This is a weekly Q and A column written by Dr. Lydia S. Segal, M.D. in conjunction with Chaffee County Public Health. This column is focused on questions readers have about COVID-19 news and sciences. As Segal points out, ‘Everything I write today is valid for today. COVID-19 news and science are rapidly evolving, assume updates will be made”
QUESTION: A business owner in Salida has several concerns: how does she keep her staff safe from COVID-19 at work; how does she get her clientele to wear masks in her shop without running into conflict; how does she get other business owners to insist they get their staff vaccinated and make sure both their staff and shoppers mask up?
ANSWER: First of all, the shop owner must insist her staff be vaccinated and mask up. She has the right even to make getting vaccinated a condition of employment.
If she doesn’t feel comfortable forcing vaccinations on her staff, she must at least be vigilant in making sure they wear masks at all times. This should be non-negotiable As for getting her clientele to wear masks inside her shop, she has indicated that she supplies masks upon entry, which is an excellent first step. If they refuse to mask up, she can deny them entrance. Of course, this action could lose her some business, but it can also serve to increase her business from people concerned about getting sick who are looking for COVID-safe retail establishments.
The ability to get other business owners to follow in her footsteps may be futile. From her questions, it appears she has spoken with other business owners and they have not been responsive to her point of view. However, she should not give up. In any event, it may come down to having a government mandate that people must be vaccinated or wear a mask in order to enter a store.
We know from research about changing people’s minds, that guidance from family members and mandated rules are the two most effective methods.
QUESTION: A different reader asks about keeping her children safe as they return to in-person school this month. One child is 7 years old and the other 15. The older one is fully vaccinated. Both are healthy and participate in sports. Both children want to return to in-class school.
ANSWER: The school board met last week to decide on masking and social distancing mitigation measures to ensure student and staff safety. They voted to strongly suggest masking but not to make it mandatory. Vaccines and other mitigation measures such as social distancing are encouraged by the board and by public health for eligible age students, teachers and staff.
Periodic testing will be offered according to Director of Chaffee County Public Health, Andrea Carlstrom. The community should know that both public health and the school board are keeping an eye on available data and will respond quickly if the situation warrants a change in policy. These decisions are based on balancing the health and safety and educational needs of the students, teachers, and staff.
Regardless of what the school board decides, all parents should first and foremost know they are not alone in the difficult decisions they need to make about their children’s safety and education. Everywhere across the country, parents and school boards are making tough decisions balancing in-person education and children and staff safety.
In this situation, I would suggest she have both children mask, independent of their vaccine status. This is particularly true because of the highly transmissible Delta variant that is currently prevalent. And as much as possible, she should reinforce social distancing. While it is true that the number of children who get COVID-19 is small, and the number who get hospitalized or die is even smaller, it can still happen. The risk is there and should not be ignored.
QUESTION: Why is the Delta variant affecting more young adults?
ANSWER: The answer is simple: fewer young adults, ages 18-45, are getting vaccinated. Many feel they are young and healthy and do not need to get vaccinated. That thinking is proving to their detriment as the numbers of hospitalized, young, unvaccinated people rise. We know that the current Delta variant is a lot more transmissible and may produce more serious illness (due to new studies from three countries.)
QUESTION: Are there any last-minute updates I should know about?
ANSWER: There are two relevant updates.
The FDA strongly suggests vaccinations for pregnant women. The vaccines have been shown to be safe and protective in large studies over the last year. There have been several large studies over the last year that prove the vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant women.
Additionally, the FDA approved a third, i.e., booster dose for those who are immunocompromised. Because there are a wide range of conditions that cause decreased immune function, you should consult with your physician if you feel you might be a candidate for a third dose.
If you have questions you would like Dr. Segal to address in a future COVID Q and A column, please write to email@example.com
For more information about COVID testing and vaccines, eligibility and appointments, see the links below. Pharmacies will be getting small shipments of vaccines in the near future. Information will be posted online here and on the county public health web pages.
Pharmacy vaccine resources:
Salida: Walmart, Safeway, Salida Pharmacy
Buena Vista: City Market, BV Drug, Shavano Pharmacy (LaGree’s) and Valley-Wide Health
By Lydia S. Segal, M.D., MPH