comunitarios y clínicas de salud certificadas por Medicare. Algunos de los planes de Medicare Advantage pueden pagar por las pruebas para el hogar o sin receta. Así que gracias a nuestro personal por obtener esa respuesta. Jesse, volvamos a nuestras llamadas. ¿A quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Traigamos a Elaine de Texas.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola Elaine, bienvenida a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Jesse Salinas: Sí, quería saber, mi yerno y yo recibimos nuestras tres dosis. Fui con él cada vez, y hace dos semanas contrajo COVID-19 de todos modos, después de las tres dosis, y él casi no sale. Quiero decir, él realmente no sale a donde pueda contagiarse. Así que fue molesto ver que se contagió de COVID-19 de todos modos. ¿Por qué sucede eso?

 

Bill Walsh: Bien. Estas son infecciones posvacunación y, Dra. Passaretti, estamos viendo muchas de estas, ¿verdad? ¿Qué puede decirles a nuestros oyentes sobre las infecciones posvacunación y lo que pueden esperar?

 

Katie Passaretti: Sí, absolutamente. La transmisibilidad de ómicron, la facilidad con la que se propaga, da poco margen de maniobra para evitar que las personas se infecten. Lo que dije anteriormente y lo que reiteraría es que las vacunas y los refuerzos son muy buenos para prevenir enfermedades graves, pero con el volumen de casos que están ocurriendo y el volumen de propagación en nuestra comunidad en este momento, estamos viendo infecciones posvacunación.

La buena noticia, es frustrante, uno está haciendo todo lo que debería, debería estar protegido. Pero la buena noticia es que esos casos son más leves y es menos probable que su hijo o usted terminen en el hospital con una COVID-19 más grave. Nuevamente, vacunas y refuerzos, muy, muy buenos para prevenir enfermedades graves. Vamos a ver infecciones posvacunación debido a la naturaleza de las mutaciones de ómicron y cómo actúa esta variante en particular, pero tenga la seguridad de que la prevención de enfermedades graves, que es nuevamente, lo más importante, se mantiene fuerte con vacunas y refuerzos.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias, Dra. Passaretti. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos ahora en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Sigue Cheryl de Ohio.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Cheryl. Bienvenida a nuestro programa de hoy. ¿Cuál es su pregunta?

Cheryl: Bueno, yo no recibí la vacuna y tampoco uno de mis hermanos. Y lo que dije que haría es que cuando él lo hiciera, yo lo haría. Pero él no tiene intención de vacunarse, y comencé a pensar que la recibiría después de un año de estar en... Como el año pasado, recién comenzó el año pasado. Tuve un año entero para que esta vacuna estuviera disponible y fuera segura para todos. Esa es la forma en que lo estaba mirando. Ahora tengo 66 años, acabo de cumplir 66 este año. Y no sé si eso se considera de alto riesgo, pero tengo esclerosis múltiple, y solo quería saber si me pongo la vacuna, ¿cuál fue primero? Conozco a las tres que están por ahí. No estoy pensando en Johnson & Johnson, entonces, ¿cuál es mejor entre Pfizer y la otra?

 

Bill Walsh: ¿Moderna?

Cheryl: Sí. Tiene que recibir dos de esas.

 

Bill Walsh: Así que parece que está empezando a pensar en ponerse la vacuna ahora. ¿Se ha decidido con seguridad?

Cheryl: No lo he decidido con certeza. Mi médica quiere que lo haga. Ella lo ha hecho. Uno de mis hermanos lo ha hecho. Y solo estoy tratando de tener eso en cuenta debido a que apareció ómicron, junto con delta también.

 

Bill Walsh: Seguro. Bueno, Cheryl, preguntemos a nuestros expertos sobre eso y veamos qué tienen que decir. Dr. Kessler, ¿quiere opinar sobre eso? Primero, sobre si Cheryl debiera vacunarse y si debiera elegir una vacuna en lugar de otra.

 

David Kessler: Sabe, creo que es genial que esté a punto de hacerlo. Solo puedo apoyar esa decisión con mucha convicción. Creo que podemos decirle a Cheryl que hay cientos de millones de personas que la han recibido de manera segura, por lo que con su espera de un año, puede estar absolutamente segura de que esta es una de las vacunas más seguras que tenemos. Insto a Cheryl a que vaya a vacunarse lo antes posible, porque hay muchos virus por ahí y quiero que esté protegida.

Cualquiera que sea la vacuna que tengan disponible donde vaya, yo la tomaría. Eso es lo más importante. Moderna, Pfizer, ya sabe, la Dra. Passaretti y yo probablemente podríamos pasar la próxima hora hablando de las pequeñas diferencias entre las dos. No va a haber una diferencia para usted, Cheryl, solo vaya a buscar la que esté disponible, pero hágame un favor, su decisión de ir a vacunarse es inteligente. Y vaya a hacerlo en los próximos días. De eso depende en gran medida que termine en el hospital o no. Así que buena decisión.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Gracias, Dr. Kessler, y gracias a Cheryl por llamar. También busque a su hermano, asegúrese de vacunar a su hermano también en el proceso. Jesse, volvamos a los teléfonos. ¿A quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Vamos a responder una pregunta de Anna en Carolina del Sur.

 

Bill Walsh: Muy bien. Hola, Anna, bienvenida a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Anna: Hola, mi pregunta es, si tiene COVID-19, necesito que me expliquen el proceso de aislamiento. ¿Uno debe aislarse desde el día en que fue y se hizo la prueba? ¿Desde la fecha en que obtuvo los resultados? Y luego, ¿cómo avanza el proceso a partir de eso? Es muy confuso.

 

Bill Walsh: Dr. Kessler, ¿podría ayudar a Anna con esto? Ha habido algunos cambios en las recomendaciones recientemente, ¿no es así?

 

David Kessler: Correcto. Pero creo que generalmente, la Dra. Passaretti me puede corregir, creo que generalmente contamos desde el día del inicio de los síntomas, y en este momento lo que recomiendan los CDC es el aislamiento. Si da positivo durante cinco días, y luego hay pruebas disponibles, pero si uno da positivo y tiene síntomas o fiebre, debe permanecer en aislamiento durante otros cinco días.

Pero si uno no tiene fiebre ni síntomas y la prueba da negativo, puede sentirse libre de salir. Pero asegúrense de usar mascarillas de alta calidad durante al menos los próximos cinco días. La Dra. Passaretti puede querer corregirme y ver si respondí bien.

 

Katie Passaretti: No, tiene toda la razón. Entonces comienza desde la fecha de inicio de los síntomas, cinco días, como mínimo. Y luego, si uno ha mejorado desde el punto de vista de los síntomas, mucho mejor. Puede salir y usar mascarilla. Si se hace una prueba, entonces depende de esa prueba, pero una prueba no es obligatoria. No debería sentir que tiene que buscar una para decidir si puede salir o no.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, gracias a ambos por eso. Jesse, volvamos a las líneas telefónicas. ¿A quién tenemos ahora?

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Vamos a tomar otra pregunta. Esta va a ser de Wynonna en Missouri.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola, Wynonna, bienvenida a nuestro programa. Adelante con su pregunta.

Wynonna: Gracias. Bueno, he tenido COVID-19 y lo he superado. No tuve ningún síntoma. La razón por la que fui y me hice la prueba es porque el novio de mi nieta se contagió. Así es como me contagié. Así que por eso fui a hacerme la prueba. Y luego, cuando fui, me dio positivo. Y luego lo que me preguntaba... Bueno, doy negativo ahora. Y me vacunaron contra la gripe, me vacuné con Moderna; recibí ambas dosis de Moderna, y tuve mi vacuna contra la gripe, pero no recibí mi refuerzo, como dije, pero no estaba enferma en absoluto. Pero lo que quiero saber, ¿cuándo puedo recibir mi refuerzo, ya que acabo de dar negativo? ¿Tengo que esperar? Me han dicho que debo esperar tres meses antes de poder recibir el refuerzo. ¿Es así?

 

Bill Walsh: Sí, obtengamos una respuesta. Dra. Passaretti, ¿puede ayudar a Wynonna?

 

Katie Passaretti: Sí, claro, Wynonna. Es una muy buena pregunta, y una que recibimos mucho. En realidad, no tiene que esperar tres meses después de tener COVID-19 si no está vacunada para recibir la vacuna o el refuerzo. Realmente, la cantidad mínima de tiempo que decimos que uno debe esperar es hasta que se sienta mejor, y para usted, increíblemente, no ha tenido ningún síntoma con su infección en el período en el que puede contagiar a otras personas. Entonces, no debe vacunarse mientras aún tenga infección y pueda contagiar a otras personas. Pero una vez que haya pasado ese período, puede considerar recibir el refuerzo. Así que no hay necesidad de esperar tres meses.

Ciertamente, es posible que tenga cierta protección a corto plazo contra la infección durante un período, pero no hay nada de malo en vacunarse siempre que esté fuera del aislamiento o le digan que ya no corre el riesgo de infectar a otras personas. Entonces, mientras se sienta mejor y esté fuera del aislamiento, puede recibir el refuerzo. Por lo general, le digo a la gente que no espere mucho más de tres o cuatro meses, porque entonces el riesgo de contraer una segunda infección por COVID-19 tiende a aumentar un poco.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, gracias doctora. Jesse, tomemos otra pregunta.

Jesse Salinas: Sí, tenemos a Carmen de Nueva York.

 

Bill Walsh: Hola Carmen, Bienvenida al programa. Adelante con su pregunta, Carmen.

Carmen: De acuerdo, mi pregunta es para mi cuñado, que vive en el condado de Harris, Texas. Y allí tienen tasas muy altas de ómicron. Y tiene el síndrome de Guillain-Barré. Algunas personas lo pronuncian "Gillian-Bar". Pero sus médicos le dijeron que no puede recibir la vacuna. Y no sé, no siento que eso sea seguro. ¿Hay algo que se pueda hacer por las personas con este síndrome? Le encantaría recibir la vacuna, pero ya sabe, qué hace cuando le dicen...

 

Bill Walsh: Sí. Sí. Bueno, preguntemos a nuestros médicos. No estoy seguro si la Dra. Passaretti podría responder a esto, ¿o el Dr. Kessler? Dra. Passaretti, ¿por qué no comienza?

 

Katie Passaretti: Claro, ciertamente no supondría, ya sabe, el médico de su cuñado conoce mejor esa situación médica, pero un historial de Guillain-Barré no es una contraindicación estricta para vacunarse. Así que creo que, primero, su familiar puede considerar vacunarse para obtener esa protección adicional, sopesar el riesgo de que ómicron circule en su área, y sabe lo que podría hacer la infección en él.

Como hablamos anteriormente, hay tratamientos posibles para personas de mayor riesgo, personas no vacunadas, si decide no vacunarse, pero, en su mayoría, diría, incluso con antecedentes de Guillain-Barré, puede considerar continuar con una de las vacunas de ARNm y obtener esa protección contra futuras infecciones por COVID-19.

 

Bill Walsh: Entonces Moderna o Pfizer serían la mejor opción en ese caso.

 

Katie Passaretti: Bueno, en general, Johnson & Johnson ya no es nuestra primera opción. En genera, recomendamos Pfizer y Moderna.

 

Bill Walsh: Está bien. Fantástico. Dra. Kessler, ¿quería agregar algo a eso?

 

David Kessler: No, creo que la Dra. Passaretti respondió exactamente bien. Obviamente, consulte con su médico, pero la opinión más acertada que Guillain-Barré no es una contraindicación para recibir la vacuna. En la llamada anterior se planteó la pregunta de que, y una vez más, creo que la Dra. Passaretti respondió exactamente bien, ¿cuándo debería recibir el refuerzo si tiene COVID-19?

Y, sabe, estaba hablando con el Dr. Fauci, y la Dra. Walensky sobre esa pregunta, y el Dr. Fauci dijo que no tenemos muchos datos para poder responder eso. Quiero decir, creo que puede haber una ventaja en esperar. Quiero decir, y de nuevo, estoy 100 por ciento de acuerdo con la Dra. Passaretti. Es mejor hacerlo dentro de los tres o cuatro meses.

Pero puede haber una ventaja en esperar alrededor de un mes porque realmente debemos permitir que el sistema inmunitario realmente funcione mediante la maduración de la respuesta. Entonces le da un poco de tiempo para poder tener esa maduración. Pero de nuevo, es por eso que estamos ejerciendo la medicina, y a veces no hay datos perfectos. Pero, mi sensación es que si ha tenido COVID-19 recientemente y le falta el refuerzo, en algún momento entre un mes y tres meses probablemente tenga sentido.

 

Bill Walsh: Bien, muchas gracias, Dr. Kessler, y creo que tendremos que dejarlo así. Se está haciendo la hora. Esta ha sido una discusión muy informativa y gracias a nuestros dos expertos por estar con nosotros y brindarnos todas las actualizaciones. Y gracias a nuestros socios, voluntarios y oyentes de AARP por participar en esta discusión de hoy.

AARP es una organización de membresía, no partidista y sin fines de lucro que ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores de Estados Unidos durante más de 60 años. Ante esta crisis, estamos brindando información y recursos para ayudar a los adultos mayores y a quienes los cuidan a protegerse del virus y prevenir su propagación a otros mientras se cuidan.

Todos los recursos a los que se hizo referencia hoy, incluida una grabación del evento de preguntas y respuestas, se podrán encontrar en aarp.org/coronavirus a partir de mañana, 14 de enero. Vayan allí si su pregunta no fue respondida y encontrarán las últimas actualizaciones, así como información creada específicamente para adultos mayores y cuidadores familiares.

Esperamos que hayan aprendido algo que pueda ayudarlos a ustedes y a sus seres queridos a mantenerse saludables. Vuelvan a acompañarnos el 27 de enero a la 1 p.m. hora del este para participar en otro evento de preguntas y respuestas en vivo sobre coronavirus. Esperamos que puedan acompañarnos. Mientras tanto, manténganse a salvo, gracias y que tengan un buen día. Con esto concluye nuestra llamada.

Coronavirus: Staying Safe During Changing Times

Listen to a replay of the live event above.

With COVID infections and hospitalizations surging across the U.S., many Americans are concerned about their health and safety, and confused about changing guidelines. Our expert panel addresses your questions related to Omicron, testing, vaccines and boosters during this live Q&A event.

The experts:

Katie Passaretti, M.D.
Vice President and Enterprise Chief Epidemiologist 
Atrium Health

David Kessler, M.D.
Chief Science Officer, White House COVID-19 Response Team
Professor of Pediatrics, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, University of California
Former FDA

Bill Sweeney
Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, AARP


For the latest coronavirus news and advice, go to AARP.org/coronavirus.


Replay previous AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

  • May 5 - Coronavirus: Life Beyond the Pandemic
  • April 14Coronavirus: Boosters, Testing and Nursing Home Safety
  • March 24Coronavirus: Impact on Older Adults and Looking Ahead
  • March 10Coronavirus: What We’ve Learned and Moving Forward
  • February 24Coronavirus: Current State, What to Expect, and Heart Health
  • February 10 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Vaccines and Mental Wellness
  • January 27 - Coronavirus: Omicron, Looking Ahead, and the Impact on Nursing Homes
  • January 13 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe During Changing Times
  • December 16 - Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About Boosters, Vaccines & Variants
  • December 9 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Vaccines and Your Health
  • November 18 - Coronavirus: Your Questions Answered — Vaccines, Misinformation & Mental Wellness
  • November 4 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Health & Wellness
  • October 21 - Coronavirus: Protecting Your Health & Caring for Loved Ones
  • October 7 - Coronavirus: Boosters, Flu Vaccines and Wellness Visits
  • September 23 - Coronavirus: Delta Variant, Boosters & Self Care
  • September 9 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, Caring for Loved Ones & New Work Realities
  • August 26 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe, New Work Realities & Managing Finances
  • August 12 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe in Changing Times
  • June 24 - The State of LGBTQ Equality in the COVID Era
  • June 17 - Coronavirus: Vaccines And Staying Safe During “Reopening”
  • June 3 - Coronavirus: Your Health, Finances & Housing
  • May 20 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • May 6 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Variants and Coping
  • April 22 - Your Vaccine Questions Answered and Coronavirus: Vaccines and Asian American and Pacific Islanders
  • April 8 - Coronavirus and Latinos: Safety, Protection and Prevention and Vaccines and Caring for Grandkids and Loved Ones
  • April 1 - Coronavirus and The Black Community: Your Vaccine Questions Answered
  • March 25 - Coronavirus: The Stimulus, Taxes and Vaccine
  • March 11 - One Year of the Pandemic and Managing Personal Finances and Taxes
  • February 25 - Coronavirus Vaccines and You
  • February 11 - Coronavirus Vaccines: Your Questions Answered
  • January 28 - Coronavirus: Vaccine Distribution and Protecting Yourself
    & A Virtual World Awaits: Finding Fun, Community and Connections
  • January 14 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying Safe & Coping and Prevention, Vaccines & the Black Community
  • January 7 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Stimulus & Staying Safe
  • Dec 3 - Coronavirus: Staying Safe & Coping This Winter
  • Nov 19 - Coronavirus: Vaccines, Staying and A Caregiver's Thanksgiving
  • Nov 12 - Coronavirus: Coping and Maintaining Your Well-Being
  • Oct 1 - Coronavirus: Vaccines & Coping During the Pandemic
  • Sept 17 - Coronavirus: Prevention, Treatments, Vaccines & Avoiding Scams
  • Sept 3 - Coronavirus: Your Finances, Health & Family (6 months in)
  • Aug 20 - Your Health and Staying Protected
  • Aug 6 - Coronavirus: Answering Your Most Frequent Questions
  • July 23 - Coronavirus: Navigating the New Normal
  • July 16 - The Health and Financial Security of Latinos
  • July 9 - Coronavirus: Your Most Frequently Asked Questions
  • June 18 and 20 - Strengthening Relationships Over Time and  LGBTQ Non-Discrimination Protections
  • June 11 – Coronavirus: Personal Resilience in the New Normal