What should event organizers keep in mind now that BA.5 is on the rise? An expert explains

At the same time, many people have many summer events planned, including weddings, birthdays, and casual get-togethers. What should event organizers keep in mind? How can people think about their deductible when deciding whether to attend and what precautions to take? What if you need to attend something – say, a work function – but really don’t want to bring Covid back to your family? And what about people who have already recovered from infection – should they still be concerned about reinfection and the risks of illness, including long-term Covid?

dr. AS Leana Wen: BA.5 is now the dominant variant here in the United States and in many parts of the world. It turns out to be the most portable variant to date. It can also be partially immune-evasive, meaning people who have had their vaccinations or who have previously had Covid-19 may not have much protection against mild or asymptomatic infection.

Vaccination does protect against serious diseases, however. People who have not been vaccinated should be vaccinated, and those who have not yet been boosted should. Knowing about vaccines can protect you from the potentially serious consequences of Covid-19, which is ultimately the goal of vaccination.

The reason it’s a concern now is that there are high levels in many parts of the country. In areas with a lot of circulating virus, with such a transmissible pathogen, the chance of contracting Covid-19 is high.

CNN: Does this mean people should cancel in-person events?

female: After two and a half years of the pandemic, I don’t think it’s reasonable to ask that people forgo weddings, birthday parties and other gatherings. Many people have decided that as long as they are unlikely to become seriously ill from Covid-19, they will not take any precautions to avoid it.

On the other hand, many people really want to avoid Covid-19. Event organizers should take into account the wishes of that meeting.

CNN: What can people do when they organize a meeting?

female: First, we recognize that any time people gather, especially indoors, there is a risk of coronavirus transmission. This is especially true with a highly contagious virus, and when there is so much virus around us. It is unrealistic to expect that no one can catch coronavirus during the event, although you should try to reduce the risk.

Some ways to do that are to try to keep the gathering out in the first place. We said this during the pandemic and it remains where now outside is much safer than inside. Coronavirus is in the air, and the more air circulation you have, the better.

Meeting outside is "much safer"  than indoors when it comes to the risk of Covid-19 infection, said CNN Medical Analyst Dr.  Leana Wen.  Students will meet in New Orleans on March 18.

Ventilation is also important. A partial indoor/outdoor space with good air circulation is better than a completely enclosed space. And a room with open windows and doors and lots of space is less risky than a small, closed room where everyone is sitting on top of each other.

If organizers want to further reduce the risk, they can ask everyone to do a rapid test at home just before the event. Rapid tests aren’t perfect, but they’re very good at detecting whether a person currently has enough viruses to infect others. Testing at the door is an extra security, in case not everyone has access to testing beforehand.

Of course, masks can also reduce the transmission of viruses. At this point in the pandemic, it can be difficult to get people to keep masks on when most places no longer need them. I think it’s more realistic to schedule an outdoor event and, if it has to be indoors, ask for tests rather than required masks (although masks should of course be an option for those wanting extra protection).

CNN: What is your advice for immunocompromised individuals or those who just really want to avoid contracting Covid-19?

female: If you are invited to an event, find out what precautions the organizer is taking and assess the risks accordingly. An outdoor event, or at least one where you could be out all the time, is pretty low risk. An indoor event that requires testing or masks is also a lower risk.

I am a concerned new mom.  This is why I decided to vaccinate my baby

What about crowded indoor events that don’t require testing and masks? One-way masking with a high-quality mask – N95 or equivalent – will remain protective, but your mask must fit well and you must keep it on all the time. If you go, consider eating beforehand and taking off your mask only when you are outside or in a place where you are alone.

At the end of the day, there’s no clear answer to whether you should go — it depends on how much you want to avoid Covid-19 versus the benefit you’d get from attending.

CNN: If someone has had Covid-19, should they be concerned about reinfection? What do we know about the risk of long-term Covid with reinfection?

female: Reinfection is certainly possible. Those who had pre-Omicron variants such as Delta or Alpha are susceptible to reinfection with Omicron subvariants. We are even seeing reinfections in people who had the original Omicron variant and are now getting BA.5.

The chance of reinfection within the first two or three months after the initial infection is quite low, but increases after that. People who were previously infected benefit from vaccination and boosting, further reducing their chances of both serious illness and infection.

A new study, posted online but not yet peer-reviewed, shows that people with reinfection are higher risk of long-term Covid and other possible consequences with each infection. These results may lead some people to say they want to avoid reinfection as much as possible.

CNN: Many people have to travel for conferences, meetings and other work functions. What is your advice if they don’t want to bring Covid-19 back to their families?

female: There are two options. One is to try and minimize their risk while traveling and at these functions, including limiting time indoors with others, masking during all interactions indoors, and avoiding indoor events involving food and drink — or at the very least. keep a mask on during these functions and eat and drink separately elsewhere.

The second option is to assume that you are exposed to Covid-19 during these job roles and that you could contract Covid-19, then quarantine and test yourself before interacting with family members. Not everyone can do this — they may have young children or other family responsibilities — but that’s another option that may be right for some people.

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