This FAQ was updated on December 21, 2021.
Looking for the COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ? Click here.
Why should I still be concerned about this?
When the SARS-CoV-2 (the official name of this “novel coronavirus”) started infecting people, no one in the world had any immunity, meaning everyone was susceptible. This virus is easily transmissible and can cause severe adverse health effects, including death. As of December 20, 2021, 803,593 people have died from this virus in the US. For those experiencing the most severe complications from this viral infection, the lungs fill with fluid in response to trying to fight the virus, which leaves the blood, brain and heart starved of oxygen. Even though the lungs are the most commonly affected system attacked by this virus, we now know that it can affect the brain, spine, nervous system and blood. Many with severe cases of COVID-19, who survive, still experience symptoms months after they have been infected. Currently, there are multiple variants of the virus circulating in the United States and globally. The most dominant variant right now is the Omicron variant which is highly transmissible. The United States has still been overwhelmed with cases caused by the Delta variant, which caused cases, hospitalizations, and deaths to increase across the U.S and overwhelm healthcare systems. Currently, the three vaccines available in the US are effective in reducing the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death. However, since the virus continues to circulate, both in the US and around the world, there is opportunity for variants to develop that may cause the virus to spread even more easily, cause more severe symptoms, or evade treatments or vaccines.
What are variants?
The Omicron variant is the predominant variant of the SARS-CoV02 virus circulating in the United States right now. It quickly became dominant over the Delta variant due to how quickly and easily it spreads. Viruses change and mutate over time and the most “successful” variants become dominant. CDC and health officials around the world are still collecting information on Omicron. This is a rapidly changing situation so be sure to check the CDC website for updates. The best way to stop these variants from spreading and to prevent other variants from emerging is to have as many people vaccinated as possible.
Why should I get vaccinated?
The three vaccines available in the US are safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 and help you from getting seriously ill if you do get COVID-19. The more people that are vaccinated, the less the virus will spread in communities. This means less hospitalizations and deaths, and we can get back to doing the activities we used to. As the virus continues to circulate, there is more opportunity for additional variants to develop, including some that the vaccines may not protect against. If that happens, we will be back to where we started in March of 2020. Contact your healthcare provider if you have specific questions about COVID-19 vaccines. You can also check our website for more information.
When can I get a vaccination?
Everyone in the US over the age of 5 is currently eligible to receive a vaccine. Each state has been handling their own vaccine distribution plans. Visit https://www.vaccines.gov/ or click on the following links below to get more info about vaccine availability in your region. Remember to contact your healthcare provider if you have specific questions about COVID-19 vaccines.
Do I still need to wear a mask?
Yes, you need to continue to wear a mask and stay six feet away from others, especially until you are fully vaccinated, which is two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after your first and only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Even if you are fully vaccinated, with the circulation of variants, continuing to wear masks when you are in public, indoor spaces, with people who are not in your household, will offer an additional layer of protection for you and the community. After you are fully vaccinated, the CDC says you can some resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance. Masks are still required when using public transportation (traveling in planes, trains, and buses, etc.). Healthcare settings still require masks as well. However, the CDC recommends continuing to wear a mask and practicing physical distancing in areas with substantial or high rates of community transmission. Substantial transmission is 50-100 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, or an 8-10% positivity rate. High transmission is over 100 new cases per 100,000 people over seven days, or a 10% or higher positivity rate. Currently, the entire US is experiencing substantial or high rates of transmission, so it is critical to keep wearing a mask, staying six feet away from others, and frequently washing your hands. We need to practice all these different strategies to stop the spread and to protect those who are most vulnerable (e.g., young children, immunocompromised individuals). You can check the transmission rate of your county here.
How does this virus spread?
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that this virus is transmitted by both airborne exposure (liquid droplets generated from sneezing, coughing, and talking) and by surface exposure (touching droplets on a contaminated surface, and then touching your mouth, nose, and/or eye). You are more likely to be exposed to these airborne droplets if you are in close contact with an infected person. The CDC has updated its definition of “close contact” (October 21, 2020) to be anyone within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour day. Cumulative exposure means contact with the infected person could be broken up throughout a day (such as three 5-minute exposures during the day). If someone becomes COVID-positive, they will be asked to identify anyone who has been a “close contact” in the past several days and require that person be quarantined until COVID status can be determined by testing.
On October 5, 2020, the CDC updated their guidance on airborne transmission to include particles that can stay in the air (especially dry air) for minutes or hours and can travel in air currents and infect people even if they are more than six feet apart. Based on what we know right now, the CDC states most COVID-19 infections are likely occurring during close contact but that airborne transmission is possible. This is especially important as people spend more time indoors during the fall and winter in areas that may not be well ventilated.
To prevent getting infected, can we simply stay away from people who are sick?
For this virus, the answer is a clear “no”. People who are exposed to someone carrying the SARS-CoV-2 may be incubating the virus for several days up to 14 days without showing any signs or symptoms of the disease. In November, the CDC reported that about 50% of cases were spread by people who did not know they were infected. If you are infected but don’t know it, and you continue interacting with people — at the gas station, the bank, the grocery store, the co-op — then you would be spreading the virus without knowing it. When this happens, we have “community spread” of the virus. Since our region does not have the ability to trace everyone you contacted and test them for the virus, we do not know who or how many people you might have infected.
Interestingly, some people may not have any symptoms but are capable of spreading the disease. Because of this, instead of thinking about staying away from people who are coughing, sneezing, and/or have a fever, we have asked everyone to keep distant from ALL people so we don’t pick up the virus or give it to others.
The most effective thing you can to prevent infection is to get vaccinated. Check our vaccine FAQ webpage and talk to your healthcare provider if you have questions about getting vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated yet, it is important to avoid crowded, indoor spaces and stay at home, when possible. The recommendation of physical distancing (also called “social distancing”) is important to prevent disease transmission: If we maintain 6 ft of separation between ourselves and others in the community, we decrease the chance that we (or they) transmit the virus, causing another infection. Additionally, wearing a cloth face covering that covers your mouth and nose when in public spaces will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in communities. The face covering works by blocking some of the respiratory droplets that may contain the virus that are exhaled when we speak, cough, or sneeze. Since people may have the virus without showing symptoms, this is a crucial step in reducing the spread of the virus.
If I have had COVID-19 symptoms, how do I know if I am no longer contagious?
Your determination is based on whether you can get tests to confirm you are no longer infected. If you have been sick with COVID-19 and tested positive, or if you think you have COVID but cannot get a test to confirm your status, you should only leave your “sick room” and home when ALL three are true:
- It has been at least 10 days since you started feeling sick
- No fever for at least 24 hours (1 day without the use of medicines that reduce fevers)
- Other symptoms have improved (for example, no cough or shortness of breath)
Your healthcare provider may recommend testing to confirm you are no longer contagious, which requires that you receive two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart. More details are available on this CDC website, which includes a link to the procedures your doctor will follow to make this decision.
If I had a positive test but no COVID-19 symptoms, how do I know if I am no longer contagious?
Even if you do not have symptoms, you should stay isolated if you have a positive COVID test because you can still spread the virus to others. You can end isolation if:
- It has been at least 10 days since your positive test
- You continue to have no symptoms
Your healthcare provider may recommend testing to confirm you are no longer contagious so you need to check with them to determine when you can be around others.
What do I need to do on the farm to protect myself?
The rules of social distancing and handwashing apply on the farm just as they do anywhere else. If you are farming with family members who live with you, unless you have someone with a high-risk medical condition, extra precautions are not needed.
However, if someone else comes to the farm, you should act as if YOU are infected and THEY are infected and maintain your 6 ft distance. This means no hand-shaking, but you can walk together (separated by 6 ft) and discuss work that needs to be done. Disinfect surfaces you touched (before having your visitor touch it and then after).
If you need to work in close contact with a visitor or worker to your farm, this is the time to break out the respirators: the disposable N95 (don’t use the one with an exhalation valve) or a HEPA or P100 filter on the elastomeric respirators you use for chemicals are suited for this. Make sure you disinfect your reusable respirators after use (follow guidance from manufacturer).
What if I have elderly family members that are at high risk?
If you are a caretaker of an elderly family member, you need to do everything you can to prevent yourself from carrying SARS-CoV-2 virus. Adopt the most rigorous distancing protocol at work/home to prevent infection. If you develop any symptoms of COVID-19, you need to isolate yourself from high-risk family members. Guidance is available from the CDC and your state department of public health.
What surfaces should I prioritize for decontamination?
Disinfection of frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned at least daily (more frequently if become visibly dirty or you know of contact by others):
- light switches
What chemicals should I be using to disinfect surfaces that might be contaminated?
Disinfection of these surfaces requires commonly available products. Typical solutions are listed here:
- bleach solution (use mix within 1 day): 6 Tablespoon (1/3 cup) 7% bleach / gallon water or 4 teaspoons 7% bleach / quart water; 1-minute contact time.
- alcohol solution (70% minimum; no dilution)
- antibacterial sheet products: using any home product that indicates “Kills 99.99%” should be good.
Guidance on cleaning methods for different surface types is on this CDC website. It is important to follow CONTACT TIME recommendations: you are asked to let the solutions sit on surfaces for 1 to 10 minutes, depending on the product used. If you are using industrial strength products, the U.S. EPA has updated its pesticide registration list for SARS-CoV-2, which contains information on the contact time required to kill this virus.
Who has the highest risk of being severely ill when infected?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has compiled risk factors. In short, people 65 years and older and people with the following underlying medical conditions are at increased risk of having severe illness with this virus:
- chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Down Syndrome
- serious heart conditions (such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathies)
- immunocompromised from solid organ transplant
- type 2 diabetes
- sickle cell disease
- obesity (BMI >30) and severe obesity (BMI >40)
The CDC also lists risk factors that may cause an increased risk of severe illness which include:
- asthma (moderate to severe)
- cerebrovascular disease
- CF (cystic fibrosis)
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- immunocompromised from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids or other immune weakening medicines
- liver disease
- pulmonary fibrosis
- type 1 diabetes
- neurologic conditions (such as dementia)
- overweight (BMI > 25 but < 30)
See this CDC web page (updated Dec 32, 2021) for more information on protecting those at high risk.
It is important to understand that people who are not in these categories still have some risk of becoming ill or developing complications from contracting COVID-19. Additionally, people infected with COVID-19 who do not become severely ill are still able to spread the virus to others who may be at higher risk of becoming severely ill.Retired COVID-19 FAQ