By Dena Vang – After two years of cancellations and alternative celebrations, cities across the country are getting ready to bring back fireworks, parades, barbecues and picnics, and other Fourth of July festivities. But with the rise of the BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5 subvariants of omicron, the U.S. finds itself in a familiar position: the threat of another COVID-19 surge.
Earlier this spring the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention updated its masking guidelines, which has been a key mitigating factor over the course of the pandemic. Masking guidance now correlates with the impact of COVID-19 on local hospitals in a specific county. In response, several cities have since lifted and rescinded mask mandates.
As Americans gather to celebrate the Fourth of July, those who have managed to avoid getting infected may be at an increased risk this summer. Reinfections are also occurring regardless of vaccination status. However, vaccines and boosters are still effective at preventing the worst outcomes from COVID-19, even from Omicron and its subvariants. For Black communities that have been disproportionately impacted, proceeding with caution when it comes to summer celebrations will be key to reducing COVID-19 transmission.
Vaccination rates in four states with larger Black populations have been low.
- Louisiana: Black Americans make up 31% of the population, only 32% are fully vaccinated
- South Carolina: Black Americans make up 25% of the population, only 40% are fully vaccinated
- Alabama: Only 48% of Black residents has received one dose of the vaccine
- Georgia: Only 54% of Black residents have received one dose of the vaccine
Dr. Doris Browne, president and CEO of Browne and Associates and a Cobb Institute physician, is reminding the community that preventative measures still matter.
“Please take into consideration your situation. If you are in an area where you are with individuals and you don’t know their vaccination status, where they have been, and whether they have been exposed to COVID, protect yourself. Wear your mask,” said Browne. “Make it very individual for you and your family and the loved ones that you are around. When you have large public gatherings, we run the risk of seeing another surge in this pandemic.”
While the pandemic is not over, there are more tools to fight it. Here are a few tips to help keep everyone safe this summer:
- Mask up in large crowds and in public indoor areas.
- Monitor your health daily and be aware of any symptoms.
- Get tested for COVID-19 before attending an event to prevent the spread.
- Avoid shared food items to reduce the spread of germs.
- Get vaccinated and boosted.
Every person six months of age and older is eligible to get vaccinated for free. To find a vaccine site, search vaccines.gov, text your ZIP code to 438829, or call 1-800-232-0233 to find locations near you.
For more information about vaccinations and health resources, visit Stay Well Community Facebook page.
Dena Vang is the Public Relations Manager at Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and the Cobb Institute.