Essex County officials outline new process to keep up with omicron surge

ELIZABETHTOWN — On Monday, Jan. 3, the Essex County Health Department announced the addition of a “self-serve” isolation and quarantine option, now available on the ECHD website at www.co.essex.ny.us/Health/covid-19-information-and-resources/.

Meanwhile, health officials Wednesday, Jan. 12 announced that 137 additional cases of COVID-19 were reported on Jan. 11. There were 118 cases on Jan. 10, 80 on Jan. 9, 80 on Jan. 8, 178 on Jan. 7, 199 on Jan. 6 and 114 on Jan. 5. One more COVID-related death was reported in the county on Monday, bringing the total COVID-19 death count to 56 in the county.

“ECHD is adopting the latest CDC and NYSDOH recommendations for shortening isolation and quarantine periods for the general population, including K-12 school settings, released Jan. 4, 2022,” said Shaun Gillilland, chairman of the Essex County Board of Supervisors.

CDC isn’t changing the definition of fully vaccinated; rather, they are recommending that everyone stay up-to-date with their COVID-19 vaccinations, which includes getting a booster, when eligible, to be optimally protected. CDC’s Jan 4 quarantine guidance notes that everyone 18 who was exposed to COVID-19 and who is either unvaccinated, not fully vaccinated, or who is fully vaccinated, but not boosted (if eligible), should quarantine.

The state Department of Health guidelines issued on Jan. 4 also require a booster dose, if eligible, to be considered exempt from quarantine, with no age distinction noted. Therefore, effectively — for contact tracing purposes — this means that a booster dose is required (if the individual is eligible) to avoid quarantining.

Although the CDC approved a booster dose for those 12 with the Pfizer vaccine on Jan. 5 and updated the recommendation of who should be vaccinated to include everyone 12 and older, the Jan. 6 CDC Quarantine guidance issued for K-12 Schools maintains the booster requirement for those 18 for quarantine exemption. Students ages 5 to 17 need to have completed their primary vaccination series to be exempt.

Self-serve site launched

“The Essex County Health Department is prioritizing case investigations for our most vulnerable populations, which includes school-aged children,” said Linda Beers, director of public health for the department. “With the current surge in cases, we wanted to improve the timeliness of case investigation and contact tracing. The option for residents to access isolation and quarantine orders from our website does just that for those who haven’t yet been reached by our team.”

The site provides guidance and information for those with questions about how to isolate or quarantine.

There are four self-service options on the ECHD Isolation and Quarantine webpage.

1. Individuals testing positive using an at-home test can report their self-test and will automatically receive an isolation email.

2. Those notified from their health care provider, pharmacy or other testing site that they tested positive for COVID-19 can submit an Isolation Request form; there is no need to report the result to the health department.

3. Anyone who has been notified that they were exposed to COVID-19 can submit a Quarantine Request form if they are not otherwise exempt.

4. Those needing Isolation Release documentation can also use the website and attest to meeting release criteria using the “I Need an Isolation Release” tab and getting an immediate release email.

CDC guidance

Following the updated CDC Isolation and Quarantine guidance, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to isolate for at least five days, regardless of vaccination status. An individual without symptoms, or whose symptoms are resolving, can be released from isolation after they complete day 5. These individuals must continue to wear a well fitted mask (when around others) for an additional five days after release. Individuals at increased risk of severe infection, such as those with compromised immune systems, will be required to complete a 10-day isolation.

Anyone exposed (contacts) to COVID-19 will now be subject to a five-day quarantine. Contacts will not be required to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated or have evidence of a prior infection in the past 90 days.

“Per CDC, the definition of fully vaccinated has recently changed and we want residents to understand that fully vaccinated now means that you are two weeks out from your booster shot, if you are eligible to receive one,” explained Jessica Darney Buehler, director of health promotion and planning for ECHD. “Those immunized with Moderna need to be boosted six months after the primary two-dose vaccination series, Pfizer recipients need a booster five months after the two-dose series, and those who got the one dose J&J (Janssen) need a booster two months later to be considered fully vaccinated”.

Regardless of quarantine status, all individuals exposed to COVID-19 should:

1. Monitor for symptoms for 10 days from day of exposure.

2. Adhere to all recommended prevention measures, including hand hygiene and the use of face coverings.

3. Immediately self-isolate if any symptoms develop and seek testing.

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Essex County and throughout the nation, health officials say it is vital that all residents continue to take precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These precautions include wearing a mask when in public, washing hands, staying home when you are sick, getting tested if ill or exposed, and getting vaccinated and boosted.

The Essex County Health Department offers clinics in Elizabethtown on Mondays and Wednesdays for all doses/types, and an additional booster-only clinic on Thursdays. To schedule an appointment, go to www.co.essex.ny.us/Health/make-an-appointment/.

Starting at $1.44/week.

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