Chicago Tribune (Sunday)
COVID-19 questions: Are kids’ sports OK?
Here are some of the many questions readers have sent us that we’ve put to health and science experts. Have your own pandemic question? Send it to chicagotribune.com/ask. Get the latest Chicago COVID-19 information and updates from Chicago Tribune reporters and editors on our COVID19 Facebook page.
Should I let my child play sports now that more schools are considering reopening for in-person learning?
According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency has been trying to understand outbreaks of coronavirus among those under age 25.
“We are learning that many outbreaks in young people are related to youth sports and extracurricular activities,” she said in a Monday White House news briefing on COVID19. “According to CDC guidance, these activities should be limited, but if they are not, the risks of clusters can be prevented with cadence testing strategies, as are being rolled out in so many different places.”
Cadence testing or serial, random testing is something professional sports organizations have been conducting. Testing entails pre-entry testing, and daily testing.
Walensky says everyone needs to remain vigilant to keep case numbers down.
West Rogers Park native Dr. Jonathan Baktari, CEO of U.S. Drug Test Centers and e7health.com, a Las Vegasbased provider of adult vaccinations, says being vigilant doesn’t mean stopping your child from participating in youth sports. It does mean doing everything you can to mitigate the spread while playing sports — like reducing the size of team squads, eliminating unnecessary sports meetings or
taking them outdoors.
“Maybe we can do without a locker room, no celebrating after a touchdown, no high-fives, that kind of stuff,” he said. “Potentially we just need to come up with a strategy for the next month or two, since Pfizer announced that they’ve had amazing results in the 12- to 15-year-old population, so it may be before summer camp or summer sports begin that all 12- to 15-year-olds may have access to the Pfizer vaccine.”
Baktari said parents with kids playing contact sports like football might be more on edge than those who have children participating in swimming, but it’s all about the ventilation either way — high ceilings and ventilation are better than practice
rooms with air conditioning.
“That’s where the education comes in. If we’re going to play this sport, we’re going to do all these steps to minimize contact,” he said. “Wear your mask when you’re not playing, and stay socially distant. It’s not ever going to be: ‘This gets rid of all risk, or this sport is 100% risky.’ It’s a continuum. Our job is to chip away at the risk. If you use mitigating strategies, you may have spot breakouts, but you won’t have 50 to 100 people infected at one event. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
— Darcel Rockett
What are the CDC’s new rules for school cleanings?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is
no longer recommending daily disinfection of schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The CDC updated its guidance Monday on settings, including homes, saying disinfecting chemicals need to be used only within 24 hours after an infected person has been there.
The CDC news coincides with the news that more school districts are opening up for in-person learning.
In summer 2020, the agency had recommended that strong disinfecting chemicals be used daily to prevent the spread of the virus in classrooms.
Colleges like The University of Notre Dame are requiring all students to receive COVID-19 vaccinations to enroll in classes next school year. The decision follows similar moves by Rutgers, Cornell, Brown and Northeastern universities.
“We will, of course, accommodate documented medical and religious exemptions,” Notre Dame said on its website. “We will also offer a way to be vaccinated for those who are unable to obtain a vaccination prior to arriving for the fall semester or whose vaccination is not recognized by the state of Indiana.”
Notre Dame will open a campus vaccination site for students Thursday.
— Elyssa Cherney and Associated Press
Why should I hold on to my vaccination card?
The vaccine card, given after your first shot and then updated if you’re required to have a second shot, includes the vaccine manufacturer, the dose numbers, and the date and location each was administered.
While the government has said that it would not be passing a federal mandate or distributing its own vaccine passport, having and holding on to your card after you receive doses could make it easier to travel.
Some destinations and cruise lines have started requiring that travelers be fully vaccinated before they travel. Fully vaccinated Americans who can present proof of vaccination can visit Iceland and avoid border measures such as testing and quarantining, the country’s government said. And cruise lines like Royal Caribbean are requiring passengers and crew members 18 or older to be vaccinated to board ships when companies restart cruise operations.
For the moment, airlines are not requiring vaccinations for travel. But the idea has been much talked about in the industry. The universal use of vaccine cards as “passports” to allow a safe return to “normalcy” during reopening has also raised ethical, equity and privacy concerns.
Dr. Uchenna Ikediobi, assistant professor of general internal medicine and infectious diseases at Yale University, recommends laminating the card
and keeping it in a safe place, as you would a passport, rather than carrying it around. Having a picture of your card on your phone, so you’ll have the information in your photo library, and emailing it to yourself as backup are also recommended.
If you lose the vaccination card, return to where you were vaccinated to get a new one. Vaccinations are tracked by state health departments, so you can also reach out to the state’s agency to get a replacement card, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (The agency lists contact information for the Immunization Information System in each state, which tracks vaccinations, on its website.)
— Concepción De León, The New York Times, and The Journal of the American Medical Association
How long do the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines protect us?
New research in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests the protection the Moderna vaccine gives against COVID-19 lasts for at least six months — the Pfizer vaccine has a similar efficacy time frame.
Both reports were based on follow-up tests in dozens of people who received the shots during studies that led to the vaccines’ use. Those studies were done before troubling new variants, or new versions of the coronavirus, had emerged and started to spread.
Pfizer and Moderna have said they are working to update their vaccines, or possibly design a booster shot, in case they’re needed against variants.
As of Tuesday, 40% of Illinois residents 16 and older have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Vice President Kamala Harris made a brief visit to Chicago on Tuesday and toured a vaccination site run by the Chicago Federation of Labor for union workers. She touted efforts to expand vaccination sites in underserved communities, as the White House announced that all adults in the U.S. will be eligible for vaccines by April 19, rather than May 1.
Is there a new COVID-19 variant?
Yes, there is a new variant, called the “double mutant” variant. It was first identified in India and has now been found in California by scientists at Stanford University. This variant contains two mutations in its genetic composition that also have been identified in other variants being tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Dr. Benjamin Pinsky, director of the Clinical Virology Laboratory at Stanford, the lab identified one confirmed case of the new variant and seven presumptive cases among samples from patients in the Bay Area.
None of the other variants being monitored by federal officials have the same combination of these two mutations, known as L452R and E484Q. The L452R mutation has also been found in the California variant (B.1.427/B.1.429). The E484Q mutation is closely related to the E484K mutation, which has been found in variants first identified in South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1 and P.2) and New York (B.1.526).
The mutations concern scientists because the former is believed to make the virus more infectious and might cause reduced immunity in people who have been vaccinated. The latter mutation might give the virus the ability to partly evade the immune system’s protective response in inoculated people or those who have survived a conventional COVID-19 illness.
“What we don’t know is how those (two mutations) will behave when they’re put in the same virus,” Pinsky said in an interview April 5. “There’s a reasonable amount of information about those (two mutations) individually. But will it be worse if they’re together? We don’t really know how they’re going to interact.”
The emergence of the new variant underscores how important it will be to quickly vaccinate as many people as possible. Because as Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in March, one way variants can emerge is through the infection of a single person who has a compromised immune system (the virus could evolve in that person to become even more robust).
— Rong-Gong Lin II, Luke Money, Los Angeles Times
Should you abstain from alcohol for one to two weeks after a vaccination shot?
Some people are worried that drinking alcohol for one to two weeks after receiving a vaccine shot can reduce its efficacy. But according to Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director of infection control and prevention at the University of Chicago Medicine, people shouldn’t worry.
“There were probably lots of people who received the vaccine in clinical trials who drank alcohol after receiving it. And the vaccines were still shown to be effective,” she said. “That’s part of the beauty of a randomized clinical trial like the ones for the COVID-19 vaccines — they reflect the realities of real life. So as long as you’re not overindulging and going above and beyond what’s considered normal and regular behavior, it’s probably OK.”
— Darcel Rockett
Can vaccinated people spread the virus?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current research is far from sufficient to claim that vaccinated people cannot spread the virus.
The data suggest that “it’s much harder for vaccinated people to get infected, but don’t think for one second that they cannot get infected,” said Paul Duprex, director of the Center for Vaccine Research at the University of Pittsburgh. “We’re stopping symptoms; we’re keeping people out of hospitals. But we’re not making them completely resistant to an infection.”
The question came up because of misinterpretation of CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s comments about recent data in a television interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
“What we know is the vaccines are very substantially effective against infection — there’s more and more data on that — but nothing is 100%,” said John Moore, a virus expert at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “It is an important public health message that needs to be gotten right.”