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AARP Coronavirus Tele-Town Halls

Experts answer your questions related to COVID-19

Shani Hosten: Hello. I am AARP Vice President Shani Hosten, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about coronavirus. Before we begin, if you would like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. [Repeated en Español]

Shani Hosten: AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership has been working to promote health and well-being for older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. While new coronavirus cases are falling rapidly across the country, the impact to our health and mental wellness is far-reaching. COVID fatigue, conflicting guidelines and general fear and anxiety about our health and wellness is taking a toll. Many older Americans, while hopeful, are still concerned and looking for answers on ways to stay safe and protected.

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, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you would like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone 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 are just joining, I am Shani Hosten with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We’re talking with leading experts and taking your questions live today. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your questions in the comments.

We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including a member of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, a mental health expert, and a misinformation expert. We will also be joined by my colleague, 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 today. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff, or if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, place your questions in the comments.

Now I would like to welcome our guests today. Cameron Webb, M.D., senior policy advisor, COVID-19 equity, White House COVID-19 Response Team. Welcome, Dr. Webb.

Cameron Webb: Thanks so much for having me.

Shani Hosten: Thanks for being here today, Dr. Webb. Next Samantha Farro, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Multidisciplinary Center on Aging. Welcome, Dr. Farro.

Samantha Farro: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Shani Hosten: Thank you for joining us, Dr. Farro. Alex Mahadevan, Program Manager for MediaWise. Thank you for joining us today, Alex.

Alex Mahadevan: Thank you for the opportunity.

Shani Hosten: So let’s get started with the discussion. Just a reminder: To ask your question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Let’s get started. Dr. Webb, should we be concerned about the omicron subvariant? What is it? And why is it nicknamed “stealth” omicron?

Cameron Webb: Well, you know, I think right now the most important thing to know is that this kind of quote-unquote “stealth” omicron, or BA.2 as we call it, is still a relatively small proportion, around 3 percent, 3 to 4 percent of the cases that we’ve sequenced here in the United States. That’s grown from just over 1 percent when we looked back last week, but it isn’t by any stretch a dominant version that we’re seeing. First off, the reason why it’s called stealth omicron is that there’s a particular test procedure that we use to identify omicron because it was missing a particular gene. And so this version of omicron, this BA.2, is different because it’s harder to distinguish from the delta variant, and that’s why it’s harder for us to describe, even though it is directly descended from the original omicron.

The key thing here is, you know, when we think about what we should be worried about, we’ve got some early information that’s helpful. The first is that it doesn’t appear to be causing significant differences in clinical outcomes. It does seem like it’s able to move a little bit faster when we look at data from other countries, but not in the way that omicron moved faster than delta. It just kind of slowly over time displaces BA.1, or kind of the original omicron, but it’s not leading, as far as we’ve seen so far, to a significantly worse illness. And the good news is we’re seeing that the vaccines still seemed to be effective in terms of the early information and even some of our monoclonal antibodies, the treatments that we use. We just had a report from the manufacturer of Sotrovimab that it is still effective against BA.2 or quote-unquote “stealth” omicron. Sotrovimab with the only monoclonal antibody that we’re still using as a treatment for folks with COVID-19 because omicron rendered two of the other monoclonals not as effective.

So the key takeaways here are that we’re keeping a close eye on it. It’s the BA.2 or stealth omicron, it’s labeled a variant of concern because it’s part of that omicron lineage. So we’re watching and tracking it very closely. So far, it’s not dominant. Again, about 96 percent or so are still BA.1 or the original omicron, but we’ll keep seeing how that really changes the dynamics in different communities. And I think with so many people vaccinated, boosted, and then a lot of folks who recently had natural infections, that may limit its ability to really cause a lot of problems. So we’ll keep watching it.

Shani Hosten: Thank you. Thanks, Dr. Webb. You know, a quick follow-up on that. What is the risk of infection for vaccinated older adults? And is it possible for someone infected with the delta or omicron variant to be reinfected?

Cameron Webb: You know, I think the risk of infection, we do know that vaccinated and boosted individuals can test positive for COVID-19; you can have an infection. It’s less common, but it certainly can happen. The thing is the main purpose of the vaccines that were administered, and we continue to use, is that they prevent folks from being hospitalized and dying. That’s their greatest utility. And we know that for vaccinated and boosted individuals at large, they are 97 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than someone who’s unvaccinated. So if you’re vaccinated and boosted, it’s a huge advantage to you in avoiding the most severe outcomes associated with COVID-19, but it doesn’t mean that there’s no risk of getting an infection; it’s just more likely to be an either asymptomatic or more mild illness. We have seen that, even among some seniors over the age of 75, we’ve seen a greater percentage have been getting sicker in the setting of omicron. And so, you know, that’s always concerning. And so that’s part of why, if you’ve done everything you can — been vaccinated, been boosted, wearing masks in different places — that’s why it’s so important that we continue to pass along that messaging to all of our society to limit the impact, because ultimately, it’s always going to be the most vulnerable individuals, the folks facing the highest risk, who suffer when folks who face lower risks don’t take this very seriously. So, but I think the good news is cases are on the decline. We’re starting to see hospitalizations on the decline. We just need to stay really disciplined to see those numbers continue to decrease so that the risk is much lower on some of the more vulnerable individuals in our society.

Shani Hosten: Good, good. Great advice, Dr. Webb. Thank you for sharing those insights for us. So, thank you. So now let’s turn to Dr. Farro.

Americans say that the U.S. is experiencing a mental health crisis right now, a view that is bipartisan. According to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, 80 percent of Republicans, 91 percent of Democrats and 93 percent of independents told pollsters there is a mental health crisis today. Do you agree, Dr. Farro, and then what are the challenges that we face, and how do you see the mental health services adapting to meet these unprecedented needs?

Samantha Farro: That’s an excellent question, thank you. And I definitely would agree that we are facing a substantial mental health impact related to COVID-19 and the extraordinary challenges of the past two years. Billions of people globally have experienced upheaval in their daily routines, isolation due to restrictions and lockdown, information overload — including substantial misinformation — and, of course, the deaths of loved ones. So all of this results in many people having things like anxiety, depression, substance use issues, sleep disruptions, loneliness, and, of course, grief. In response to this telehealth and telephone mental health treatment services have really exploded in use during the pandemic. Mental health providers almost overnight launched telehealth and telephone-based services to ensure that patients had safe access to mental health treatment. We have also seen a surge in the use of digital mental health interventions and mental health and stress reduction websites, or smartphone apps. So many, many resources are now available to support you in improving your own mental health. For example, some of the websites that I share with my patients fairly routinely include the National Institute on Aging, which has wonderful information with tips for mitigating loneliness, increasing physical activity and exercise, and tips on healthy eating. The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA has fantastic resources and exercises to help you build better stress management skills, and the National Sleep Foundation has a wonderful website full of information on how you can improve your sleep using evidence-based sleep hygiene, stimulus control and relaxation skills. So those are just some of the ways that we have kind of adapted to try to meet these needs and make sure that folks are being able to take good care of their mental health during this challenging time.

Shani Hosten: Great, great insights and resources that you shared, Dr. Farro. So thank you. A quick follow-up to that. Will one of the most enduring elements of the pandemic be the stunning increase in mental health needs?

Samantha Farro: Another good question. I, you know, it certainly does not have to be. One thing I want to make very clear is that mental health disorders are treatable conditions. So if you or someone you know in your family or your friends is struggling, it is vital to get treatment. The same way that we wouldn’t recommend that you neglect physical health issues, we don’t recommend that you neglect your mental health. If you need information for how to get treatment, SAMHSA’s [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] National Helpline provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support group, and local organizations. It’s confidential, it’s free, and it’s available 24 hours every single day. So if you or a family member need resources for mental or substance use treatment, you can call that hotline at 1-800-662-HELP, H-E-L-P, to get information. Another option is you can also contact, have contact with your primary care provider or your family doctor to discuss what local mental health and substance use treatment options are in your area.

And finally, there are also many ways you can be proactive in caring for your mental health. For example, creating and maintaining healthy daily routines can have a tremendous impact on mental health, including activities like exercising regularly, especially aerobic exercise, keeping a consistent sleep routine, making sure that you are engaging in enjoyable activities every single day and socially connecting with people, even if by telephone or video instead of in person. I also recommend taking breaks from watching too much news media and avoiding the use of alcohol or drugs to cope. Again, we know that mental and behavioral health disorders are treatable. So these are all the things that we can do to protect our mental health at this time.

Shani Hosten: Thank you so much for that helpful information, and certainly our mental health is just as equally important as our physical health. So thank you, Dr. Farro.

Dr. Webb, it was announced just last week that Medicare will soon pay for at-home COVID tests purchased from retailers. When will this begin and how will it work?

Cameron Webb: Yeah, that’s definitely, it’s big news to make sure that Medicare is covering these tests. For so many people, they’ve been looking for opportunities to obtain these over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. And again, these are the rapid antigen tests that can give you a response, an answer as to whether or not you have COVID within 15 to 30 minutes. And that’s very different from the laboratory-based PCR tests that sometimes take a day or more to get responses back and so, then again, to get results back. And so, in terms of background, the administration is doing a lot to try to get more of these over-the-counter tests to folks, and one of those things, of course, the president is sending out half a billion tests directly to people’s residences, so folks can go to COVIDtests.gov and request free over-the-counter tests to have them delivered, and that’s four free tests that are delivered. And then also we’ve been sending these free over-the-counter tests to community health centers all over the country. But we worked specifically with insurers to also make sure that was the case. And so for the over 50 percent of Americans who have private insurance, their insurer’s required to cover eight tests per month per insured individual, and that began on January 15th.

One of the questions was how and when would this apply to Medicare? So starting in early spring, people with Medicare will be able to go to an eligible pharmacy or other entities that are participating in this initiative, and they can pick up their over-the-counter COVID-19 tests for free through their Medicare Part B coverage. And so, more information about eligible pharmacies and other entities that are going to be participating in this initiative, that will be available in the coming weeks. Once it’s up and running, CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] is going to encourage beneficiaries to ask their local pharmacy or their health care provider whether they’re participating in this initiative. So it’s just yet another one of the mechanisms to make sure that people can get access to free tests. To be clear, individuals, so for seniors, you will not need to buy the test first and then be reimbursed. This new initiative is going to enable payment directly to the eligible pharmacies and those other entities that are participating, and so it will allow you to pick up the test at no cost at the point of sale and without needing to be reimbursed. And so CMS is currently working around the clock to implement this initiative. We anticipate it will be available to people, again, in the coming weeks, but really, I think it’s going to be an important addition to the ways that people can get access to tests. I mentioned COVIDtest.gov as one of the places where people can go today to get free over-the-counter tests, and also there are over 20,000 free testing sites nationwide that are currently offering low- to no-cost COVID-19 tests. And so, lots of different options for right now, but we’re excited to have this one up and running very soon.

Shani Hosten: Great, thank you for sharing that. And it is very exciting to see the work around the free test kits. So we look forward to hearing more updates as they evolve around those. So, as a reminder, to ask your question, please press *3. We’re going to take your live questions very soon. But before we do, I want to bring in Megan O’Reilly who’s vice president, health and family, of our Government Affairs at AARP department. Welcome, Megan.

Megan O’Reilly: Delighted to be here, Shani.

Shani Hosten: So we just heard, Megan, that Dr. Webb talked about the announcement that Medicare will finally start covering the cost of at-home COVID test kits soon. So, reiterating that this is good news and that’s something that AARP fought to make happen, isn’t it?

Megan O’Reilly: Absolutely, we did. AARP has been hard at work advocating to make this a reality. And we really join Dr. Webb in our appreciation about the news. Sixty-four million Americans are on Medicare, and older Americans are among the most at risk of suffering serious complications from COVID. We’re happy Medicare will begin providing free over-the-counter at home COVID tests this spring.

Shani Hosten: So until this happens, every American household is still eligible to receive four free at-home COVID tests through the mail. How can people order these tests?

Megan O’Reilly: You can order your four free tests online or by calling a toll-free number. To request at-home tests online, as Dr. Webb mentioned, go to www.COVIDtest.gov, or you can call toll free 1-800-232-0233. Once you sign up, the tests will be mailed to your address directly.

Shani Hosten: Wonderful. And just to reiterate again, that’s www.COVIDtests.gov or 1-800-232-0233. Again, anything else on the advocacy front, Megan?

Megan O’Reilly: Yes, we remain working hard to urge the Senate to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. We know that 80 percent of voters across parties support this change and it would save seniors and Medicare billions of dollars. Also, we’re urging the White House to reinstate emergency paid leave and a potential supplemental COVID spending package. We need to make sure that people with serious illnesses who are exposed to or have COVID, as well as their caregivers, don’t have to lose their incomes. And finally, good news on the nursing home front. For the first time, the government has begun posting staff turnover rates and weekend staff levels for nursing homes on the medicare.gov/care-compare website. AARP has long fought for this type of transparency, and we encourage everybody with a loved one in a nursing home to visit the new Care Compare website.

Shani Hosten: Thank you, Megan. And finally, the U.S. hit a solemn milestone last Friday. More than 900,000 Americans have now lost their lives due to COVID. And while new daily cases have been decreasing, deaths in the U.S. have accelerated. Any parting thoughts on this, Megan?

Megan O’Reilly: You know, 900,000 deaths is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to all those who have lost someone. AARP wants everyone to stay well, especially as the risk of dying from COVID is significantly higher for older people. In the U.S., more than three-quarters of those who have died from COVID have been 65 or older. This is why we hold these town halls, and why we share trustworthy resources and information. Most deaths are occurring among those who are unvaccinated Please, if you haven’t already done so, get your vaccine and booster shot, and make sure your loved ones get boosted, too. AARP will continue to keep fighting for your protection and financial relief, but let’s take care of ourselves and each other to keep everyone healthy and safe.

Shani Hosten: Thank you, Megan, for being here today, and for all that you and your team are doing on the advocacy front. Thank you.

Megan O’Reilly: Thank you.

Shani Hosten: It’s now time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Cameron Webb and Dr. Samantha Farro. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff to share your question. If you would like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. [Repeated en Español]

Shani Hosten: I’d now like to bring my AARP colleague, Jesse Salinas, to help facilitate your calls. Welcome, Jesse.

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

Shani Hosten: So, Jesse, let’s take our first question.

Jesse Salinas: Yep. Our first question is going to be from Andrea in Nebraska.

Shani Hosten: Great. Hi, Andrea, in Nebraska. Let’s go ahead with your question.

Andrea: Yes, am I on?

Shani Hosten: You’re on, Andrea. How are you today?

Andrea: Yeah, my question is, and you kind of answered it, it’s about the vulnerability of people with boosters to getting it. They talk and they say that the most vulnerable are people who have underlying issues, or older. And I don’t know for sure; I’m, my husband and I are 76 and 77. We’re in good health. Are we in the category of the vulnerable because we’re that age or— we’re healthy, or is it people who are older and kind of feeble?

Shani Hosten: Thank you for your question. Dr. Webb, would you address that for us, please?

Cameron Webb: [inaudible] I think that that’s an important point because it’s important to keep in mind not everybody who’s reached a certain age has the same level of risk. A lot of the risk that we see with COVID-19 in general is rooted in a number of other chronic conditions like diabetes, like heart disease, like obesity, like asthma or other lung disease. And so, you know, over the life course, people have more time to accumulate various diseases or greater risk of cancer, and which can lead to immunocompromise. And so when you put all those things together, that’s part of what we see in terms of what leads to greater risk among older individuals. I think even when we control for a lot of that though, for folks who are older than the age of 75, we just see that the data continues to suggest that COVID-19, and even, which is even true with the omicron variant, can lead to more severe illness. And so I think that because of that, I would take it seriously. I know that there’s a, there’s a lot of kind of news and coverage that describes the omicron variant as milder. But I think what we’ve seen, and I see this in my work as an internal medicine doctor in the hospital working on the COVID unit, is that omicron, just because the news describes it as milder, doesn’t mean that it’s mild for every individual. In fact, my hospital had its highest rate of hospitalizations from COVID-19 just two weeks ago. So that’s one thing that I think people need to know, and by and large, that’s driven by folks who are older, folks who are immunocompromised, and folks who have lots of medical conditions.

And so, what I would say is that yes, age does relate to some of that risk but being vaccinated and boosted is really critical for protecting you. So for— if you were to compare the risk of severe outcomes from somebody who is over— I would say well over 90 percent of folks who are over 75 are vaccinated, but if you were to contrast a boosted individual and a non-boosted individual, there’s more protection, there are fewer hospitalizations, there are fewer deaths in those individuals who are boosted. So vaccinated and boosted is kind of the best status you can have in terms of protection against omicron in the worst outcomes that it can provide. And if you’ve done both of those things, then I think the next piece to keep in mind is make sure that when you’re out and about, make sure you wear a good fitting, high-quality mask, and we’re recommending, N95 masks or KN95 masks while the levels of transmission are as high as they are because we’ve seen that those are even more effective against omicron. If you put those layers of protection together, that’s what keeps you your safest against omicron.

Ultimately, this advice is general in nature. I think the best way to evaluate and understand your risk is through talking to your individual health care provider. But, you know, speaking broadly, I would say when you layer these different mitigation strategies — you wear masks, you avoid crowded indoor spaces, and then you make sure you have that immunologic protection with vaccines and boosters — you put those things together and you couple that with testing if you become symptomatic, and the value of the therapeutics, like the monoclonal antibodies or the oral antivirals, you see how we can put together a mechanism to minimize your risk of getting sick from COVID-19, even with omicron.

Shani Hosten: Great, thank you, Dr. Webb, for that information. So let’s go back to the line. Who do we have next, Jesse?

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next question is going to be for Dr. Farro. And this question comes from Kevin in Ohio on Facebook. Kevin says, “I suffer from occasional depression but have been fine. Is there anything I should be doing in light of the pandemic?”

Shani Hosten: Great. Thank you, Kevin.

Samantha Farro: Yeah, thank you, Kevin. I think that’s actually something that a lot of folks are faced with right now. Maybe this is the first time that they’ve experienced depression symptoms or it’s relatively mild depression symptoms. A lot of what I discussed earlier is what I would recommend. You know, there is a tremendous amount that we can do in terms of protecting our mental health and mitigating depression symptoms through the use of creating and maintaining healthy daily routines. There is a lot of evidence to support the use of physical exercise and particularly, again, aerobic exercise and how it impacts our mood. It can really when we have a daily routine or a weekly routine that includes physical exercise regularly, we just know that that helps protect our brain health, including our mental health.

The same thing is true when we are able to maintain consistent sleep routines. Using principles around sleep hygiene, where you have a consistent sleep schedule, you’re avoiding daytime napping,  you’re making sure that you’re not bringing screens into the bedroom at nighttime; I hear a lot of folks during the pandemic who have talked about, you know, bringing their smartphones or iPads into the bedroom with them and just kind of scrolling and this can really disrupt sleep routines. And we know that sleep is absolutely vital for protecting our mental health and mitigating things like depression symptoms. So I think those are really important aspects to maintaining mental health and mitigating and reducing depression symptoms, is keeping a good sleep routine and keeping regular physical exercise. There are also other things you can do, as I mentioned, connecting with treatment, you know, some of the most effective interventions for depression include a combination of medication treatment and psychotherapy. So there are lots of different options but in terms of behavioral strategies or things that you can do on your own to try to care for your mental health and reduce depression, I think exercise and sleep are some of the most important ones.

Shani Hosten: Very helpful information, Dr. Farro, some very helpful tips for us. So thank you for sharing that. Jessie, we have time for a few more questions. Who do we have next on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Great, our next question is going to be for Dr. Webb, and this one’s going to come from Joan in Indiana.

Shani Hosten: Hi, Joan from Indiana. Go ahead with your question for Dr. Webb.

Joan: Oh, hi. Well I’m 86 and a half, and I have a lot of the things. I think I’m pretty healthy but I do have heart trouble and obesity and all these different things, and asthma. Anyways, what I want to know, my one question is, it’s been six months since my booster. My booster was in September, and I’m wondering if they’re going to let me have another booster now.

Cameron Webb: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think a lot of people have asked about whether or not a fourth shot would be necessary. And some of that question comes from what we’re seeing around the world. In Israel, for instance, they rolled out fourth shots a little bit earlier. And so one thing that we found, and this all starts with understanding the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] and their process, and their process is to look at the data that we have and to use that to guide us in terms of when we make new recommendations. We made the recommendations for boosters because we started to see an increase or an uptick for folks who had been fully vaccinated, so had their first two shots, we were seeing more of them start to show up in hospitals, and that gave us a signal that it was possible that they were having less effectiveness, I guess, of the vaccine and would benefit from a booster. The boosters are really powerful against omicron because it gives you circulating, what’s called neutralizing antibodies. It can stop that virus in its tracks. What’s unclear is how long those neutralizing antibodies last and how long the vaccine remains really effective against the virus. You know, some have suggested that it’s even possible that the vaccine should have been a three-shot series in the first place, and that will provide you with longer-lasting protection.

So where we are right now is we’re looking at the data on how long that protection lasts with that third shot. It may last much longer than the six months or the five months that we saw with the primary series, because it may have been that it primed your immune system even better to respond to the virus. That remains to be seen in our data. But I can tell you that as of right now, the CDC is not recommending a fourth dose for individuals. Some fourth doses are available for people who have compromised immune systems, where a three-dose regimen is what’s necessary for their primary series and then they can get a booster on top of that. But if you don’t have a compromised immune system — and you can talk to your doctor about whether or not you fit into that category — then right now, three doses, you know, three shots is all that’s recommended and if that changes, CDC certainly will let us know. I, like you, got my booster in September. I’m a health care worker. I am working in rooms with COVID-19 patients every single weekend. I’ll be there tomorrow. And so I’m very eager to know how long my vaccine is protecting me, ’cause it’s also protecting my two young children and my family and my community. And as of right now, I have not gotten that fourth shot because it hasn’t been recommended. And I’m always very careful not to do things that are, you know, not guided by science. And so right now, we’re not guided by science to get a fourth shot, you and I both, but when we are, the CDC will make sure that’s clear, and everybody knows that it’s time to go get another shot if that becomes necessary.

Shani Hosten: Thank you, Dr. Webb, in providing clarity around that and giving us just the facts. So we have time, Jesse, for one more question in this section. Who else do we have on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Yep, the next question is going to come from Facebook, and this is from Lisa in Seattle, and Lisa says, and this question is going to be for Dr. Farro, and it’s going to say, “Will the vaccine effectiveness hurt my, or kind of run the risk with my antidepressant meds?”

Samantha Farro: Yes, thank you, Lisa. That is a great question as well. And like Dr. Webb kind of said a little bit earlier, I don’t, I think that’s something that’s currently being studied. As of now, we are not seeing evidence that vaccines have any negative impact on antidepressant medications. And we are seeing that, well, as I talked about a little bit earlier, that the COVID virus can actually have some impacts in increasing depression, or depression symptoms. And so I would still recommend the vaccine for anybody who is eligible because of the associated risks with getting the, having the virus be something that you’re infected with, versus the vaccine. So the vaccine effectiveness in terms of how it helps reduce inflammation in the brain and how it lowers risk of depression, I think outweighs any questions about whether or not the vaccine mitigates or reduces effectiveness of antidepressant medications. At this point, like I said, that’s still something that’s being studied and so we don’t really have any reason at this point to say not to get the vaccine if you are on antidepressant medications. All of that should still be very effective for you. But again, all of this is something that should be discussed with your health care provider, with your primary care doctor. If you are noticing new symptoms or having something come up that’s new, or struggling with new symptoms, that is something that should really be discussed with your health care provider to ensure that you’re getting the latest guidance and making sure that any new findings that have come up are something that are being taken into account with your treatment plan.

Shani Hosten: Okay, great. Thank you, thank you so much, Dr. Farro. And thanks to everybody for those questions. And remember, if you’d like to ask a question, please press *3. Now let’s turn back to our experts.

Dr. Farrow, early studies found at link between a COVID infection and developing neurological or psychiatric conditions afterwards, often within six months. What have scientists found, and can you talk about what to look for in yourself or a loved one if you notice these changes? And what if your loved one is not accustomed to these feelings or doesn’t know how to describe them in words? Can you share a little bit about that with us?

Samantha Farro: Absolutely, Shani. So similar to kind of what I was just describing with Lisa’s question, research has shown that COVID infections can have both direct and indirect impacts on neurological and mental health. Some of the more direct impacts of COVID that we’re aware of can include neuroinflammation. You know, lots of folks have heard about the loss of taste and smell. You might notice increased cognitive changes or impairment. Some of the more indirect impacts can include increased symptoms of depression, of anxiety, more confusion or feelings of overwhelm, difficulty with concentration or memory and, of course, sleep disruption, the loneliness we’ve talked about.

Even suicidality is something that can, can be increased in the, in the aftermath of COVID. And so, first and foremost, if you are having thoughts of suicide or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide and needs urgent care, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available. It is free and confidential support, and it can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK, T-A-L-K. Now, if you’re not, if it’s not urgent or it’s not an emergency and you notice some of these symptoms in yourself or in a loved one, again, I recommend consulting with your health care provider or your primary care doctor to discuss what’s going on. It’s very common and often that we may not know how to describe exactly what’s happening, but we may just be aware that something feels off. It’s also very common that we may not notice at all, but our loved ones, our family members notice that something is off with us. So sharing that with your doctor or your health care provider is critical for getting help in identifying what is it that’s going on and finding the best way to treat it.

Shani Hosten: Excellent, and Dr. Farro, you know, last fall, the CDC updated a list of underlying conditions that put people at higher risk for severe COVID-19, and they added mood disorders. Why are the vaccines so important to those with diagnosed mental health disorders?

Samantha Farro: Yes, that was an excellent move on the CDC. And I think it’s because we started to get more data about the risks, particularly in the fall of 2021, a meta-analysis was published that, essentially a meta-analysis combined the results across many different studies that included over 91 million people. And it found evidence that people with preexisting mood disorders are at significantly higher risk of hospitalization and death by COVID-19. So this evidence reinforces that mental health conditions like mood disorders are an underlying medical condition that can impact your susceptibility to COVID-19. We know in general that mental health conditions impact immune functioning and resistance to disease and infection. Therefore, again, it is absolutely vital for people with mental health conditions to ensure their safety and health by getting COVID vaccines and booster shots. I think it’s one of the things that, you know, I was really pleased with the CDC came out with that guideline, and I think that that guideline can save lives.

Shani Hosten: Great. Thank you again. Such important information, and I just wanted to reiterate one number that you shared, the 1-800-273-TALK, T-A-L-K. That was a great tip for us, too. So, Dr. Webb, why do some people get COVID while others do not? And what are we learning about the risk factors and the role of genetics?

Cameron Webb: Well, I think there’s still a lot that we’re, that we’re learning. You know, the dynamics of the different variants of COVID-19 have continued to evolve. So I think right at this point, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that there’s any genetic susceptibility that people have to COVID that’s different from individual to individual, but that certainly is the case. There are a lot of theories about that in the earliest weeks and months of this pandemic. I think the simplest explanation is that folks who have any compromise or any conditions that kind of lessen or lower their body’s ability to engage in upper respiratory infection, they tend to have more and often more severe infections. What we’ve seen is that, you know, with the omicron variant in particular, it seems very effective at infecting pretty much everybody. And so the biggest predictor of whether or not somebody is going to get COVID-19 is exposure as opposed to genetics. And so your ability to minimize exposure is important, and you do that through layered mitigation strategies like mask wearing, like avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and like just being very careful about who you are around, and leveraging tests effectively, both for you and for the people who you’re going to come into contact with, those at-home rapid tests can be a really helpful tool in creating safe spaces when you do spend time with people indoors, including family members. And so those are some of the key dynamics.

But what I would say is that everyone can be susceptible. I’ve mentioned earlier that I’m vaccinated and boosted and part of why, I’m 38 years old, and I’m pretty healthy, but I think at the same time, I know how unpredictable COVID-19 can be. I’ve seen professional basketball players who are sick for weeks and weeks on end because of COVID-19, and physically they’re at the top of their game. And I’ve seen octogenarians who’ve had very mild cases of COVID-19, right? So it’s impossible to predict exactly how this is going to go. The best thing to do is to just protect yourself at all times. But we are doing really robust trials right now and studies through the NIH [National Institutes of Health] to answer some of these questions over time, and also look at the impact of long COVID and track that over time. So, even though we’re nearly two years into this, you know, nearly two years since, we’ve been two years since the first case, I think that it’s still a lot for us to learn and that’s a stitch in time in the medical community. It’s a lot for us to learn about why risk profiles differ so much and what we can do about it.

Shani Hosten: Excellent. And Dr. Webb, one last question definitely around your work on the equity front, and can we talk about the unequal impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic groups? And new CDC data says that Blacks and Latinos are 2½ times more likely to be hospitalized, and nearly two times more likely to die as a result of COVID infections. And you know, this is alarming and a pronounced difference. Why is this, and what can be done?

Cameron Webb: It’s alarming, it’s upsetting, it’s unacceptable. And I think that we’re, where we stand on it, we’ve done a tremendous amount of work around these inequities. And if you actually look back over the course of this pandemic, as recently as three months ago, the rate of deaths from COVID-19 were lower in communities of color than in the white community. So what happens is we see that it changes over time. A lot of that was driven by the vaccination effort. At this point, if you, you know, the most recent survey we have from the CDC shows that 86 percent of Latino adults have had at least one shot of the vaccine, 85 percent of white adults, 84 percent of Black adults. That is a level of equitable vaccine distribution that we don’t have in nearly any medical intervention, which is really a testament to the work of community members, community leaders, faith-based organizations, community health workers, local providers, nurses, public health officials and the like. This happens from people talking to people they know and getting the word out and making sure that the entire communities are protected and cared for. But omicron flipped that on its head again.

What this virus has done time and time again is it’s exploited a lot of the cracks in our society. And so when people see these differences, these inequities emerge, and my observation is that it tends to fall along the same fault lines we have more broadly, and those fault lines are really structured along the lines of systemic and structural dynamics. Structural inequality, systemic racism is driving a lot of the differences that we’re seeing. That impacts who’s a frontline essential worker, that impacts who has increased risk for chronic disease at a younger age, that impacts who has access to health care services and supports. That impacts who is able to miss work and isolate, and who’s not. And so because of all of those factors, we see that those are driving a lot of the outcomes that we see. We can work around it by getting more and more people vaccinated and protected, by getting free tests and masks out to people, by trying to, you know, fill in some of the gaps. But as the president said time and time again, we can’t spend all of our time filling in the gaps; we have to get upstream with those problems and really change our society to make a more equitable society. We’re paying the penance right now for an inequitable societal structure for generations. And I think this has to be that clarion call for us to change that dynamic. I think we’re seeing some of that. You know, I know that that’s been a big part of the president’s agenda. It’s going to require some action from Congress. It’s going to require some boldness. But I think that it’s high time, and we’re seeing the price of not acting, and that price is being paid in lives, in communities and experiences. It’s just unacceptable.

Shani Hosten: And thank you, Dr. Webb. And I want to reiterate before we move on, something that we all can do to empower ourselves. And that was around your point around ordering the four free test kits online by either calling the toll-free number at 1-800-232-0233, or either going to www.COVIDtests.gov to order the free four test kits, COVID-19 test kits. So again, thank you Dr. Webb for those comments; very, very helpful information. And speaking of information, we’re going to move on.

As misinformation continues to undermine public health efforts to end the pandemic, and with the pandemic now entering in its third year, we’re going to address misinformation for the next few weeks in a segment called 4-Minute Fact-check. And we’ll ask an expert to help debunk misleading claims and understand why misinformation is so problematic. And today I’d like to welcome Alex Mahadevan, who’s program manager at MediaWise. Alex, why do drugs that are not antivirals, such as hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin, continue to resurface as options despite warnings about the risk and a lack of demonstrated efficacy?

Alex Mahadevan: Well, that’s a great question. Well, the anti-vax movement has really latched on to these unproven treatments as what they see as alternatives to vaccination. They are very vocal, they know how to get their message out by working social media algorithms, through rallies across the country and, of course, you have folks like Joe Rogan who are sharing false information about these unproven treatments. They’re sharing it with millions. But you also have groups like Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. Now, this is a group that has medical doctors that are promoting and prescribing these unproven medications. Now see, these misinformers, they take a very, very small kernel of truth that yes, there are researchers that are studying ivermectin to treat COVID or that hydroxychloroquine was for a very short time used, and they take that and twist it into a false narrative, claiming that there is medical proof it works. Well, neither are proven or FDA-approved to treat COVID, and most recently there’s this new Brazilian paper out that seems to support claims about ivermectin and COVID, but it has been immediately widely criticized as missing major scientific components. So, you know, you need to stay vigilant when you see this stuff online about these types of treatments because, unfortunately, you will continue seeing it.

Shani Hosten: So thank you, Alex. And just a quick follow-up question for you. A recent assessment found that social media channels remain flow to remove COVID disinformation. What are some of the latest examples of false or misleading information that are circulating online right now?

Alex Mahadevan: What a timely question, because I understand that there are some questions coming in about posts about this so-called NeoCoV. Now I’m looking at these posts online, on Twitter that are claiming that there is this new coronavirus strain, I guess called NeoCoV, that is quote, deadly and quote, highly transmissible. One of these posts says 1 in 3 dead. Well, I am saying this is missing major context. A Reuters fact-check will tell you that, yes, there are researchers that are studying a coronavirus that, yes, is called NeoCoV; however, it’s only been detected in bats. This is just another example of misinformers exploiting that small kernel of truth.

And you know, another thing I want to point out, this is something, and some more examples here: Anytime a celebrity dies, you know, recently unfortunately we lost Betty White, Louie Anderson, Meatloaf, or Bob Saget, there are always these false posts that spread claiming that they died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Now there is no evidence that there is any connection between the two, but unfortunately when news like that breaks, these are some of the first posts that go viral. So again, that’s another thing you really need to stay vigilant about on social media, especially around breaking news.

Shani Hosten: Thank you, Alex, for sharing that and reminding us to stay vigilant and thank you for debunking that disinformation. So now it’s time for us to address more of your questions with Dr. Webb and Dr. Farro. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff. So Jesse, who do we have on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next caller is going to be for Dr. Farro, and this is going to be from Peggy in Missouri.

Shani Hosten: Peggy in Missouri, go ahead with your question.

Peggy: Yes, I have got a question. Are there any free Zoom programs on the computer for mental health to talk to other people and stay connected to people for our mental health and to eliminate loneliness, anxiety and depression?

Samantha Farro: So, thank you, Peggy, for that question. I appreciate that. In terms of free Zoom programs, there are lots of different efforts in various parts of the country to try to mitigate loneliness among older adults. And I think, you know, so certainly different churches, synagogues, organizations within your community may have things like conversation groups or discussion groups where you’re just getting together with people. I know lots of local libraries have started hosting Zoom coffee dates, where they have different members kind of get together and just kind of chat with each other, meet new people in the community and, again, trying to really reduce the isolation and loneliness that has been such a problem during the pandemic. And so my recommendation would be certainly to check in with your local library systems, also local senior centers also have a lot of programs like that. Those are some of the free resources or the community resources that I know have been efforts that have been being tried throughout the different areas of the country to try to mitigate this.

Some other programs, you know, one program that we have here locally that’s through our geriatric primary care clinic is something called COAST-IT. And this is a program that was developed through our, the University of Colorado, where we pair older adults with our students who are in training to help our students practice communication skills and to help mitigate the isolation that a lot of older adults are experiencing. The COAST-IT program is something that’s based here at the University of Colorado, but it’s something that’s available to seniors anywhere in the nation. So if that’s something that you wanted to volunteer for, that’s certainly a free, opportunity to connect with young folks and to help future health care workers to be able to communicate better. You know, that’s a part of any health care worker’s responsibilities, is we’ve got to be able to communicate with patients and with clients. So you would also be contributing to the health care workforce in doing that. So those are some ideas for ways that you can kind of connect and try to join conversation groups. I suggest again, local senior centers, local libraries have a lot of programs like that. Local churches or synagogues also doing some programming like that, and then if you don’t find anything in your local area, you can certainly go to the University of Colorado’s Multidisciplinary Center on Aging and look at the information about our program called COAST-IT.

Shani Hosten: Great, great. Thank you so much, Dr. Farro. I also wanted to just chime in with two other pieces of information that may help from an isolation perspective. There’s an article at self.com. And if you look there is 10 online support groups for anyone who may be struggling right now. And then also I encourage everyone to look at aarp.org and look for ways that you can connect with others tech-free. There’s a great article on aarp.org as well. So thank you. Probably we have time for one more question. Jesse, who do we have on the line?

Jesse Salinas: Yeah, this next question is going to be for Dr. Webb. And this one comes from Mary in South Carolina.

Shani Hosten: Hi, Mary in South Carolina. You want to go ahead with your question for Dr. Webb, please?

Mary: Sure, thank you, everyone. There’s some great information that I’m hearing by the way. Thank you for holding this conference call. I just turned 60 years old and my husband is 62, and he is recovering from a hemorrhagic stroke. So I am his primary caregiver, but I do have an agency that helps me with a caregiver who has recently contracted COVID. And I need to know when is a safe time to allow her to come back into the home.

Cameron Webb: Well, first off, you know, I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s recent stroke, I know that’s tough, and I hope that he’s doing better, but I also know that it’s tough being a primary caregiver. So hopefully you’re finding some ways to take care of yourself, and it just makes it so much harder with the pandemic and with this added layer of risks and concerns with folks who are coming into the house to help. CDC offered some recent guidance and an update on the guidance to really help give people a sense on how long they should be isolated in the setting of a COVID infection. In CDC’s guidance, you know, it is rooted in the original guidance, which talks about 10 days of isolation. What we’ve learned over time is that about 80 percent of the transmission of COVID from one individual to another tends to happen in those first five days. And that’s the reason why CDC said that people should absolutely remain isolated. And, so in this instance, this would be the individual staying out of your home for at least five days from the onset of their symptoms. From there, there are a couple of things. That individual can get tested at five days, and if they test negative, the risk of their transmitting COVID to you is a lot lower, but they still should strictly wear a mask at all times for an additional five days. And I’ll be clear, they should strictly wear a mask at all times around you no matter what, that just should be a good practice, and that’s what we do in health care settings all the time right now. And so, I think that idea of strict mask wearing is really important for a full 10 days from the start of anyone’s symptoms; the idea of isolation being required for those five days.

And I think the other thing to keep in mind is, you know, I always encourage folks, especially when somebody has recently been ill, to employ an abundance of caution here. And so if I were in your position, what I would recommend is really just exploring, especially with an agency, the idea of sending someone else to assist or, depending on what the resources look like, finding some alternate assistance for a full 10 days, because that’s kind of really minimizing the likelihood of the additional transmission of disease. Certainly talk to your provider and get their recommendations and their thoughts, but I think that given what you’ve just described in terms of risk, I think I would employ an abundance of caution here, recognizing that you really want to go above and beyond to keep your husband and yourself safe. I think for both of you, getting sick with COVID would be really hard for the family dynamic, especially in this moment. So best wishes to you moving forward, and it hope your husband continues to get better.

Shani Hosten: Thank you, Dr. Webb and we add, you know, our wishes as well. And again, aarp.org for caregiver information for resources as well. So this has been an informative discussion today. Thanks to each of our expert panelists, and for those who were able to join for answering questions and sharing information, and thank you, our AARP members, our volunteers and listeners for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership 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 are 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 today’s questions and answers event can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus on February 11th. And if you’re looking for Medicare assistance during COVID-19, please visit shiphelp, S-H-I-P H-E-L-P.org/COVID-19. Go there if your question has not been addressed, and you will find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. We hope you’ve learned something today, listening in today, that can help keep you and your family and loved ones stay healthy. Please join us on February 24th at 1 p.m. for another live coronavirus Q&A event. We hope you can join us. Thank you and have a good day. This concludes our call.

[00:00:00] Shani Hosten: Hello. I am AARP Vice President Shani Hosten, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about coronavirus. Before we begin, if you would like to hear this telephone town hall in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. [Repeated en Español]

[00:00:26] AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership has been working to promote health and well-being for older Americans for more than 60 years. In the face of the global coronavirus pandemic, AARP is providing information and resources to help older adults and those caring for them. While new coronavirus cases are falling rapidly across the country, the impact to our health and mental wellness is far-reaching. COVID fatigue, conflicting guidelines and general fear and anxiety about our health and wellness is taking a toll. Many older Americans, while hopeful, are still concerned and looking for answers on ways to stay safe and protected.

[00:01:09] 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, you know this is similar to a radio talk show, and you have the opportunity to ask your questions live. For those of you joining us on the phone, if you would like to ask a question about the coronavirus pandemic, press *3 on your telephone 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.

[00:01:48] Hello, if you are just joining, I am Shani Hosten with AARP, and I want to welcome you to this important discussion about the global coronavirus pandemic. We’re talking with leading experts and taking your questions live today. To ask your question, please press *3, and if you’re joining on Facebook or YouTube, you can post your questions in the comments.

[00:02:11] We have some outstanding guests joining us today, including a member of the White House COVID-19 Response Team, a mental health expert, and a misinformation expert. We will also be joined by my colleague, 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 today. Again, to ask your question, please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with an AARP staff, or if you’re joining us on Facebook or YouTube, place your questions in the comments.

[00:03:00] Now I would like to welcome our guests today. Cameron Webb, M.D., senior policy advisor, COVID-19 equity, White House COVID-19 Response Team. Welcome, Dr. Webb.

[00:03:16] Cameron Webb: Thanks so much for having me.

[00:03:17] Shani Hosten: Thanks for being here today, Dr. Webb. Next Samantha Farro, Ph.D., licensed psychologist, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus Multidisciplinary Center on Aging. Welcome, Dr. Farro.

[00:03:34] Samantha Farro: It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

[00:03:36] Shani Hosten: Thank you for joining us, Dr. Farro. Alex Mahadevan, Program Manager for MediaWise. Thank you for joining us today, Alex.

[00:03:47] Alex Mahadevan: Thank you for the opportunity.

[00:03:50] Shani Hosten: So let’s get started with the discussion. Just a reminder: To ask your question, please press *3 on your telephone keypad, or you can drop it in the comments section on Facebook or YouTube. Let’s get started. Dr. Webb, should we be concerned about the omicron subvariant? What is it? And why is it nicknamed “stealth” omicron?

[00:04:14] Cameron Webb: Well, you know, I think right now the most important thing to know is that this kind of quote-unquote “stealth” omicron, or BA.2 as we call it, is still a relatively small proportion, around 3 percent, 3 to 4 percent of the cases that we’ve sequenced here in the United States. That’s grown from just over 1 percent when we looked back last week, but it isn’t by any stretch a dominant version that we’re seeing. First off, the reason why it’s called stealth omicron is that there’s a particular test procedure that we use to identify omicron because it was missing a particular gene. And so this version of omicron, this BA.2, is different because it’s harder to distinguish from the delta variant, and that’s why it’s harder for us to describe, even though it is directly descended from the original omicron.

[00:05:06] The key thing here is, you know, when we think about what we should be worried about, we’ve got some early information that’s helpful. The first is that it doesn’t appear to be causing significant differences in clinical outcomes. It does seem like it’s able to move a little bit faster when we look at data from other countries, but not in the way that omicron moved faster than delta. It just kind of slowly over time displaces BA.1, or kind of the original omicron, but it’s not leading, as far as we’ve seen so far, to a significantly worse illness. And the good news is we’re seeing that the vaccines still seemed to be effective in terms of the early information and even some of our monoclonal antibodies, the treatments that we use. We just had a report from the manufacturer of Sotrovimab that it is still effective against BA.2 or quote-unquote “stealth” omicron. Sotrovimab with the only monoclonal antibody that we’re still using as a treatment for folks with COVID-19 because omicron rendered two of the other monoclonals not as effective.

[00:06:13] So the key takeaways here are that we’re keeping a close eye on it. It’s the BA.2 or stealth omicron, it’s labeled a variant of concern because it’s part of that omicron lineage. So we’re watching and tracking it very closely. So far, it’s not dominant. Again, about 96 percent or so are still BA.1 or the original omicron, but we’ll keep seeing how that really changes the dynamics in different communities. And I think with so many people vaccinated, boosted, and then a lot of folks who recently had natural infections, that may limit its ability to really cause a lot of problems. So we’ll keep watching it.

[00:06:51] Shani Hosten: Thank you. Thanks, Dr. Webb. You know, a quick follow-up on that. What is the risk of infection for vaccinated older adults? And is it possible for someone infected with the delta or omicron variant to be reinfected?

[00:07:07] Cameron Webb: You know, I think the risk of infection, we do know that vaccinated and boosted individuals can test positive for COVID-19; you can have an infection. It’s less common, but it certainly can happen. The thing is the main purpose of the vaccines that were administered, and we continue to use, is that they prevent folks from being hospitalized and dying. That’s their greatest utility. And we know that for vaccinated and boosted individuals at large, they are 97 times less likely to die from COVID-19 than someone who’s unvaccinated. So if you’re vaccinated and boosted, it’s a huge advantage to you in avoiding the most severe outcomes associated with COVID-19, but it doesn’t mean that there’s no risk of getting an infection; it’s just more likely to be an either asymptomatic or more mild illness. We have seen that, even among some seniors over the age of 75, we’ve seen a greater percentage have been getting sicker in the setting of omicron. And so, you know, that’s always concerning. And so that’s part of why, if you’ve done everything you can — been vaccinated, been boosted, wearing masks in different places — that’s why it’s so important that we continue to pass along that messaging to all of our society to limit the impact, because ultimately, it’s always going to be the most vulnerable individuals, the folks facing the highest risk, who suffer when folks who face lower risks don’t take this very seriously. So, but I think the good news is cases are on the decline. We’re starting to see hospitalizations on the decline. We just need to stay really disciplined to see those numbers continue to decrease so that the risk is much lower on some of the more vulnerable individuals in our society.

[00:08:50] Shani Hosten: Good, good. Great advice, Dr. Webb. Thank you for sharing those insights for us. So, thank you. So now let’s turn to Dr. Farro.

[00:08:59] Americans say that the U.S. is experiencing a mental health crisis right now, a view that is bipartisan. According to a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, 80 percent of Republicans, 91 percent of Democrats and 93 percent of independents told pollsters there is a mental health crisis today. Do you agree, Dr. Farro, and then what are the challenges that we face, and how do you see the mental health services adapting to meet these unprecedented needs?

[00:09:31] Samantha Farro: That’s an excellent question, thank you. And I definitely would agree that we are facing a substantial mental health impact related to COVID-19 and the extraordinary challenges of the past two years. Billions of people globally have experienced upheaval in their daily routines, isolation due to restrictions and lockdown, information overload — including substantial misinformation — and, of course, the deaths of loved ones. So all of this results in many people having things like anxiety, depression, substance use issues, sleep disruptions, loneliness, and, of course, grief. In response to this telehealth and telephone mental health treatment services have really exploded in use during the pandemic. Mental health providers almost overnight launched telehealth and telephone-based services to ensure that patients had safe access to mental health treatment. We have also seen a surge in the use of digital mental health interventions and mental health and stress reduction websites, or smartphone apps. So many, many resources are now available to support you in improving your own mental health. For example, some of the websites that I share with my patients fairly routinely include the National Institute on Aging, which has wonderful information with tips for mitigating loneliness, increasing physical activity and exercise, and tips on healthy eating. The Mindfulness Awareness Research Center at UCLA has fantastic resources and exercises to help you build better stress management skills, and the National Sleep Foundation has a wonderful website full of information on how you can improve your sleep using evidence-based sleep hygiene, stimulus control and relaxation skills. So those are just some of the ways that we have kind of adapted to try to meet these needs and make sure that folks are being able to take good care of their mental health during this challenging time.

[00:11:44] Shani Hosten: Great, great insights and resources that you shared, Dr. Farro. So thank you. A quick follow-up to that. Will one of the most enduring elements of the pandemic be the stunning increase in mental health needs?

[00:11:58] Samantha Farro: Another good question. I, you know, it certainly does not have to be. One thing I want to make very clear is that mental health disorders are treatable conditions. So if you or someone you know in your family or your friends is struggling, it is vital to get treatment. The same way that we wouldn’t recommend that you neglect physical health issues, we don’t recommend that you neglect your mental health. If you need information for how to get treatment, SAMHSA’s [Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration] National Helpline provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support group, and local organizations. It’s confidential, it’s free, and it’s available 24 hours every single day. So if you or a family member need resources for mental or substance use treatment, you can call that hotline at 1-800-662-HELP, H-E-L-P, to get information. Another option is you can also contact, have contact with your primary care provider or your family doctor to discuss what local mental health and substance use treatment options are in your area.

[00:13:12] And finally, there are also many ways you can be proactive in caring for your mental health. For example, creating and maintaining healthy daily routines can have a tremendous impact on mental health, including activities like exercising regularly, especially aerobic exercise, keeping a consistent sleep routine, making sure that you are engaging in enjoyable activities every single day and socially connecting with people, even if by telephone or video instead of in person. I also recommend taking breaks from watching too much news media and avoiding the use of alcohol or drugs to cope. Again, we know that mental and behavioral health disorders are treatable. So these are all the things that we can do to protect our mental health at this time.

[00:14:03] Shani Hosten: Thank you so much for that helpful information, and certainly our mental health is just as equally important as our physical health. So thank you, Dr. Farro.

[00:14:12] Dr. Webb, it was announced just last week that Medicare will soon pay for at-home COVID tests purchased from retailers. When will this begin and how will it work?

[00:14:24] Cameron Webb: Yeah, that’s definitely, it’s big news to make sure that Medicare is covering these tests. For so many people, they’ve been looking for opportunities to obtain these over-the-counter COVID-19 tests. And again, these are the rapid antigen tests that can give you a response, an answer as to whether or not you have COVID within 15 to 30 minutes. And that’s very different from the laboratory-based PCR tests that sometimes take a day or more to get responses back and so, then again, to get results back. And so, in terms of background, the administration is doing a lot to try to get more of these over-the-counter tests to folks, and one of those things, of course, the president is sending out half a billion tests directly to people’s residences, so folks can go to COVIDtests.gov and request free over-the-counter tests to have them delivered, and that’s four free tests that are delivered. And then also we’ve been sending these free over-the-counter tests to community health centers all over the country. But we worked specifically with insurers to also make sure that was the case. And so for the over 50 percent of Americans who have private insurance, their insurer’s required to cover eight tests per month per insured individual, and that began on January 15th.

[00:15:38] One of the questions was how and when would this apply to Medicare? So starting in early spring, people with Medicare will be able to go to an eligible pharmacy or other entities that are participating in this initiative, and they can pick up their over-the-counter COVID-19 tests for free through their Medicare Part B coverage. And so, more information about eligible pharmacies and other entities that are going to be participating in this initiative, that will be available in the coming weeks. Once it’s up and running, CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] is going to encourage beneficiaries to ask their local pharmacy or their health care provider whether they’re participating in this initiative. So it’s just yet another one of the mechanisms to make sure that people can get access to free tests. To be clear, individuals, so for seniors, you will not need to buy the test first and then be reimbursed. This new initiative is going to enable payment directly to the eligible pharmacies and those other entities that are participating, and so it will allow you to pick up the test at no cost at the point of sale and without needing to be reimbursed. And so CMS is currently working around the clock to implement this initiative. We anticipate it will be available to people, again, in the coming weeks, but really, I think it’s going to be an important addition to the ways that people can get access to tests. I mentioned COVIDtest.gov as one of the places where people can go today to get free over-the-counter tests, and also there are over 20,000 free testing sites nationwide that are currently offering low- to no-cost COVID-19 tests. And so, lots of different options for right now, but we’re excited to have this one up and running very soon.

[00:17:17] Shani Hosten: Great, thank you for sharing that. And it is very exciting to see the work around the free test kits. So we look forward to hearing more updates as they evolve around those. So, as a reminder, to ask your question, please press *3. We’re going to take your live questions very soon. But before we do, I want to bring in Megan O’Reilly who’s vice president, health and family, of our Government Affairs at AARP department. Welcome, Megan.

[00:17:46] Megan O’Reilly: Delighted to be here, Shani.

[00:17:49] So we just heard, Megan, that Dr. Webb talked about the announcement that Medicare will finally start covering the cost of at-home COVID test kits soon. So, reiterating that this is good news and that’s something that AARP fought to make happen, isn’t it?

[00:18:04] Megan O’Reilly: Absolutely, we did. AARP has been hard at work advocating to make this a reality. And we really join Dr. Webb in our appreciation about the news. Sixty-four million Americans are on Medicare, and older Americans are among the most at risk of suffering serious complications from COVID. We’re happy Medicare will begin providing free over-the-counter at home COVID tests this spring.

[00:18:31] So until this happens, every American household is still eligible to receive four free at-home COVID tests through the mail. How can people order these tests?

[00:18:44] Megan O’Reilly: You can order your four free tests online or by calling a toll-free number. To request at-home tests online, as Dr. Webb mentioned, go to www.COVIDtest.gov, or you can call toll free 1-800-232-0233. Once you sign up, the tests will be mailed to your address directly.

[00:19:10] Wonderful. And just to reiterate again, that’s www.COVIDtests.gov or 1-800-232-0233. Again, anything else on the advocacy front, Megan?

[00:19:28] Megan O’Reilly: Yes, we remain working hard to urge the Senate to allow Medicare to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices. We know that 80 percent of voters across parties support this change and it would save seniors and Medicare billions of dollars. Also, we’re urging the White House to reinstate emergency paid leave and a potential supplemental COVID spending package. We need to make sure that people with serious illnesses who are exposed to or have COVID, as well as their caregivers, don’t have to lose their incomes. And finally, good news on the nursing home front. For the first time, the government has begun posting staff turnover rates and weekend staff levels for nursing homes on the medicare.gov/care-compare website. AARP has long fought for this type of transparency, and we encourage everybody with a loved one in a nursing home to visit the new Care Compare website.

[00:20:26] Thank you, Megan. And finally, the U.S. hit a solemn milestone last Friday. More than 900,000 Americans have now lost their lives due to COVID. And while new daily cases have been decreasing, deaths in the U.S. have accelerated. Any parting thoughts on this, Megan?

[00:20:46] Megan O’Reilly: You know, 900,000 deaths is a tragedy, and our hearts go out to all those who have lost someone. AARP wants everyone to stay well, especially as the risk of dying from COVID is significantly higher for older people. In the U.S., more than three-quarters of those who have died from COVID have been 65 or older. This is why we hold these town halls, and why we share trustworthy resources and information. Most deaths are occurring among those who are unvaccinated Please, if you haven’t already done so, get your vaccine and booster shot, and make sure your loved ones get boosted, too. AARP will continue to keep fighting for your protection and financial relief, but let’s take care of ourselves and each other to keep everyone healthy and safe.

[00:21:34] Thank you, Megan, for being here today, and for all that you and your team are doing on the advocacy front. Thank you.

[00:21:39] Megan O’Reilly: Thank you.

[00:21:42] It’s now time to address your questions about the coronavirus with Dr. Cameron Webb and Dr. Samantha Farro. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff to share your question. If you would like to listen in Spanish, press *0 on your telephone keypad now. [Repeated en Español]

[00:22:09] I’d now like to bring my AARP colleague, Jesse Salinas, to help facilitate your calls. Welcome, Jesse.

[00:22:18] Jesse Salinas: So good to be here today, Shani.

[00:22:20] Shani Hosten: So, Jesse, let’s take our first question.

[00:22:24] Jesse Salinas: Yep. Our first question is going to be from Andrea in Nebraska.

[00:22:30] Shani Hosten: Great. Hi, Andrea, in Nebraska. Let’s go ahead with your question.

[00:22:38] Andrea: Yes, am I on?

[00:22:39] Shani Hosten: You’re on, Andrea. How are you today?

[00:22:42] Andrea: Yeah, my question is, and you kind of answered it, it’s about the vulnerability of people with boosters to getting it. They talk and they say that the most vulnerable are people who have underlying issues, or older. And I don’t know for sure; I’m, my husband and I are 76 and 77. We’re in good health. Are we in the category of the vulnerable because we’re that age or— we’re healthy, or is it people who are older and kind of feeble?

[00:23:17] Shani Hosten: Thank you for your question. Dr. Webb, would you address that for us, please?

[00:23:24] Cameron Webb: [inaudible] I think that that’s an important point because it’s important to keep in mind not everybody who’s reached a certain age has the same level of risk. A lot of the risk that we see with COVID-19 in general is rooted in a number of other chronic conditions like diabetes, like heart disease, like obesity, like asthma or other lung disease. And so, you know, over the life course, people have more time to accumulate various diseases or greater risk of cancer, and which can lead to immunocompromise. And so when you put all those things together, that’s part of what we see in terms of what leads to greater risk among older individuals. I think even when we control for a lot of that though, for folks who are older than the age of 75, we just see that the data continues to suggest that COVID-19, and even, which is even true with the omicron variant, can lead to more severe illness. And so I think that because of that, I would take it seriously. I know that there’s a, there’s a lot of kind of news and coverage that describes the omicron variant as milder. But I think what we’ve seen, and I see this in my work as an internal medicine doctor in the hospital working on the COVID unit, is that omicron, just because the news describes it as milder, doesn’t mean that it’s mild for every individual. In fact, my hospital had its highest rate of hospitalizations from COVID-19 just two weeks ago. So that’s one thing that I think people need to know, and by and large, that’s driven by folks who are older, folks who are immunocompromised, and folks who have lots of medical conditions.

[00:24:56] And so, what I would say is that yes, age does relate to some of that risk but being vaccinated and boosted is really critical for protecting you. So for— if you were to compare the risk of severe outcomes from somebody who is over— I would say well over 90 percent of folks who are over 75 are vaccinated, but if you were to contrast a boosted individual and a non-boosted individual, there’s more protection, there are fewer hospitalizations, there are fewer deaths in those individuals who are boosted. So vaccinated and boosted is kind of the best status you can have in terms of protection against omicron in the worst outcomes that it can provide. And if you’ve done both of those things, then I think the next piece to keep in mind is make sure that when you’re out and about, make sure you wear a good fitting, high-quality mask, and we’re recommending, N95 masks or KN95 masks while the levels of transmission are as high as they are because we’ve seen that those are even more effective against omicron. If you put those layers of protection together, that’s what keeps you your safest against omicron.

[00:26:03] Ultimately, this advice is general in nature. I think the best way to evaluate and understand your risk is through talking to your individual health care provider. But, you know, speaking broadly, I would say when you layer these different mitigation strategies — you wear masks, you avoid crowded indoor spaces, and then you make sure you have that immunologic protection with vaccines and boosters — you put those things together and you couple that with testing if you become symptomatic, and the value of the therapeutics, like the monoclonal antibodies or the oral antivirals, you see how we can put together a mechanism to minimize your risk of getting sick from COVID-19, even with omicron.

[00:26:42] Shani Hosten: Great, thank you, Dr. Webb, for that information. So let’s go back to the line. Who do we have next, Jesse?

[00:26:48] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next question is going to be for Dr. Farro. And this question comes from Kevin in Ohio on Facebook. Kevin says, “I suffer from occasional depression but have been fine. Is there anything I should be doing in light of the pandemic?”

[00:27:04] Shani Hosten: Great. Thank you, Kevin.

[00:27:06] Samantha Farro: Yeah, thank you, Kevin. I think that’s actually something that a lot of folks are faced with right now. Maybe this is the first time that they’ve experienced depression symptoms or it’s relatively mild depression symptoms. A lot of what I discussed earlier is what I would recommend. You know, there is a tremendous amount that we can do in terms of protecting our mental health and mitigating depression symptoms through the use of creating and maintaining healthy daily routines. There is a lot of evidence to support the use of physical exercise and particularly, again, aerobic exercise and how it impacts our mood. It can really when we have a daily routine or a weekly routine that includes physical exercise regularly, we just know that that helps protect our brain health, including our mental health.

[00:28:03] The same thing is true when we are able to maintain consistent sleep routines. Using principles around sleep hygiene, where you have a consistent sleep schedule, you’re avoiding daytime napping, you’re making sure that you’re not bringing screens into the bedroom at nighttime; I hear a lot of folks during the pandemic who have talked about, you know, bringing their smartphones or iPads into the bedroom with them and just kind of scrolling and this can really disrupt sleep routines. And we know that sleep is absolutely vital for protecting our mental health and mitigating things like depression symptoms. So I think those are really important aspects to maintaining mental health and mitigating and reducing depression symptoms, is keeping a good sleep routine and keeping regular physical exercise. There are also other things you can do, as I mentioned, connecting with treatment, you know, some of the most effective interventions for depression include a combination of medication treatment and psychotherapy. So there are lots of different options but in terms of behavioral strategies or things that you can do on your own to try to care for your mental health and reduce depression, I think exercise and sleep are some of the most important ones.

[00:29:26] Shani Hosten: Very helpful information, Dr. Farro, some very helpful tips for us. So thank you for sharing that. Jessie, we have time for a few more questions. Who do we have next on the line?

[00:29:37] Jesse Salinas: Great, our next question is going to be for Dr. Webb, and this one’s going to come from Joan in Indiana.

[00:29:42] Shani Hosten: Hi, Joan from Indiana. Go ahead with your question for Dr. Webb.

[00:29:48] Joan: Oh, hi. Well I’m 86 and a half, and I have a lot of the things. I think I’m pretty healthy but I do have heart trouble and obesity and all these different things, and asthma. Anyways, what I want to know, my one question is, it’s been six months since my booster. My booster was in September, and I’m wondering if they’re going to let me have another booster now.

[00:30:19] Cameron Webb: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think a lot of people have asked about whether or not a fourth shot would be necessary. And some of that question comes from what we’re seeing around the world. In Israel, for instance, they rolled out fourth shots a little bit earlier. And so one thing that we found, and this all starts with understanding the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] and their process, and their process is to look at the data that we have and to use that to guide us in terms of when we make new recommendations. We made the recommendations for boosters because we started to see an increase or an uptick for folks who had been fully vaccinated, so had their first two shots, we were seeing more of them start to show up in hospitals, and that gave us a signal that it was possible that they were having less effectiveness, I guess, of the vaccine and would benefit from a booster. The boosters are really powerful against omicron because it gives you circulating, what’s called neutralizing antibodies. It can stop that virus in its tracks. What’s unclear is how long those neutralizing antibodies last and how long the vaccine remains really effective against the virus. You know, some have suggested that it’s even possible that the vaccine should have been a three-shot series in the first place, and that will provide you with longer-lasting protection.

[00:31:37] So where we are right now is we’re looking at the data on how long that protection lasts with that third shot. It may last much longer than the six months or the five months that we saw with the primary series, because it may have been that it primed your immune system even better to respond to the virus. That remains to be seen in our data. But I can tell you that as of right now, the CDC is not recommending a fourth dose for individuals. Some fourth doses are available for people who have compromised immune systems, where a three-dose regimen is what’s necessary for their primary series and then they can get a booster on top of that. But if you don’t have a compromised immune system — and you can talk to your doctor about whether or not you fit into that category — then right now, three doses, you know, three shots is all that’s recommended and if that changes, CDC certainly will let us know. I, like you, got my booster in September. I’m a health care worker. I am working in rooms with COVID-19 patients every single weekend. I’ll be there tomorrow. And so I’m very eager to know how long my vaccine is protecting me, ’cause it’s also protecting my two young children and my family and my community. And as of right now, I have not gotten that fourth shot because it hasn’t been recommended. And I’m always very careful not to do things that are, you know, not guided by science. And so right now, we’re not guided by science to get a fourth shot, you and I both, but when we are, the CDC will make sure that’s clear, and everybody knows that it’s time to go get another shot if that becomes necessary.

[00:33:09] Shani Hosten: Thank you, Dr. Webb, in providing clarity around that and giving us just the facts. So we have time, Jesse, for one more question in this section. Who else do we have on the line?

[00:33:20] Jesse Salinas: Yep, the next question is going to come from Facebook, and this is from Lisa in Seattle, and Lisa says, and this question is going to be for Dr. Farro, and it’s going to say, “Will the vaccine effectiveness hurt my, or kind of run the risk with my antidepressant meds?”

[00:33:39] Samantha Farro: Yes, thank you, Lisa. That is a great question as well. And like Dr. Webb kind of said a little bit earlier, I don’t, I think that’s something that’s currently being studied. As of now, we are not seeing evidence that vaccines have any negative impact on antidepressant medications. And we are seeing that, well, as I talked about a little bit earlier, that the COVID virus can actually have some impacts in increasing depression, or depression symptoms. And so I would still recommend the vaccine for anybody who is eligible because of the associated risks with getting the, having the virus be something that you’re infected with, versus the vaccine. So the vaccine effectiveness in terms of how it helps reduce inflammation in the brain and how it lowers risk of depression, I think outweighs any questions about whether or not the vaccine mitigates or reduces effectiveness of antidepressant medications. At this point, like I said, that’s still something that’s being studied and so we don’t really have any reason at this point to say not to get the vaccine if you are on antidepressant medications. All of that should still be very effective for you. But again, all of this is something that should be discussed with your health care provider, with your primary care doctor. If you are noticing new symptoms or having something come up that’s new, or struggling with new symptoms, that is something that should really be discussed with your health care provider to ensure that you’re getting the latest guidance and making sure that any new findings that have come up are something that are being taken into account with your treatment plan.

[00:35:34] Shani Hosten: Okay, great. Thank you, thank you so much, Dr. Farro. And thanks to everybody for those questions. And remember, if you’d like to ask a question, please press *3. Now let’s turn back to our experts.

[00:35:48] Dr. Farrow, early studies found at link between a COVID infection and developing neurological or psychiatric conditions afterwards, often within six months. What have scientists found, and can you talk about what to look for in yourself or a loved one if you notice these changes? And what if your loved one is not accustomed to these feelings or doesn’t know how to describe them in words? Can you share a little bit about that with us?

[00:36:16] Samantha Farro: Absolutely, Shani. So similar to kind of what I was just describing with Lisa’s question, research has shown that COVID infections can have both direct and indirect impacts on neurological and mental health. Some of the more direct impacts of COVID that we’re aware of can include neuroinflammation. You know, lots of folks have heard about the loss of taste and smell. You might notice increased cognitive changes or impairment. Some of the more indirect impacts can include increased symptoms of depression, of anxiety, more confusion or feelings of overwhelm, difficulty with concentration or memory and, of course, sleep disruption, the loneliness we’ve talked about.

[00:37:02] Even suicidality is something that can, can be increased in the, in the aftermath of COVID. And so, first and foremost, if you are having thoughts of suicide or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide and needs urgent care, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available. It is free and confidential support, and it can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK, T-A-L-K. Now, if you’re not, if it’s not urgent or it’s not an emergency and you notice some of these symptoms in yourself or in a loved one, again, I recommend consulting with your health care provider or your primary care doctor to discuss what’s going on. It’s very common and often that we may not know how to describe exactly what’s happening, but we may just be aware that something feels off. It’s also very common that we may not notice at all, but our loved ones, our family members notice that something is off with us. So sharing that with your doctor or your health care provider is critical for getting help in identifying what is it that’s going on and finding the best way to treat it.

[00:38:17] Shani Hosten: Excellent, and Dr. Farro, you know, last fall, the CDC updated a list of underlying conditions that put people at higher risk for severe COVID-19, and they added mood disorders. Why are the vaccines so important to those with diagnosed mental health disorders?

[00:38:35] Samantha Farro: Yes, that was an excellent move on the CDC. And I think it’s because we started to get more data about the risks, particularly in the fall of 2021, a meta-analysis was published that, essentially a meta-analysis combined the results across many different studies that included over 91 million people. And it found evidence that people with preexisting mood disorders are at significantly higher risk of hospitalization and death by COVID-19. So this evidence reinforces that mental health conditions like mood disorders are an underlying medical condition that can impact your susceptibility to COVID-19. We know in general that mental health conditions impact immune functioning and resistance to disease and infection. Therefore, again, it is absolutely vital for people with mental health conditions to ensure their safety and health by getting COVID vaccines and booster shots. I think it’s one of the things that, you know, I was really pleased with the CDC came out with that guideline, and I think that that guideline can save lives.

[00:39:52] Shani Hosten: Great. Thank you again. Such important information, and I just wanted to reiterate one number that you shared, the 1-800-273-TALK, T-A-L-K. That was a great tip for us, too. So, Dr. Webb, why do some people get COVID while others do not? And what are we learning about the risk factors and the role of genetics?

[00:40:17] Cameron Webb: Well, I think there’s still a lot that we’re, that we’re learning. You know, the dynamics of the different variants of COVID-19 have continued to evolve. So I think right at this point, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that there’s any genetic susceptibility that people have to COVID that’s different from individual to individual, but that certainly is the case. There are a lot of theories about that in the earliest weeks and months of this pandemic. I think the simplest explanation is that folks who have any compromise or any conditions that kind of lessen or lower their body’s ability to engage in upper respiratory infection, they tend to have more and often more severe infections. What we’ve seen is that, you know, with the omicron variant in particular, it seems very effective at infecting pretty much everybody. And so the biggest predictor of whether or not somebody is going to get COVID-19 is exposure as opposed to genetics. And so your ability to minimize exposure is important, and you do that through layered mitigation strategies like mask wearing, like avoiding crowded indoor spaces, and like just being very careful about who you are around, and leveraging tests effectively, both for you and for the people who you’re going to come into contact with, those at-home rapid tests can be a really helpful tool in creating safe spaces when you do spend time with people indoors, including family members. And so those are some of the key dynamics.

[00:41:46] But what I would say is that everyone can be susceptible. I’ve mentioned earlier that I’m vaccinated and boosted and part of why, I’m 38 years old, and I’m pretty healthy, but I think at the same time, I know how unpredictable COVID-19 can be. I’ve seen professional basketball players who are sick for weeks and weeks on end because of COVID-19, and physically they’re at the top of their game. And I’ve seen octogenarians who’ve had very mild cases of COVID-19, right? So it’s impossible to predict exactly how this is going to go. The best thing to do is to just protect yourself at all times. But we are doing really robust trials right now and studies through the NIH [National Institutes of Health] to answer some of these questions over time, and also look at the impact of long COVID and track that over time. So, even though we’re nearly two years into this, you know, nearly two years since, we’ve been two years since the first case, I think that it’s still a lot for us to learn and that’s a stitch in time in the medical community. It’s a lot for us to learn about why risk profiles differ so much and what we can do about it.

[00:42:53] Shani Hosten: Excellent. And Dr. Webb, one last question definitely around your work on the equity front, and can we talk about the unequal impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic groups? And new CDC data says that Blacks and Latinos are 2½ times more likely to be hospitalized, and nearly two times more likely to die as a result of COVID infections. And you know, this is alarming and a pronounced difference. Why is this, and what can be done?

[00:43:28] Cameron Webb: It’s alarming, it’s upsetting, it’s unacceptable. And I think that we’re, where we stand on it, we’ve done a tremendous amount of work around these inequities. And if you actually look back over the course of this pandemic, as recently as three months ago, the rate of deaths from COVID-19 were lower in communities of color than in the white community. So what happens is we see that it changes over time. A lot of that was driven by the vaccination effort. At this point, if you, you know, the most recent survey we have from the CDC shows that 86 percent of Latino adults have had at least one shot of the vaccine, 85 percent of white adults, 84 percent of Black adults. That is a level of equitable vaccine distribution that we don’t have in nearly any medical intervention, which is really a testament to the work of community members, community leaders, faith-based organizations, community health workers, local providers, nurses, public health officials and the like. This happens from people talking to people they know and getting the word out and making sure that the entire communities are protected and cared for. But omicron flipped that on its head again.

[00:44:32] What this virus has done time and time again is it’s exploited a lot of the cracks in our society. And so when people see these differences, these inequities emerge, and my observation is that it tends to fall along the same fault lines we have more broadly, and those fault lines are really structured along the lines of systemic and structural dynamics. Structural inequality, systemic racism is driving a lot of the differences that we’re seeing. That impacts who’s a frontline essential worker, that impacts who has increased risk for chronic disease at a younger age, that impacts who has access to health care services and supports. That impacts who is able to miss work and isolate, and who’s not. And so because of all of those factors, we see that those are driving a lot of the outcomes that we see. We can work around it by getting more and more people vaccinated and protected, by getting free tests and masks out to people, by trying to, you know, fill in some of the gaps. But as the president said time and time again, we can’t spend all of our time filling in the gaps; we have to get upstream with those problems and really change our society to make a more equitable society. We’re paying the penance right now for an inequitable societal structure for generations. And I think this has to be that clarion call for us to change that dynamic. I think we’re seeing some of that. You know, I know that that’s been a big part of the president’s agenda. It’s going to require some action from Congress. It’s going to require some boldness. But I think that it’s high time, and we’re seeing the price of not acting, and that price is being paid in lives, in communities and experiences. It’s just unacceptable.

[00:46:09] Shani Hosten: And thank you, Dr. Webb. And I want to reiterate before we move on, something that we all can do to empower ourselves. And that was around your point around ordering the four free test kits online by either calling the toll-free number at 1-800-232-0233, or either going to www.COVIDtests.gov to order the free four test kits, COVID-19 test kits. So again, thank you Dr. Webb for those comments; very, very helpful information. And speaking of information, we’re going to move on.

[00:46:46] As misinformation continues to undermine public health efforts to end the pandemic, and with the pandemic now entering in its third year, we’re going to address misinformation for the next few weeks in a segment called 4-Minute Fact-check. And we’ll ask an expert to help debunk misleading claims and understand why misinformation is so problematic. And today I’d like to welcome Alex Mahadevan, who’s program manager at MediaWise. Alex, why do drugs that are not antivirals, such as hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin, continue to resurface as options despite warnings about the risk and a lack of demonstrated efficacy?

[00:47:33] Alex Mahadevan: Well, that’s a great question. Well, the anti-vax movement has really latched on to these unproven treatments as what they see as alternatives to vaccination. They are very vocal, they know how to get their message out by working social media algorithms, through rallies across the country and, of course, you have folks like Joe Rogan who are sharing false information about these unproven treatments. They’re sharing it with millions. But you also have groups like Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. Now, this is a group that has medical doctors that are promoting and prescribing these unproven medications. Now see, these misinformers, they take a very, very small kernel of truth that yes, there are researchers that are studying ivermectin to treat COVID or that hydroxychloroquine was for a very short time used, and they take that and twist it into a false narrative, claiming that there is medical proof it works. Well, neither are proven or FDA-approved to treat COVID, and most recently there’s this new Brazilian paper out that seems to support claims about ivermectin and COVID, but it has been immediately widely criticized as missing major scientific components. So, you know, you need to stay vigilant when you see this stuff online about these types of treatments because, unfortunately, you will continue seeing it.

[00:49:00] Shani Hosten: So thank you, Alex. And just a quick follow-up question for you. A recent assessment found that social media channels remain flow to remove COVID disinformation. What are some of the latest examples of false or misleading information that are circulating online right now?

[00:49:17] Alex Mahadevan: What a timely question, because I understand that there are some questions coming in about posts about this so-called NeoCoV. Now I’m looking at these posts online, on Twitter that are claiming that there is this new coronavirus strain, I guess called NeoCoV, that is quote, deadly and quote, highly transmissible. One of these posts says 1 in 3 dead. Well, I am saying this is missing major context. A Reuters fact-check will tell you that, yes, there are researchers that are studying a coronavirus that, yes, is called NeoCoV; however, it’s only been detected in bats. This is just another example of misinformers exploiting that small kernel of truth.

[00:50:05] And you know, another thing I want to point out, this is something, and some more examples here: Anytime a celebrity dies, you know, recently unfortunately we lost Betty White, Louie Anderson, Meatloaf, or Bob Saget, there are always these false posts that spread claiming that they died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Now there is no evidence that there is any connection between the two, but unfortunately when news like that breaks, these are some of the first posts that go viral. So again, that’s another thing you really need to stay vigilant about on social media, especially around breaking news.

[00:50:41] Shani Hosten: Thank you, Alex, for sharing that and reminding us to stay vigilant and thank you for debunking that disinformation. So now it’s time for us to address more of your questions with Dr. Webb and Dr. Farro. Please press *3 at any time on your telephone keypad to be connected with AARP staff. So Jesse, who do we have on the line?

[00:51:04] Jesse Salinas: Yep, our next caller is going to be for Dr. Farro, and this is going to be from Peggy in Missouri.

[00:51:10] Shani Hosten: Peggy in Missouri, go ahead with your question.

[00:51:13] Peggy: Yes, I have got a question. Are there any free Zoom programs on the computer for mental health to talk to other people and stay connected to people for our mental health and to eliminate loneliness, anxiety and depression?

[00:51:33] Samantha Farro: So, thank you, Peggy, for that question. I appreciate that. In terms of free Zoom programs, there are lots of different efforts in various parts of the country to try to mitigate loneliness among older adults. And I think, you know, so certainly different churches, synagogues, organizations within your community may have things like conversation groups or discussion groups where you’re just getting together with people. I know lots of local libraries have started hosting Zoom coffee dates, where they have different members kind of get together and just kind of chat with each other, meet new people in the community and, again, trying to really reduce the isolation and loneliness that has been such a problem during the pandemic. And so my recommendation would be certainly to check in with your local library systems, also local senior centers also have a lot of programs like that. Those are some of the free resources or the community resources that I know have been efforts that have been being tried throughout the different areas of the country to try to mitigate this.

[00:52:51] Some other programs, you know, one program that we have here locally that’s through our geriatric primary care clinic is something called COAST-IT. And this is a program that was developed through our, the University of Colorado, where we pair older adults with our students who are in training to help our students practice communication skills and to help mitigate the isolation that a lot of older adults are experiencing. The COAST-IT program is something that’s based here at the University of Colorado, but it’s something that’s available to seniors anywhere in the nation. So if that’s something that you wanted to volunteer for, that’s certainly a free, opportunity to connect with young folks and to help future health care workers to be able to communicate better. You know, that’s a part of any health care worker’s responsibilities, is we’ve got to be able to communicate with patients and with clients. So you would also be contributing to the health care workforce in doing that. So those are some ideas for ways that you can kind of connect and try to join conversation groups. I suggest again, local senior centers, local libraries have a lot of programs like that. Local churches or synagogues also doing some programming like that, and then if you don’t find anything in your local area, you can certainly go to the University of Colorado’s Multidisciplinary Center on Aging and look at the information about our program called COAST-IT.

[00:54:27] Shani Hosten: Great, great. Thank you so much, Dr. Farro. I also wanted to just chime in with two other pieces of information that may help from an isolation perspective. There’s an article at self.com. And if you look there is 10 online support groups for anyone who may be struggling right now. And then also I encourage everyone to look at aarp.org and look for ways that you can connect with others tech-free. There’s a great article on aarp.org as well. So thank you. Probably we have time for one more question. Jesse, who do we have on the line?

[00:55:05] Jesse Salinas: Yeah, this next question is going to be for Dr. Webb. And this one comes from Mary in South Carolina.

[00:55:10] Shani Hosten: Hi, Mary in South Carolina. You want to go ahead with your question for Dr. Webb, please?

[00:55:15] Mary: Sure, thank you, everyone. There’s some great information that I’m hearing by the way. Thank you for holding this conference call. I just turned 60 years old and my husband is 62, and he is recovering from a hemorrhagic stroke. So I am his primary caregiver, but I do have an agency that helps me with a caregiver who has recently contracted COVID. And I need to know when is a safe time to allow her to come back into the home.

[00:55:50] Cameron Webb: Well, first off, you know, I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s recent stroke, I know that’s tough, and I hope that he’s doing better, but I also know that it’s tough being a primary caregiver. So hopefully you’re finding some ways to take care of yourself, and it just makes it so much harder with the pandemic and with this added layer of risks and concerns with folks who are coming into the house to help. CDC offered some recent guidance and an update on the guidance to really help give people a sense on how long they should be isolated in the setting of a COVID infection. In CDC’s guidance, you know, it is rooted in the original guidance, which talks about 10 days of isolation. What we’ve learned over time is that about 80 percent of the transmission of COVID from one individual to another tends to happen in those first five days. And that’s the reason why CDC said that people should absolutely remain isolated. And, so in this instance, this would be the individual staying out of your home for at least five days from the onset of their symptoms. From there, there are a couple of things. That individual can get tested at five days, and if they test negative, the risk of their transmitting COVID to you is a lot lower, but they still should strictly wear a mask at all times for an additional five days. And I’ll be clear, they should strictly wear a mask at all times around you no matter what, that just should be a good practice, and that’s what we do in health care settings all the time right now. And so, I think that idea of strict mask wearing is really important for a full 10 days from the start of anyone’s symptoms; the idea of isolation being required for those five days.

[00:57:32] And I think the other thing to keep in mind is, you know, I always encourage folks, especially when somebody has recently been ill, to employ an abundance of caution here. And so if I were in your position, what I would recommend is really just exploring, especially with an agency, the idea of sending someone else to assist or, depending on what the resources look like, finding some alternate assistance for a full 10 days, because that’s kind of really minimizing the likelihood of the additional transmission of disease. Certainly talk to your provider and get their recommendations and their thoughts, but I think that given what you’ve just described in terms of risk, I think I would employ an abundance of caution here, recognizing that you really want to go above and beyond to keep your husband and yourself safe. I think for both of you, getting sick with COVID would be really hard for the family dynamic, especially in this moment. So best wishes to you moving forward, and it hope your husband continues to get better.

[00:58:31] Shani Hosten: Thank you, Dr. Webb and we add, you know, our wishes as well. And again, aarp.org for caregiver information for resources as well. So this has been an informative discussion today. Thanks to each of our expert panelists, and for those who were able to join for answering questions and sharing information, and thank you, our AARP members, our volunteers and listeners for participating in this discussion. AARP, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership 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 are 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 today’s questions and answers event can be found at aarp.org/coronavirus on February 11th. And if you’re looking for Medicare assistance during COVID-19, please visit shiphelp, S-H-I-P H-E-L-P.org/COVID-19. Go there if your question has not been addressed, and you will find the latest updates as well as information created specifically for older adults and family caregivers. We hope you’ve learned something today, listening in today, that can help keep you and your family and loved ones stay healthy. Please join us on February 24th at 1 p.m. for another live coronavirus Q&A event. We hope you can join us. Thank you and have a good day. This concludes our call.

Teleasamblea de AARP sobre el coronavirus:

ómicron, vacunas y bienestar mental

 

Participan:

Dra. Samantha Farro: psicóloga licenciada, University of Colorado,

Campus médico Anschutz, Centro multidisciplinario sobre el envejecimiento

Dr. Cameron Webb: asesor sénior de políticas, COVID-19 Equity, Equipo de respuesta de COVID-19 de la Casa Blanca

Alex Mahadevan: gerente de programa, MediaWise

Megan O'Reilly: invitada especial, vicepresidenta, AARP

Jesse Salinas: organizador, vicepresidente, AARP

Shani Hosten: moderadora, vicepresidenta, AARP

 

Shani Hosten: Hola, soy la vicepresidenta de AARP, Shani Hosten, 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]

Shani Hosten: AARP, una organización no partidista, con membresía y sin fines de lucro, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores 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.

Si bien los nuevos casos de coronavirus están disminuyendo rápidamente en todo el país, el impacto en nuestra salud y bienestar mental es de gran alcance. La fatiga que produce la COVID-19, las pautas contradictorias, el miedo y la ansiedad generales sobre nuestra salud y bienestar están pasando factura. Muchos adultos mayores, aunque esperanzados, todavía están preocupados y buscan respuestas sobre cómo mantenerse seguros y protegidos.

Hoy escucharemos a un impresionante panel de expertos hablar sobre estos temas y otros. Si ya han participado en alguna de nuestras teleasambleas, saben que esto es similar a un programa de entrevistas de radio y tienen la oportunidad de hacer preguntas 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 su teléfono para conectarse con un miembro del personal de AARP que anotará su nombre y su pregunta y los colocará en una lista para hacer esa pregunta en vivo. Si se unen a través de Facebook o YouTube, pueden publicar su pregunta en los comentarios.

Hola, si recién se unen, soy Shani Hosten de AARP y quiero darles la bienvenida a esta importante discusión sobre la pandemia mundial de coronavirus. Hoy hablaremos con expertos destacados y responderemos sus preguntas en vivo. Para hacer una pregunta, presionen * 3 en el teléfono, y si se unen a través de Facebook o YouTube, pueden publicar su pregunta en los comentarios.

Tenemos algunos invitados destacados que nos acompañan hoy, incluido un miembro del equipo de respuesta a la COVID-19 de la Casa Blanca, una experta en salud mental y un experto en desinformación. 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/elcoronavirus 24 horas después de que terminemos hoy.

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 unen a través de Facebook o YouTube, dejen su pregunta en los comentarios. Ahora me gustaría dar la bienvenida a nuestros invitados de hoy. El Dr. Cameron Webb, asesor sénior de políticas, equidad de COVID-19, Equipo de respuesta de COVID-19 de la Casa Blanca. Bienvenido Dr. Webb.

Cameron Webb: Muchas gracias por recibirme.

Shani Hosten: Gracias por estar aquí hoy, Dr. Webb. A continuación, la Dra. Samantha Farro, psicóloga licenciada en University of Colorado, Centro multidisciplinario sobre el envejecimiento del Campus Médico Anschutz. Bienvenida, Dra. Farro.

Samantha Farro: Es un placer estar aquí. Gracias.

Shani Hosten: Gracias por acompañarnos, Dra. Farro. Alex Mahadevan, gerente de programas de MediaWise. Gracias por acompañarnos hoy, Alex.

Alex Mahadevan: Gracias por la oportunidad.

Shani Hosten: Entonces, comencemos con la discusión. Solo como recordatorio, para hacer una pregunta, presionen * 3 en el teclado de su teléfono, o pueden dejarla en la sección de comentarios en Facebook o YouTube. Comencemos, Dr. Webb. ¿Deberíamos preocuparnos por la subvariante ómicron? ¿Qué es? ¿Y por qué se le llama ómicron sigilosa?

Cameron Webb: Bueno, creo que en este momento lo más importante que debemos saber es que este tipo de ómicron sigilosa o BA.2, como la llamamos, todavía es una proporción relativamente pequeña, alrededor del 3%, 3 a 4% de los casos que hemos analizado aquí en Estados Unidos. Creció de poco más del 1% cuando observamos lo de la semana pasada, pero no es de ninguna manera una versión dominante que estamos viendo.

La razón por la que se llama ómicron sigilosa es porque hay un procedimiento de prueba particular que usamos para identificar a ómicron porque le faltaba un gen en particular. Entonces, esta versión de ómicron, esta BA.2, es diferente porque es más difícil de distinguir de la variante delta. Y por eso es más difícil para nosotros describirla, a pesar de que es directamente descendiente de ómicron original.

La clave aquí es que, cuando pensamos en lo que debería preocuparnos, tenemos alguna información inicial que es útil. La primera es que no parece estar causando diferencias significativas en los resultados clínicos. Parece que es capaz de moverse un poco más rápido cuando observamos los datos de otros países, pero no en la forma en que ómicron se movió más rápido que delta, solo que lentamente con el tiempo desplaza a BA.1 o a ómicron original. Pero no conduce, por lo que hemos visto hasta ahora, a una enfermedad significativamente peor.

Y la buena noticia es que estamos viendo que la vacuna todavía parece ser eficaz en términos de la información inicial e incluso algunos de nuestros anticuerpos monoclonales, los tratamientos que usamos, acabamos de recibir un informe del fabricante de sotrovimab que sigue siendo eficaz contra BA.2 u “ómicron sigilosa”. El sotrovimab es el único anticuerpo monoclonal que todavía usamos como tratamiento para personas con COVID-19 porque ómicron hizo que dos de los otros monoclonales no fueran tan eficaces.

Así que lo más importante es que lo estamos vigilando de cerca. Es el BA.2 u ómicron sigiloso, está etiquetado como una variante preocupante porque es parte de ese linaje de ómicron. Así que lo estamos observando y rastreando muy de cerca. Hasta ahora, no es dominante. Una vez más, ese 96% más o menos sigue siendo BA.1 u ómicron original, pero seguiremos viendo cómo eso realmente cambia la dinámica en diferentes comunidades. Y creo que con tantas personas vacunadas, con refuerzo y luego muchas personas que recientemente tuvieron infecciones naturales, eso puede limitar su capacidad para causar muchos problemas. Así que lo seguiremos observando.

Shani Hosten: Gracias. Gracias, Dr. Webb. Un seguimiento rápido de eso. ¿Cuál es el riesgo de infección para los adultos mayores vacunados y es posible que alguien infectado con la variante delta u ómicron se vuelva a infectar?

Cameron Webb: Sabe, creo que el riesgo de infección, sabemos que las personas vacunadas y con el refuerzo pueden dar positivo a COVID-19, pueden tener una infección. Es menos común, pero ciertamente puede suceder. La cosa es que el propósito principal de las vacunas que se administraron y que seguimos usando es evitar que la gente sea hospitalizada y muera. Esa es su mayor utilidad. Y sabemos que las personas vacunadas y con el refuerzo en general tienen 97 veces menos probabilidades de morir de COVID-19 que las personas que no están vacunadas.

Entonces, si uno está vacunado y tiene el refuerzo, tiene una gran ventaja para evitar los resultados más graves asociados con la COVID-19, pero eso no significa que no haya riesgo de contraer una infección, sino que es más probable que sea asintomático o que tenga una enfermedad más leve. Hemos visto que, incluso entre las personas mayores de 75 años, un mayor porcentaje se ha estado enfermando en el entorno de ómicron.

Entonces, ya sabe, eso siempre es preocupante. Y eso es parte de por qué, ya sabe, si ha hecho todo lo posible, se ha vacunado, se ha puesto el refuerzo, se ha puesto mascarillas en diferentes lugares, por eso es tan importante que sigamos transmitiendo ese mensaje a toda nuestra sociedad para limitar el impacto porque, en última instancia, siempre serán las personas más vulnerables las que enfrentan el mayor riesgo, quienes sufren cuando las personas que enfrentan menos riesgo no se lo toman muy en serio.

Pero creo que la buena noticia es que los casos están disminuyendo. Estamos empezando a ver las hospitalizaciones en declive. Solo debemos mantenernos realmente disciplinados, ver que esos números continúen disminuyendo para que el riesgo sea mucho menor en algunas de las personas más vulnerables de nuestra sociedad.

Shani Hosten: Bien. Bien. Gran consejo, Dra. Webb. Gracias por compartir esas ideas con nosotros. Así que gracias. Ahora pasemos a la Dra. Farro. Las personas en el país dicen que en este momento Estados Unidos está enfrentando una crisis de salud mental. Es una opinión bipartidista, según una encuesta reciente de Suffolk University de USA TODAY: el 80% de los republicanos, el 91% de los demócratas y el 93% de los independientes dijeron a los encuestadores que hoy hay una crisis de salud mental. ¿Está de acuerdo, Dra. Farro? Y si es así, ¿cuáles son los desafíos que enfrentamos? ¿Y cómo ve la adaptación de los servicios de salud mental para responder a estas necesidades sin precedentes?

Samantha Farro: Esa es una excelente pregunta. Gracias. Y definitivamente estaría de acuerdo en que enfrentamos un impacto sustancial en la salud mental relacionado con la COVID-19 y los extraordinarios desafíos de los últimos dos años. Ya sabe, miles de millones de personas en todo el mundo han experimentado trastornos en sus rutinas diarias, aislamiento debido a restricciones y confinamientos, sobrecarga de información que incluye desinformación sustancial y, por supuesto, la muerte de seres queridos.

Entonces, todo esto da como resultado que muchas personas tengan cosas como ansiedad, depresión, problemas de uso de sustancias, interrupciones del sueño, soledad y, por supuesto, dolor. En respuesta a esto, los servicios telefónicos y de telesalud de tratamiento de salud mental realmente se han disparado durante la pandemia. Los proveedores de salud mental lanzaron servicios telefónicos y de telesalud casi de la noche a la mañana para garantizar que los pacientes tuvieran acceso seguro al tratamiento de salud mental.

También hemos visto un aumento en el uso de intervenciones digitales de salud mental y sitios web de salud mental y reducción del estrés o aplicaciones para teléfonos inteligentes. Ahora hay muchos, muchos recursos disponibles para ayudar a mejorar su propia salud mental. Por ejemplo, algunos de los sitios web que comparto con mis pacientes con bastante frecuencia incluyen el Instituto Nacional sobre el Envejecimiento, que tiene información maravillosa con consejos para mitigar la soledad, aumentar la actividad física y el ejercicio, y consejos sobre alimentación saludable.

El Mindfulness Awareness Research Center de UCLA tiene recursos y ejercicios fantásticos para ayudar a adquirir mejores habilidades de manejo del estrés. Y la National Sleep Foundation es un maravilloso sitio web lleno de información sobre cómo se puede mejorar el sueño con técnicas de relajación, control de estímulos e higiene del sueño, basadas en evidencia. Esas son solo algunas de las formas en que nos hemos adaptado para tratar de responder a estas necesidades y asegurarnos de que las personas puedan cuidar bien su salud mental durante este momento difícil.

Shani Hosten: Excelentes, excelentes ideas y recursos los que compartió, Dra. Farro, así que gracias. Un seguimiento rápido de eso. ¿Será uno de los elementos más duraderos de la pandemia el sorprendente aumento de las necesidades de salud mental?

Samantha Farro: Otra buena pregunta. Ya sabe, ciertamente no tiene que ser así. Una cosa que quiero dejar muy clara es que los trastornos de salud mental son problemas tratables. Entonces, si uno o alguien que conoce en su familia o sus amigos está pasando por un momento difícil, es vital recibir tratamiento. De la misma manera que no les recomendamos que descuiden los problemas de salud física, no les recomendamos que descuiden su salud mental.

Si necesitan información sobre cómo obtener tratamiento, la línea de ayuda nacional de SAMHSA brinda referencias a centros locales de tratamiento, grupos de apoyo y organizaciones locales. Es confidencial, es gratis y está disponible las 24 horas todos los días. Entonces, si usted o un miembro de su familia necesita recursos para el tratamiento mental o por uso de sustancias, pueden llamar a esa línea directa al 1-800-662-HELP, H-E-L-P para obtener información.

Otra opción es que también pueden ponerse en contacto con su proveedor de atención primaria o su médico de familia para analizar las opciones locales de tratamiento de salud mental y abuso de sustancias que hay en su zona. Y finalmente, también hay muchas maneras en que uno puede ser proactivo en el cuidado de su salud mental. Por ejemplo, crear y mantener rutinas diarias saludables puede tener un tremendo impacto en la salud mental, incluidas actividades como hacer ejercicio regularmente, especialmente ejercicio aeróbico, mantener una rutina de sueño constante, asegurarse de participar en actividades agradables todos los días y conectarse socialmente con personas aunque sea por teléfono o video en lugar de en persona.

También recomiendo tomar descansos de ver demasiados medios de comunicación y evitar el uso de alcohol o drogas para sobrellevar la situación. Nuevamente, sabemos que los trastornos de salud mental y conductual son tratables. Estas son todas las cosas que podemos hacer para proteger nuestra salud mental en este momento.

Shani Hosten: Muchas gracias por esa información tan útil. Y ciertamente nuestra salud mental es tan importante como nuestra salud física. Así que gracias, Dra. Farro. Dr. Webb, se anunció la semana pasada que Medicare pronto pagará las pruebas de COVID-19 en el hogar compradas a minoristas. ¿Cuándo comenzará esto? ¿Y cómo funcionará?

Cameron Webb: Sí, eso es definitivamente... Es una gran noticia asegurarse de que Medicare cubra estas pruebas para tantas personas que han estado buscando oportunidades para obtener estas pruebas COVID-19 de venta libre. Y nuevamente, estas son las pruebas rápidas de antígenos que en 15 a 30 minutos pueden brindar una respuesta sobre si tiene o no COVID-19, y eso es muy diferente de las pruebas de PCR de laboratorio que a veces toman un día o más obtener los resultados.

Y así, con respecto a la situación, la administración está haciendo mucho para tratar de obtener más de estas pruebas de venta libre para la gente. Y una de esas cosas, por supuesto, es que el presidente está enviando quinientos millones de pruebas directamente a las residencias de las personas. Entonces, la gente puede ir a COVIDtests.gov y solicitar pruebas de venta libre gratuitas para que se las envíen. Son cuatro pruebas gratuitas las que se envían.

Y también, hemos estado enviando estas pruebas gratuitas sin receta a los centros de salud comunitarios de todo el país. Pero trabajamos específicamente con las aseguradoras para asegurarnos de que así fuera. Y así, para más del 50% de las personas que tienen un seguro privado, su aseguradora debe cubrir ocho pruebas por mes por persona asegurada. Y eso comenzó el 15 de enero.

Una de las preguntas era cómo y cuándo se aplicaría esto a Medicare. Entonces, a partir de principios de la primavera, los beneficiarios de Medicare podrán acudir a una farmacia que califica u otras entidades que estén participando en esta iniciativa. Y pueden recoger sus pruebas de COVID-19 sin receta de forma gratuita a través de su cobertura de la Parte B de Medicare. Y así, más información sobre las farmacias que califican y otras entidades que van a participar en esta iniciativa que estará disponible la próxima semana.

Una vez que esté en funcionamiento, los CMS alentarán a los beneficiarios a preguntar a su farmacia local o a su proveedor de atención médica si participan en esta iniciativa. Este es solo otro de los mecanismos para garantizar que las personas puedan acceder a la prueba. Para ser claros, las personas, es decir las personas mayores, no necesitarán comprar las pruebas primero y luego recibir un reembolso, esta nueva iniciativa permitirá el pago directamente a las farmacias que califican y esas otras entidades que están participando. Y así se podrá recoger la prueba sin coste alguno en el punto de venta y sin necesidad de reembolso.

Por ello, los CMS están trabajando actualmente las 24 horas para implementar esta iniciativa. Anticipamos que estará disponible nuevamente en las próximas semanas, pero realmente creemos que será una adición importante a las formas en se puede acceder a las pruebas. Mencioné COVIDtests.gov como uno de los lugares donde se puede ir hoy para obtener pruebas de venta libre gratuitas. Y también hay más de 20,000 sitios de pruebas gratuitos en todo el país que actualmente ofrecen pruebas de COVID-19 a bajo costo o sin costo alguno. Y hay muchas opciones diferentes por ahora, pero estamos emocionados de tener esta en funcionamiento muy pronto.

Shani Hosten: Genial. Gracias por compartirlo. Y es muy emocionante ver el trabajo en torno a los kits de prueba gratuitos. Así que esperamos escuchar más actualizaciones a medida que evolucionen con respecto a eso. Entonces, como recordatorio, para hacer una pregunta, presionen * 3. Muy pronto responderemos sus preguntas en vivo, pero antes quiero traer a Megan O'Reilly, vicepresidenta de Salud y Familia de nuestro Departamento de Asuntos Gubernamentales de AARP. Bienvenida, Megan.

Megan O’Reilly: Encantada de estar aquí, Shani.

Shani Hosten: Megan, acabamos de escuchar que el Dr. Webb habló sobre el anuncio de que Medicare finalmente comenzará a cubrir pronto el costo de los kits de prueba de COVID-19 en el hogar. Así que reitero que esta es una buena noticia y que es algo por lo que AARP luchó para que sucediera, ¿no es así?

Megan O’Reilly: Absolutamente, lo hicimos. AARP ha trabajado arduamente abogando para que esto sea una realidad. Y realmente coincidimos con el Dr. Webb en cuanto a nuestro agrado por la noticia. 64 millones de estadounidenses tienen Medicare, y los estadounidenses mayores se encuentran entre los que corren mayor riesgo de sufrir complicaciones graves por la COVID-19. Estamos felices de que esta primavera Medicare comenzará a proporcionar pruebas de COVID-19 en el hogar sin receta gratuitas.

Shani Hosten: Entonces, hasta que esto suceda, todos los hogares estadounidenses aún pueden recibir cuatro pruebas de COVID-19 en el hogar gratuitas por correo. ¿Cómo se pueden solicitar estas pruebas?

Megan O’Reilly: Pueden solicitar sus cuatro pruebas gratuitas en línea, o llamando a un número gratuito para solicitar pruebas en el hogar en línea, como mencionó el Dr. Webb, vayan a www.COVIDtests.gov o pueden llamar al número gratis 1-800-232-0233. Una vez que se registren, las pruebas se enviarán directamente a su dirección.

Shani Hosten: Maravilloso. Y solo para reiterar nuevamente, es www.COVIDtests.gov o 1-800-232-0233. De nuevo, ¿algo más en lo que respecta a la defensa, Megan?

Megan O’Reilly: Sí. Seguimos trabajando arduamente para instar al Senado a permitir que Medicare negocie precios más bajos de medicamentos recetados. Sabemos que el 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, instamos a la Casa Blanca a que restablezca las licencias pagas de emergencia y un posible paquete de gastos complementarios por COVID-19. Necesitamos asegurarnos de que las personas con enfermedades graves que están expuestas a la COVID-19, así como sus cuidadores, no tengan que perder sus ingresos.

Y finalmente, buenas noticias en el frente de los hogares de ancianos. Por primera vez, el Gobierno ha comenzado a publicar las tasas de rotación de personal y los niveles de personal de fin de semana en hogares de ancianos en el sitio web Care Compare de medicare.gov. AARP ha buscado durante mucho tiempo este tipo de transparencia. Y alentamos a todos los que tienen un ser querido en un hogar de ancianos a visitar el nuevo sitio web de Care Compare.

Shani Hosten: Gracias, Megan. Y finalmente, Estados Unidos alcanzó un hito sólido el viernes pasado. Más de 900,000 estadounidenses han perdido la vida debido a la COVID-19. Y si bien los nuevos casos diarios han disminuido, las muertes en EE.UU. se han acelerado. ¿Alguna idea sobre esto para despedirte, Megan?

Megan O’Reilly: Ya sabes, 900,000 muertes es una tragedia. Y acompañamos con el corazón a todos aquellos que han perdido a alguien. AARP quiere que todos se mantengan bien, especialmente porque el riesgo de morir por COVID-19 es significativamente mayor para las personas mayores. En EE.UU., más de las tres cuartas partes de los que han muerto por COVID-19 tenían 65 años o más. Es por eso que llevamos a cabo estas teleasambleas y compartimos recursos e información confiables.

La mayoría de las muertes ocurren entre aquellos que no están vacunados. Por favor, si aún no lo han hecho, reciban sus vacunas y refuerzos y asegúrense de que sus seres queridos también lo hagan. AARP continuará luchando por su protección y alivio financiero, pero cuidémonos a nosotros mismos y a los demás para mantener a todos saludables y seguros.

Shani Hosten: Gracias, Megan, por estar aquí hoy y por todo lo que usted y su equipo están haciendo en el frente de la defensa. Gracias.

Megan O’Reilly: Gracias.

Shani Hosten: Ahora es el momento de abordar sus preguntas sobre el coronavirus con el Dr. Cameron Webb y la Dra. Samantha Farro. Opriman *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con el personal de AARP y compartir su pregunta. Si desean escuchar en español, presionen *0 en el teclado de su teléfono ahora.

[En español]

Shani Hosten: 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, Shani.

Shani Hosten: Entonces, Jesse, tomemos nuestra primera pregunta.

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Nuestra primera pregunta será de Andrea en Nebraska.

Shani Hosten: Genial. Hola, Andrea, en Nebraska. Sigamos adelante con su pregunta.

Andrea: Sí. ¿Estoy en vivo?

Shani Hosten: Así es, Andrea. ¿Cómo está hoy?

Andrea: Sí, mi pregunta es, y ustedes de alguna manera ya la respondieron, se trata de la vulnerabilidad de las personas con refuerzos para enfermarse. Hablan... Dicen que las más vulnerables son las personas que tienen problemas subyacentes o son mayores. Y no estoy segura, mi esposo y yo tenemos 76 y 77 años, estamos bien de salud. ¿Estamos en la categoría de los vulnerables porque tenemos esa edad? ¿O estamos sanos? ¿O son personas mayores y un poco débiles?

Shani Hosten: Gracias por su pregunta. Dr. Webb, ¿podría abordar eso, por favor?

Cameron Webb: Creo que ese es un punto esencial porque es importante tener en cuenta que no todas las personas que alcanzan cierta edad tienen el mismo nivel de riesgo. Gran parte del riesgo que vemos con la COVID-19 en general tiene sus raíces en una serie de otras enfermedades crónicas como diabetes, enfermedades cardíacas, obesidad, asma u otras enfermedades pulmonares. Y así, a lo largo del curso de la vida, las personas tienen más tiempo para acumular varias enfermedades o un mayor riesgo de cáncer, lo que puede conducir a un compromiso inmunológico. Entonces, cuando juntamos todas esas cosas, eso es parte de lo que vemos, en términos de lo que conduce a un mayor riesgo entre las personas mayores.

Creo que incluso cuando controlamos gran parte de eso, para las personas mayores de 75 años, vemos que los datos siguen sugiriendo que COVID-19, e incluso con la variante ómicron, puede causar una enfermedad más grave. Y creo que por eso, lo tomaría en serio. Sé que hay muchos tipos de noticias y cobertura que describen la variante ómicron como más leve. Pero creo que lo que hemos visto, y lo veo en mi trabajo como médico de medicina interna en el hospital que trabaja en la unidad de COVID-19, es que la ómicron, solo porque las noticias la describen como más leve, no significa que sea leve para todas las personas.

De hecho, mi hospital tuvo la tasa más alta de hospitalizaciones por COVID-19 hace solo dos semanas. Así que eso es algo que creo que la gente necesita saber. Y, en general, eso es impulsado por personas mayores, personas inmunocomprometidas y personas que tienen muchas enfermedades. Entonces, lo que diría es que, sí, la edad se relaciona con parte de ese riesgo. Pero estar vacunado y tener el refuerzo es realmente fundamental para estar protegido.

Entonces, si tuviera que comparar el riesgo de, resultados graves de alguien que tiene más... Diría que más del 90% de las personas mayores de 75 años están vacunadas, pero si tuviera que comparar a una persona con el refuerzo y una sin el refuerzo, hay más protección, hay menos hospitalizaciones, hay menos muertes entre las personas con refuerzo. Por lo tanto, estar vacunado y con refuerzo es el mejor estado que uno puede tener en términos de protección contra ómicron y los peores resultados que puede proporcionar.

Y si han hecho ambas cosas, entonces creo que lo siguiente que se debe tener en cuenta es asegurarse de que cuando uno esté fuera de casa, no deje de usar una mascarilla de buena calidad y que le quede bien, y estamos recomendando máscaras N95 o máscaras KN95, mientras que los niveles de transmisión sean tan altos porque hemos visto que son aún más eficaces contra ómicron. Si junta esas capas de protección, eso es lo que lo mantiene más seguro contra ómicron.

En última instancia, este consejo es de tipo general, creo que la mejor manera de evaluar y comprender su riesgo es hablar con su proveedor de atención médica personal, pero, hablando en términos generales, diría que cuando combina estas diferentes estrategias de mitigación, usar mascarillas, evitar los espacios interiores llenos de gente y luego asegurarse de tener esa protección inmunitaria con vacunas y refuerzos, junte esas cosas y combine eso con pruebas si se vuelve sintomático, y el valor de la terapia como los anticuerpos monoclonales o los antivirales orales, verán cómo podemos armar un mecanismo para minimizar el riesgo de enfermarse de COVID-19 incluso con ómicron.

Shani Hosten: Genial. Gracias, Dr. Webb, por esa información. Volvamos a la línea. ¿A quién tenemos ahora, Jesse?

Jesse Salinas: Sí. Nuestra próxima pregunta será para la Dra. Farro. Y esta pregunta viene de Kevin en Ohio en Facebook. Kevin dice: “Sufro de depresión ocasional, pero he estado bien. ¿Hay algo que debería estar haciendo a la luz de la pandemia?”

Shani Hosten: Genial. Gracias, Kevin.

Samantha Farro: Sí, gracias, Kevin. Creo que es algo que mucha gente enfrenta en este momento. Quizás es la primera vez que tienen síntomas de depresión o son síntomas de depresión relativamente leves. Mucho de lo que comenté antes es lo que yo recomendaría. Sabe, hay mucho que podemos hacer, en términos de proteger nuestra salud mental y mitigar los síntomas de depresión mediante el uso de la creación y el mantenimiento de rutinas diarias saludables.

Hay mucha evidencia que respalda el uso del ejercicio físico y, en particular, nuevamente, el ejercicio aeróbico y cómo afecta nuestro estado de ánimo. Realmente puede, ya sabe, cuando tenemos una rutina diaria o una rutina semanal que incluye ejercicio físico regularmente, solo sabemos que eso ayuda a proteger nuestra salud cerebral, incluida nuestra salud mental. Lo mismo ocurre cuando somos capaces de mantener rutinas de sueño constantes. Usando principios sobre la higiene del sueño, donde uno tiene un horario de sueño constante, está evitando las siestas durante el día, ya sabe, se está asegurando de no llevar pantallas al dormitorio por la noche.

Escuché a muchas personas durante la pandemia que han hablado de llevar sus teléfonos inteligentes o iPad a la habitación con ellos y simplemente ojear. Y esto realmente puede alterar las rutinas de sueño. Y sabemos que el sueño es absolutamente vital para proteger nuestra salud mental y mitigar cosas como los síntomas de la depresión. Así que creo que esos son aspectos realmente importantes para mantener la salud mental y mitigar y reducir los síntomas de la depresión manteniendo una buena rutina de sueño y ejercicio físico regular.

También hay otras cosas que se pueden hacer, como mencioné, relacionadas con tratamientos. Algunas de las intervenciones más eficaces para la depresión incluyen una combinación de tratamiento con medicamentos y psicoterapia. Entonces, hay muchas opciones diferentes, pero en términos de estrategias de comportamiento o cosas que uno puede hacer por su cuenta para tratar de cuidar su salud mental y reducir la depresión, creo que el ejercicio y el sueño son algunas de las más importantes.

Shani Hosten: Información muy útil, Dra. Farro, algunos consejos muy útiles para nosotros. Así que gracias por compartir eso. Jesse, tenemos tiempo para algunas preguntas más. ¿A quién tenemos ahora en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Genial. Nuestra próxima pregunta será para el Dr. Webb y vendrá de Joan en Indiana.

Shani Hosten: Hola, Joan, de Indiana. Continúe con su pregunta para el Dr. Webb.

Juana: Ah, hola. Bueno, tengo 86 y medio y tengo muchas cosas, creo que estoy bastante saludable, pero tengo problemas cardíacos y obesidad y todas estas cosas diferentes y asma. De todos modos, lo que quiero saber, mi única pregunta es, han pasado seis meses desde mi refuerzo. Mi refuerzo fue en septiembre. Y me pregunto si me van a dejar recibir otro refuerzo ahora.

Cameron Webb: Sí, esa es una buena pregunta. Creo que mucha gente ha preguntado si sería necesaria o no una cuarta inyección. Y parte de esa pregunta proviene de lo que estamos viendo en todo el mundo. En Israel, por ejemplo, lanzaron las cuartas inyecciones un poco antes. Y una cosa que encontramos, y todo esto comienza con comprender los Centros para el Control de Enfermedades [CDC] y su proceso, y su proceso es observar los datos que tenemos y utilizarlos para guiarnos en términos de cuando hacemos nuevas recomendaciones.

Hicimos las recomendaciones para los refuerzos porque comenzamos a ver un aumento o un repunte en las personas que han sido vacunadas por completo. Es decir, tenían sus dos primeras dosis, y estábamos viendo que más de ellos comenzaban a aparecer en los hospitales. Y eso nos dio una señal de que era posible que estuvieran teniendo menos eficacia, supongo, de las vacunas y se beneficiarían de un refuerzo. Los refuerzos son realmente poderosos contra ómicron porque nos da lo que se llama anticuerpos neutralizantes circulantes que pueden detener ese virus en su camino.

Lo que no está claro es cuánto duran esos anticuerpos neutralizantes y cuánto tiempo la vacuna sigue siendo realmente eficaz contra el virus. Algunos han sugerido que incluso es posible que la vacuna debería haber sido una serie de tres inyecciones en primer lugar. Y eso le proporcionará una protección más duradera. Entonces, ahora estamos viendo los datos sobre cuánto dura esa protección con esa tercera dosis. Puede durar mucho más que los seis meses o los cinco meses que vimos con la serie primaria porque puede haber sido que preparó al sistema inmunitario aún mejor para responder al virus. Queda por verse en nuestros datos.

Pero puedo decirles que hasta ahora, los CDC no recomiendan una cuarta dosis. Algunas cuartas dosis están disponibles para personas que tienen sistemas inmunitarios comprometidos, donde un régimen de tres dosis es lo que se necesita para su serie primaria, y luego pueden recibir un refuerzo además de eso. Pero si no tiene un sistema inmunitario comprometido —y puede hablar con su médico para saber si entra o no en esa categoría—, en este momento, tres dosis, ya sabe, tres vacunas es todo lo que se recomienda y si eso cambia, los CDC ciertamente nos lo harán saber.

Yo, al igual que usted, recibí mi refuerzo en septiembre, soy un trabajador de la salud, trabajo en habitaciones con pacientes con COVID-19 todos los fines de semana. Estaré ahí mañana. Y estoy muy ansioso por saber cuánto tiempo me protege mi vacuna porque también protege a mis dos hijos pequeños, mi familia y mi comunidad. Y hasta ahora, no he recibido una cuarta inyección porque no se ha recomendado. Y siempre tengo mucho cuidado de no hacer cosas que no estén guiadas por la ciencia. Y ahora mismo, la ciencia no dice que debamos obtener una cuarta vacuna, ni usted ni yo. Pero cuando así sea, los CDC nos aseguran de dejarlo claro y que todo el mundo sepa que es hora de ir a buscar otra vacuna si eso se vuelve necesario.

Shani Hosten: Gracias, Dr. Webb, por brindar claridad al respecto y brindarnos los datos. Tenemos tiempo Jesse, para una pregunta más en esta sección. ¿A quién más tenemos en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Sí, la próxima pregunta vendrá de Facebook. Es de Lisa en Seattle. Y Lisa dice, esta pregunta va a ser para la Dra. Farro. Y dice: “¿La eficacia de la vacuna será perjudicial o correré un riesgo con mis medicamentos antidepresivos?”

Samantha Farro: Sí, gracias, Lisa. Esa es una gran pregunta también. Y como dijo el Dr. Webb hace un momento, creo que eso es algo que se está estudiando actualmente. Hasta el momento, no vemos evidencia de que las vacunas tengan un impacto negativo en los medicamentos antidepresivos. Y estamos viendo que, bueno, ya sabe, como mencioné un poco antes, el virus de la COVID-19 en realidad puede tener algunos efectos en el aumento de los síntomas de depresión. Así que yo seguiría recomendando la vacuna para todo aquel que cumpla los requisitos, debido a los riesgos relacionados con el hecho de contraer el virus, frente a los de la vacuna.

Entonces, la eficacia de la vacuna en términos de cómo ayuda a reducir la inflamación en el cerebro y cómo reduce el riesgo de depresión, creo que supera cualquier pregunta sobre si la vacuna mitiga o reduce la eficacia de los medicamentos antidepresivos. En este momento, como dije, eso todavía es algo que se está estudiando. Realmente no tenemos ninguna razón en este momento para decir que no se vacunen si están tomando medicamentos antidepresivos, aun así, debería ser muy efectiva para usted.

Pero nuevamente, todo esto es algo que debe discutirse con el proveedor de atención médica, con el médico de atención primaria, si notan síntomas nuevos o surge algo que es nuevo o tienen problemas con síntomas nuevos, eso es algo que realmente debe discutirse con el proveedor de atención médica para asegurarse de estar recibiendo la orientación más reciente y asegurarse de que cualquier nuevo hallazgo que haya surgido sea algo que se tenga en cuenta en el plan de tratamiento.

Shani Hosten: Está bien, genial. Gracias. Muchas gracias, Dra. Farro. Y gracias a todos por esas preguntas. Y recuerden, si desean hacer una pregunta, presionen *3. Ahora volvamos a nuestros expertos. Dra. Farro, los primeros estudios encontraron un vínculo entre una infección por COVID-19 y la aparición de enfermedades neurológicas o psiquiátricas posteriores, a menudo durante los seis meses siguientes. ¿Qué han encontrado los científicos? ¿Y puede hablar sobre qué hay que buscar en uno mismo o en un ser querido si nota estos cambios? ¿Y si el ser querido no está acostumbrado a estos sentimientos o no sabe cómo describirlos con palabras? ¿Puede compartir un poco sobre eso con nosotros?

Samantha Farro: Absolutamente, Shani. Muy similar a lo que acabo de describir con la pregunta de Lisa, la investigación ha demostrado que las infecciones por COVID-19 pueden tener efectos directos e indirectos en la salud neurológica y mental. Algunos de los efectos más directos de la COVID-19 que conocemos pueden incluir neuroinflamación. Muchas personas han oído hablar de la pérdida del gusto y el olfato, es posible que note un aumento de cambios cognitivos o deterioro. Algunos de los efectos más indirectos pueden incluir un aumento de los síntomas de depresión, ansiedad, más confusión o sensación de agobio, dificultad con la concentración o la memoria y, por supuesto, la interrupción del sueño, la soledad de la que hemos hablado. Incluso las tendencias suicidas son algo que puede aumentar después de la COVID-19.

Entonces, ante todo, si uno tiene pensamientos suicidas o un ser querido tiene pensamientos suicidas y necesita atención urgente, la Línea Nacional de Prevención del Suicidio siempre está disponible, es un apoyo gratuito y confidencial, y puede ser contactada al 1-800-273-TALK, T-A-L-K. Ahora, si no es urgente, o no es una emergencia, y nota algunos de estos síntomas en usted mismo o en un ser querido, nuevamente, le recomiendo consultar con el proveedor de atención médica o el médico de atención primaria para analizar lo que está sucediendo.

Es muy común y frecuente que no sepamos cómo describir exactamente lo que está sucediendo, pero podemos ser conscientes de que algo no está bien. También es muy común que no nos demos cuenta en absoluto, pero nuestros seres queridos, los miembros de nuestra familia, notan que algo anda mal con nosotros. Por lo tanto, compartir eso con el médico o proveedor de atención médica es fundamental para obtener ayuda para identificar qué es lo que está sucediendo y encontrar la mejor manera de tratarlo.

Shani Hosten: Excelente. Y Dra. Farro, el otoño pasado, los CDC actualizaron una lista de enfermedades subyacentes que ponen a las personas en mayor riesgo de COVID-19 grave, y agregaron trastornos del estado de ánimo. ¿Por qué las vacunas son tan importantes para las personas con trastornos diagnosticados de salud mental?

Samantha Farro: Sí, esa fue una medida excelente de los CDC. Y creo que es porque comenzamos a obtener más datos sobre los riesgos. En particular, en el otoño del 2021, se publicó un metanálisis que esencialmente combinaba los resultados de muchos estudios diferentes que incluían a más de 91 millones de personas. Y encontró evidencia de que las personas con trastornos del estado de ánimo preexistentes tienen un riesgo significativamente mayor de hospitalización y muerte por COVID-19.

Entonces, esta evidencia refuerza que los problemas de salud mental, como los trastornos del estado de ánimo, son una enfermedad subyacente que puede afectar su susceptibilidad a la COVID-19. Sabemos en general que los trastornos de salud mental afectan el funcionamiento inmunitario y la resistencia a enfermedades e infecciones. Por lo tanto, nuevamente, es absolutamente vital que las personas con problemas de salud mental garanticen su seguridad y salud al recibir vacunas y refuerzos contra la COVID-19. Creo que es una de las cosas que, ya sabe, me alegró mucho que los CDC publicaran esa pauta, y creo que esa pauta puede salvar vidas.

Shani Hosten: Genial, gracias de nuevo por esa información tan importante, y solo quería reiterar un número que compartió, el 1-800-273-TALK, T-A-L-K. Ese fue un gran consejo para nosotros también. Bueno, Dr. Webb, ¿por qué algunas personas contraen COVID-19 y otras no? ¿Y qué estamos aprendiendo sobre los factores de riesgo y el papel de la genética?

Cameron Webb: Bueno, creo que todavía hay mucho que estamos aprendiendo sobre la dinámica de las diferentes variantes de COVID-19 que han seguido evolucionando. Así que creo que a esta altura, no sugeriría necesariamente que haya alguna susceptibilidad genética que las personas tengan ante la COVID-19 que sea diferente entre ellas, pero ciertamente ese es el caso. Hay muchas teorías sobre eso en las primeras semanas y meses de esta pandemia.

Creo que la explicación más sencilla es que las personas que tienen algún problema o algún trastorno que disminuye o reduce la capacidad de su organismo para combatir las infecciones de las vías respiratorias superiores, tienden a tener más infecciones y, a menudo, más graves. Lo que hemos visto es que, ya sabe, con la variante ómicron en particular, parece muy eficaz para infectar a casi todo el mundo. Así que el mayor determinante de si alguien va a contraer COVID-19 es la exposición y no la genética.

Por lo tanto, la capacidad de minimizar la exposición es importante, y esto se logra con estrategias de mitigación gradual, como el uso de mascarillas, evitar espacios cerrados muy concurridos y tener mucho cuidado con las personas con las que se está en contacto, y aprovechar las pruebas de manera eficaz, tanto para uno mismo como para las personas con las que va a estar en contacto, esas pruebas rápidas en el hogar pueden ser una herramienta realmente útil para crear espacios seguros cuando se pasa tiempo con personas en espacios cerrados, incluidos los miembros de la familia. Y esas son algunas de las dinámicas clave.

Pero lo que diría es que todos pueden ser susceptibles. Mencioné anteriormente que estoy vacunado y recibí el refuerzo en parte porque tengo 38 años y soy bastante saludable, pero creo que al mismo tiempo, sé cuán impredecible puede ser la COVID-19. He visto jugadores de baloncesto profesionales que están enfermos durante semanas y semanas debido a COVID-19, y físicamente, están en la cima de su juego. Y he visto octogenarios que han tenido casos muy leves de COVID-19, ¿no? Por lo tanto, es imposible predecir exactamente cómo seguirá esto.

Lo mejor que se puede hacer es protegerse en todo momento. Pero ahora mismo estamos realizando estudios y ensayos muy rigurosos por medio de los NIH [Institutos Nacionales de la Salud] para responder a algunas de estas preguntas con el tiempo, y también para observar el efecto de la COVID-19 prolongada y hacer un seguimiento de ella con el paso del tiempo. Así que, aunque llevamos casi dos años en esto, ya sabe, casi dos años desde, llevamos dos años desde el primer caso, creo que todavía nos queda mucho por aprender y eso es una puntada a tiempo en la comunidad médica. Nos queda mucho por aprender sobre por qué los perfiles de riesgo difieren tanto y qué podemos hacer al respecto.

Shani Hosten: Excelente. Y, Dr. Webb, una última pregunta específicamente sobre su trabajo en el frente de la equidad. ¿Podemos hablar sobre el impacto desigual de la COVID-19 en los grupos raciales y étnicos? Y los nuevos datos de los CDC dicen que los negros y los latinos tienen 2.5 veces más probabilidades de ser hospitalizados y casi 2 veces más de probabilidades de morir como resultado de infecciones por COVID-19, y esto es alarmante y una diferencia pronunciada. ¿Por qué sucede esto? ¿Y qué se puede hacer?

Cameron Webb: Es alarmante. Es preocupante. Es inaceptable. Y creo que donde estamos, hemos hecho una gran cantidad de trabajo en torno a estas desigualdades. Y si realmente miramos hacia atrás en el curso de esta pandemia, hace tan solo 3 meses, la tasa de muertes por COVID-19 fue más baja en las comunidades de color que en la comunidad blanca. Entonces, lo que sucedería es que vemos que cambia con el tiempo. Mucho de eso fue impulsado por la labor de vacunación.

En este momento, si usted, ya sabe, la encuesta más reciente que tenemos de los CDC demuestra que el 86% de los adultos latinos se han vacunado al menos una vez, el 85% de los adultos blancos, el 84% de los adultos negros. Ese es un nivel de distribución equitativa de vacunas que no tenemos en casi ninguna intervención médica, lo que es realmente un testimonio del trabajo de los miembros de la comunidad, los líderes comunitarios, las organizaciones religiosas, los trabajadores sanitarios de la comunidad, los proveedores locales, las enfermeras, las autoridades de salud pública y otras personas. Esto se produce cuando la gente habla con sus conocidos y hace correr la voz y se asegura de que todas las comunidades estén protegidas y cuidadas. Pero la ómicron cambió todo esto de nuevo.

Lo que este virus ha hecho una y otra vez es explotar muchas de las grietas de nuestra sociedad. Entonces, cuando las personas ven estas diferencias, estas desigualdades emergen, mi observación es que uno tiende a caer en las mismas fallas que tenemos en general y esas fallas están realmente estructuradas a lo largo de las líneas de dinámica sistémica y estructural. La desigualdad estructural, el racismo sistémico, están impulsando muchas de las diferencias que estamos viendo. Eso influye en quién es un trabajador esencial de primera línea, influye en quién tiene un mayor riesgo de padecer enfermedades crónicas a una edad más temprana, influye en quién tiene acceso a los servicios y apoyos de atención médica. Influye en quién puede faltar al trabajo y aislarse y quién no.

Cameron Webb: Y debido a todos esos factores, vemos que están impulsando muchos de los resultados que vemos, y podemos solucionarlo haciendo que más y más personas se vacunen y se protejan mediante pruebas y mascarillas gratuitas a las personas, tratando de llenar algunos de los vacíos. Pero como dijo el presidente una y otra vez, no podemos pasar todo nuestro tiempo llenando los vacíos, tenemos que adelantarnos a esos problemas y realmente cambiar nuestra sociedad para hacer una sociedad más equitativa.

Estamos sufriendo las consecuencias en este momento de una estructura social desigual, durante generaciones. Y creo que esto tiene que ser ese llamado de atención para que cambiemos esa dinámica. Creo que estamos viendo algo de eso, sé que ha sido una gran parte de la agenda del presidente. Va a requerir alguna acción del Congreso. Requerirá algo de audacia, pero creo que ya es hora, y estamos viendo el precio de no actuar y ese precio se paga con vidas, en comunidades y experiencias. Es simplemente inaceptable.

Shani Hosten: Y gracias, Dr. Webb. Y quiero reiterar antes de seguir, algo que todos podemos hacer para empoderarnos. Y es pedir los cuatro kits de prueba gratuitos en línea ya sea llamando al número gratuito, al 1-800-232-0233 o visitando www.COVIDtests.gov para pedir los cuatro kits de prueba gratuitos, los kits de pruebas para COVID-19. Nuevamente, gracias, Dr. Webb, por esos comentarios, información muy, muy útil.

Y hablando de información, la desinformación continúa socavando los esfuerzos de salud pública para poner fin a la pandemia. Y ahora que la pandemia entra en su tercer año, abordaremos la desinformación durante las próximas semanas en un segmento llamado “Four-minute fact check”. Y le pediremos a un experto que ayude a desacreditar las afirmaciones engañosas y comprender por qué la desinformación es tan problemática. Y hoy, me gustaría dar la bienvenida a Alex Mahadevan, que es gerente de programas en MediaWise. Alex, ¿por qué los medicamentos que no son antivirales como la hidroxicloroquina o la ivermectina continúan resurgiendo como opciones a pesar de las advertencias sobre el riesgo y la falta de eficacia demostrada?

Alex Mahadevan: Bueno, esa es una gran pregunta. Bueno, el movimiento antivacunas realmente se ha aferrado a estos tratamientos no probados como lo que ven como alternativas a la vacunación. Son muy elocuentes, saben cómo hacer llegar su mensaje gracias a los algoritmos de las redes sociales, por medio de manifestaciones en todo el país y, por supuesto, tienes a gente como Joe Rogan que está compartiendo información falsa sobre estos tratamientos no probados. La están compartiendo con millones.

Pero también hay grupos como Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance. Ahora bien, este es un grupo que tiene médicos que están promoviendo y recetando estos medicamentos no probados. Ahora bien, estos desinformadores toman un grano muy, muy pequeño de la verdad de que sí, hay investigadores que están estudiando la ivermectina para tratar la COVID-19 o que la hidroxicloroquina se utilizó durante un tiempo muy corto, y toman eso y lo tergiversan en una narrativa falsa, afirmando que hay pruebas médicas de que es eficaz. Ninguno de los dos está probado por la FDA para tratar la COVID-19.

Y más recientemente, apareció este nuevo artículo brasileño que parece respaldar las afirmaciones sobre la ivermectina y la COVID-19, pero ha sido ampliamente criticado de inmediato porque le faltan componentes científicos importantes. Entonces, deben estar atentos cuando vean este material en línea sobre este tipo de tratamientos porque, lamentablemente, seguirá viéndose,

Shani Hosten: Gracias, Álex. Y una pregunta de seguimiento rápida. Una evaluación reciente encontró que los canales de las redes sociales siguen siendo lentos para eliminar la desinformación sobre la COVID-19. ¿Cuáles son algunos de los últimos ejemplos de información falsa o engañosa que circulan en línea en este momento?

Alex Mahadevan: Qué pregunta tan oportuna, porque entiendo que hay algunas preguntas sobre publicaciones sobre este llamado NeoCov. Ahora estoy viendo estas publicaciones en línea en Twitter que afirman que existe esta nueva cepa de coronavirus, supongo que llamada NeoCov que es “mortal” y “altamente transmisible”. Una de estas publicaciones dice que mueren una de cada tres personas. Bueno, veo que a esto le falta un contexto importante, un Fact Check de Reuters les dirá que, sí, hay investigadores que están estudiando un coronavirus que, sí, se llama NeoCov. Sin embargo, solo se ha detectado en murciélagos. Este es solo otro ejemplo de desinformadores que explotan ese pequeño grano de verdad.

Y también quiero señalar algunos ejemplos más. Cada vez que muere una celebridad, lamentablemente recientemente perdimos a Betty White, Louie Anderson, Meat Loaf y Bob Saget, y siempre hay publicaciones falsas que se difunden y afirman que murieron después de recibir la vacuna contra la COVID-19. Ahora no hay evidencia de que haya alguna conexión entre los dos, pero desafortunadamente, cuando surgen noticias como esa, estas son algunas de las primeras publicaciones que se vuelven virales. Entonces, nuevamente, esa es otra cosa sobre la que realmente debes estar atento en las redes sociales, especialmente en torno a las noticias de última hora.

Shani Hosten: Gracias, Alex, por compartir eso y recordarnos que debemos estar atentos. Y gracias por desacreditar esa desinformación. Ahora es momento de abordar más de sus preguntas con el Dr. Webb y la Dra. Farro. Presionen *3 en cualquier momento en el teclado de su teléfono para conectarse con el personal de AARP. Entonces, Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Sí, nuestra próxima llamada será para la Dra. Farro. Y será de Peggy en Misuri.

Shani Hosten: Peggy en Misuri, continúe con su pregunta.

Peggy: Sí, tengo una pregunta. ¿Hay algún programa gratuito de Zoom en la computadora para la salud mental para hablar con otras personas y mantenerse conectado con las personas para nuestra salud mental y para eliminar la soledad, la ansiedad y la depresión?

Samantha Farro: Gracias, Peggy, por esa pregunta. Se lo agradezco. En términos de programas gratuitos de Zoom, hay muchas iniciativas diferentes en varias partes del país para tratar de mitigar la soledad entre los adultos mayores. Y creo que ciertamente diferentes iglesias, sinagogas, organizaciones dentro de la comunidad pueden tener cosas como grupos de conversación o grupos de discusión, donde simplemente uno se reúne con la gente.

Sé que muchas bibliotecas locales han comenzado a organizar fechas de café Zoom, donde invitan diferentes miembros a reunirse y simplemente conversar entre ellos, conocer gente nueva en la comunidad. Y nuevamente, tratando de reducir realmente el aislamiento y la soledad que han sido un problema tan grande durante la pandemia. Por lo tanto, mi recomendación sería sin duda registrarse en los sistemas de bibliotecas locales. Además, los centros locales para personas mayores también tienen muchos programas como ese. Esos son algunos de los recursos gratuitos o comunitarios que sé que han sido iniciativas que se han intentado en las diferentes zonas del país para tratar de mitigar esto.

Algunos otros programas, un programa que tenemos aquí localmente que es a través de nuestra clínica de atención primaria geriátrica es algo llamado COAST-IT. Y este es un programa que se creó a través de University of Colorado donde agrupamos a adultos mayores con nuestros estudiantes que están en capacitación, para ayudarlos a practicar habilidades de comunicación y ayudar a mitigar el aislamiento que muchos adultos mayores están experimentando. El programa COAST-IT es algo que tiene su sede aquí en University of Colorado, pero es algo que está disponible para personas mayores en cualquier parte del país. Entonces, si eso es algo para lo que le gustaría ser voluntario, sin duda es una oportunidad gratuita, para conectarse con gente joven y ayudar a los futuros trabajadores de la salud a poder comunicarse mejor.

Ya sabe, eso es parte de las responsabilidades de cualquier trabajador de la salud, tenemos que poder comunicarnos con los pacientes y con los clientes. Por lo tanto, también estaría contribuyendo a la fuerza laboral de atención médica al hacer eso. Esas son algunas ideas de formas en las que puede conectarse e intentar unirse a grupos de conversación. Sabe, sugiero, nuevamente, los centros locales para personas mayores, las bibliotecas locales tienen muchos programas como ese, las iglesias locales o las sinagogas también hacen algo de programación como esa. Y luego, si no encuentra nada en su zona, ciertamente puede ir al Centro Multidisciplinario sobre el Envejecimiento de University of Colorado y ver la información sobre nuestro programa llamado COAST-IT.

Shani Hosten: Genial, genial. Muchas gracias, Dra. Farro, también quería intervenir con otros dos datos que pueden ayudar desde una perspectiva de aislamiento. Hay un artículo en self.com. Y si mira, hay diez grupos de apoyo en línea para toda persona que pueda estar pasando por dificultades en este momento. Y también animo a todos a visitar aarp.org y buscar formas de conectarse con otros sin tecnología. También hay un gran artículo en aarp.org. Así que gracias. Probablemente tengamos tiempo para una pregunta más. Jesse, ¿a quién tenemos en la línea?

Jesse Salinas: Sí, la próxima pregunta será de Mary en Carolina del Sur para el Dr. Webb.

Shani Hosten: Hola, Mary, en Carolina del Sur, ¿quiere continuar con su pregunta para el Dr. Webb, por favor?

María: Claro. Gracias a todos. Es muy buena información la que estoy escuchando, por cierto, gracias por realizar esta conferencia telefónica. Acabo de cumplir 60 años y mi esposo tiene 62. Y se está recuperando de un derrame cerebral hemorrágico. Entonces, soy su cuidadora principal, pero tengo una agencia, me ayudaron con un cuidador que recientemente contrajo COVID-19. Y necesito saber ¿cuándo es seguro permitirle regresar a la casa?

Cameron Webb: Bueno, en primer lugar, lamento escuchar sobre el derrame cerebral reciente de su esposo. Sé que es difícil, y espero que esté mejor. Pero también sé que es difícil ser el cuidador principal. Entonces, con suerte, está encontrando algunas formas de cuidarse. Y simplemente se hace mucho más difícil con la pandemia y con esta capa adicional de riesgos y preocupaciones con las personas que vienen a la casa a ayudar.

Los CDC ofrecieron una guía reciente y una actualización de la guía para ayudar realmente a que las personas tengan una idea de cuánto tiempo deben estar aisladas en el contexto de una infección por COVID-19. Y la guía de los CDC se basa en la guía original que hablaba de 10 días de aislamiento. Lo que hemos aprendido con el tiempo es que aproximadamente el 80% de la transmisión de COVID-19 de una persona a otra tiende a ocurrir en esos primeros 5 días. Y esa es la razón por la que los CDC dijeron que las personas deberían permanecer absolutamente aisladas.

Entonces, en este caso, significaría que la persona no se acerque a su hogar durante al menos cinco días desde el inicio de los síntomas. A partir de ahí, hay un par de cosas. Esa persona puede hacerse la prueba a los cinco días, y si da negativo, el riesgo de que transmitan COVID-19 es mucho menor, pero aún así deben usar estrictamente una mascarilla en todo momento durante otros cinco días. Y seré claro. Deben usar estrictamente una mascarilla en todo momento a su alrededor pase lo que pase, eso debería ser una buena práctica. Y eso es lo que hacemos en los entornos de atención médica todo el tiempo en este momento. Así que creo que la idea del uso estricto de mascarilla es realmente importante durante diez días completos desde el inicio de los síntomas de cualquier persona, siendo necesario el aislamiento durante esos cinco días.

Y creo que lo otro que debemos tener en cuenta es, ya sabe, siempre animo a la gente, especialmente cuando alguien ha estado enfermo recientemente, a tener mucha precaución. Entonces, si yo estuviera en su posición, lo que recomendaría es simplemente explorar, especialmente con una agencia, la idea de enviar a otra persona para ayudar o, dependiendo de cómo se vean los recursos, encontrar alguna alternativa de asistencia durante diez días completos porque eso realmente minimiza la probabilidad de transmisión adicional de enfermedades.

Sin duda, hable con su proveedor y reciba sus recomendaciones y sus opiniones. Pero creo que dado lo que ha descrito en términos de riesgo, creo que emplearía mucha precaución aquí reconociendo que realmente quiere hacer todo lo posible para que usted y su esposo se mantengan a salvo. Creo que para los dos, enfermarse de COVID-19 sería muy difícil para la dinámica familiar, especialmente en este momento. Así que mis mejores deseos para que sigan adelante y espero que su esposo continúe mejorando.

Shani Hosten: Gracias, Dr. Webb, y agregamos nuestros deseos también. Y de nuevo, visiten aarp.org para obtener información sobre cuidadores, también para recursos. Esta ha sido una discusión muy informativa, gracias a cada uno de nuestros panelistas expertos y a aquellos que pudieron unirse por responder preguntas y compartir información. Y gracias a nuestros socios de AARP, nuestros voluntarios y oyentes por participar en esta discusión.

AARP, una organización no partidista, con membresía y sin fines de lucro, ha estado trabajando para promover la salud y el bienestar de los adultos mayores 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, 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 de hoy, se podrán encontrar en aarp.org/elcoronavirus el 11 de febrero. Y si necesitan asistencia de Medicare durante la COVID-19, visiten shiphelp.org/covid-19. Vayan allí si su pregunta no ha sido respondida y encontrarán las últimas actualizaciones, así como información creada específicamente para adultos mayores y cuidadores familiares.

Esperamos que hayan aprendido algo aquí hoy que pueda ayudarlos a ustedes, a sus familias y a sus seres queridos a mantenerse saludables. Regresen el 24 de febrero a la 1:00 p.m. para participar en otro evento en vivo de preguntas y respuestas sobre el coronavirus. Esperamos que puedan unirse. Gracias, que tengan un buen día. Esto concluye nuestra llamada.

Coronavirus: Omicron, Vaccines and Mental Wellness

Listen to a replay of the live event above.

While the highly infectious Omicron variant may be waning, its impact on our health and mental wellness is far reaching. COVID fatigue, conflicting guidelines, and general fear and anxiety about our health and wellness are taking their toll. This Q&A event addresses questions related to variants and vaccines, how to cope and where to go for help, and how to stay safe and protected as the virus continues to disrupt our lives.

The experts:

Samantha Farro, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
University of Colorado
Anschutz Medical Campus Multidisciplinary Center on Aging

Cameron Webb, M.D.
Senior Policy Advisor
COVID-19 Equity
White House COVID-19 Response Team

Alex Mahadevan
Program Manager
MediaWise

Megan O'Reilly
Special Guest
Vice President, 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