COVID-19 - Dr. Jim Halverson

COVID-19 - Dr. Jim Halverson

Ask Dr. Halverson: Double masking; no quarantine if you’re vaccinated; vaccine availability improving

web 4 17 Halverson photo
By Dr. Jim Halverson
Wearing a tightly fitting (knotted and tucked) surgical mask, or doubling up on masks, can significantly reduce COVID-19 transmission and slow the spread of new, more contagious strains, according to a Centers for Disease Control report released Feb. 10.
“The data in the report underscore the finding that good fit can increase overall mask efficiency,” the authors of the report wrote. “Multiple simple ways to improve fit have been demonstrated to be effective.”
Current mask effectiveness at preventing both droplet and aerosol spread of COVID-19 has been shown in multiple well-conducted studies. Here are well proven results:
• N-95 masks: 95% effective
• KN-95 masks: 90% effective
• Proper-fitting double-layered cloth masks (covering the nose, mouth and tightly fitting under the chin and against the cheeks) or wearing a double-layered cloth mask over a surgical mask: 83% effective.
    • Knotting the ear loops of a surgical mask, where they attach to the mask, and then tucking in and flattening the extra material close to the face (knotted and tucked masks): 83% effective.
• Singled-layered cloth masks: 44% effective. 
• Surgical masks not properly fitting: 42% effective.
• Scarfs or bandanas; minimally effective.
To ensure proper mask wearing, the CDC also recommends keeping a spare mask to replace one that becomes wet, and storing wet, reusable masks in a plastic bag until they can be washed.
Simple signs that your mask is not fitting properly and giving you little protection are needing to continually adjust your mask as it slips under your nose or having your glasses fog up while wearing a mask. 
With the recent emergence of more highly contagious variants of the SARS-COV-2 virus, properly wearing highly effective masks is very important to lessen viral transmission until vaccine availability and administration enable us to bring this pandemic under control.

Fully vaccinated people can skip COVID quarantines 
People who have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus can skip quarantine if they are exposed to someone infected with the virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Feb. 10.
The criteria to not quarantine are:
1. Having had both shots of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines with at least two weeks having passed since the second shot.
2. No development of symptoms in the 14 days following exposure.
3. No longer than three months have passed since the second shot (this time frame will likely be extended as the duration of vaccine effectiveness is determined).
Everyone, vaccinated or not, still needs to follow all other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask(s), staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use and SARS-COV-2 testing.

Vaccine availability improving 
Two major recent announcements are improving our opportunities to receive the coronavirus vaccines. 
    1. On Feb. 11, 1 million doses of vaccine began to be shipped out to about 6,500 pharmacies in the United States, including Rite Aid in Ojai, and CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies in Ventura. You must be eligible to get the vaccine in order to make an appointment. 
Expect supplies to be limited initially. This will improve as more vaccines are produced nationally. I have had patients receive their first vaccines at both Rite Aid in Miramonte and CVS in Ventura in the last several days. To find out which pharmacies in our area are receiving vaccines and to obtain information on how to make an appointment, please go to the California Department of Public Health site or the Rite Aid site
For those with no Internet availability, call the state information site at 833-422-4255. In addition, continue to check the Ventura County website  ( regularly. 
Many of you may find that there are currently no appointments available. Be persistent, especially early Monday morning, as that is when additional appointment opportunities are usually posted. Our friends and neighbors who are 75 and over have already been able to start getting vaccinated (nearly 70% have received at least their first vaccine dose). As vaccination efforts continue to progress, you will be able to be vaccinated soon.
 2. The United States has now purchased enough vaccines to immunize 300 million Americans (600 million doses total of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines). Additionally, vaccine manufacturers are guaranteeing delivery of these doses by the end of July. With a population of 330 million, all Americans should be able to be fully vaccinated by the middle of September!
I am increasingly optimistic that we have turned the corner on the pandemic in the United States. Safer days are ahead!
Stay committed, stay properly informed, stay optimistic, stay safe and stay well.


— Dr. Jim Halverson is a longtime Ojai physician who writes a weekly column on COVID-19 for the Ojai Valley News.