Delta variant spreads as wildfire smoke increases, misinformation arises and teachers and students struggle to stay in school
With the emergence of the highly contractible Delta variant of COVID-19, Tulare County finds itself in another spike of detections within the community. As full-time schooling resumes and the ability to socially distance is limited by widespread wildfire smoke, Tulare County is on the brink of another significant rise in detections.
VUSD Faces Early Challenges
To date, there have not been any detections of COVID-19 in Ivanhoe Elementary. However, the remainder of Visalia Unified School District is facing great difficulty containing the spread of COVID-19 in local schools.
Last year, the Ivanhoe Sol reported one positive detection at Ivanhoe Elementary but spread was otherwise limited. On the other hand, Golden West High School, where most high school aged Ivanhoe youth attend, has found three instances of covid detection even prior to the beginning of the new school year. From July 26-30 there were three detections.
Local media reports there are as many as 250 staff and more than 280 students in quarantine in Visalia Unified, which has created a shortage being experienced at districts throughout the state.
The increase of detections is beyond the scope of only the school systems. Exposure at work and at home continue to be additional significant sources of new covid detections indicating that the spread is a multiple sector of life in Tulare County.
County Warns of False Treatment
In spite of various locations to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, records indicate the overall rate of vaccinations is slowing.
Multiple studies demonstrate that while people who are vaccinated can still contract COVID-19, the severity of hospitalization is dramatically decreased. In other words, many of the COVID-19 related deaths are people who remain unvaccinated.
Further exacerbating the delay of adequate vaccination is the misinformation Ivermectin is recommended by public health officials as a COVID-19 treatment.
Ivermectin is a medicine that is largely used on farm animals and has not been proven to treat COVID-19. According to Tulare County’s most recent warning: “Ivermectin is a medicine traditionally used to treat worms and parasites in people and animals. Ingesting Ivermectin meant for veterinary use can be especially dangerous. Many veterinary products are made for large animals so they contain doses that are much higher than what is safe in humans; they may also contain other ingredients that have not been studied for safety in humans. Self-medicating can be very dangerous because there is a high risk of overdose or toxicity.”
According to County guidance, “Persons are advised to seek immediate medical attention if they have ingested Ivermectin and experience symptoms of toxicity: nausea, vomiting, belly pain, diarrhea, headache, blurred vision, dizziness, fast heart rate, and/or low blood pressure. These symptoms may progress to severe health problems including tremors, seizures, hallucinations, confusion, loss of coordination, coma, and death.
If you or anyone you know is negatively affected by the use of Ivermectin, please call the Poison Control Center Hotline for consultation at 1-800-222-1222.
Getting vaccinated remains the safest and most effective way to prevent COVID-19 disease. Vaccination greatly reduces risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. To protect yourself and others from getting COVID-19, please wear masks in indoor places, practice staying at least 6 feet away from others not in your household, avoid crowds and gatherings, avoid poorly ventilated spaces, and practice regular hand washing. Vaccine appointments are available at MyTurn.ca.gov or by calling 2-1-1 for more information.
Booster Shot for Immunocompromised
While local efforts are made to combat the misuse of animal medicine, official state health guidance is now recommending a third dose booster for the COVID-19 vaccine no sooner than 28 days after individuals complete their vaccine series, for individuals who are immunocompromised and received Pfizer or Moderna for first/second doses.
Those who qualify as immunocompromised are identified by the CDC as those who:
- Are receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood
- Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Received a stem cell transplant within the last 2 years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system
- Have moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
- Have advanced or untreated HIV infection
- Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids (i.e., ≥20mg prednisone or equivalent per day), alkylating agents, antimetabolites, transplant-related immunosuppressive drugs, cancer chemotherapeutic agents classified as severely immunosuppressive, tumor-necrosis (TNF) blockers, and other biologic agents that are immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory.
Whenever possible, mRNA COVID-19 vaccination doses (including the primary series and an additional dose) should be completed at least two weeks before initiation or resumption of immunosuppressive therapies, but timing of COVID-19 vaccination should take into consideration current or planned immunosuppressive therapies and optimization of both the patient’s medical condition and response to vaccine.
Health officials advise to talk to you provider about when to take the any immunosuppressive medication after receiving the vaccine.
It is important, when possible, to get the additional dose of the same type of COVID-19 vaccine as the first and second dose. You can verify what you received through the digital vaccine record; and can obtain this verification from: https://myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov/.
Health experts advise to work with your care provider to determine if you are eligible for the third dose, and schedule an appointment. In the event your provider is not offering the vaccine you received initially please visit MyTurn.Ca.Gov. Tulare County vaccine events will require individuals to attest that they are immunocompromised and are eligible as described above.
At this time, an additional dose is not recommended for those who received Johnson & Johnson.
It continues to be important for all individuals to take precautions against COVID-19 such as masking, distancing and avoiding groups and crowds.
Wildfire Smoke Adds to COVID Effects
Similar to last year, climate stressors like extreme heat and poor air quality are limiting residents’ ability to safely practice social distancing.
The last two months of increased COVID cases have also overlapped with the onset of another historic wildfire season in California. Not only has the state faced one of the largest fires in history though the northern-California based Dixie fire, more wildfires closer to Tulare County have erupted such as the French Fire in Kern County.
As the wildfire smoke from these incidents concentrates in the San Joaquin Valley air basin, high levels of dangerous particulate matter are found in the air. Particulate matter is one of the pollutants found in wildfire smoke. P.M 2.5 refers to the size of particles in wildfire smoke that are particularly dangerous to human health. Due to their small size, P.M 2.5 is not filtered by the cloth masks that are being used to protect from covid.
Unlike the moisture droplets that are the primary cause of transmission of COVID, P.M 2.5 can be much more widespread especially during the outbreak of wildfires throughout the state. Additionally, P.M 2.5 can be carried through the bloodstream and carry pollutants into the brain and other organs, causing a particular risk to most people. At certain levels, particle pollution is dangerous for everyone, even people without pre-existing respiratory conditions.
As a result of the poor air quality, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, alongside many public health experts, have advised Valley residents to remain indoors.