What You Need to Know-Week of November 16th

The most important weekly updates for you to keep your community healthy

In this Update:

1. Quick Question: Are there any benefits for the flu shot and COVID?

2. Pandemic Preparedness: Reducing COVID-19 risk during holiday celebrations

3.  Information You Need: Free antibody testing with blood donations

1. Quick Question: Are there any benefits for the flu shot and COVID?

Yes, absolutely! Receiving a flu shot helps with two important goals: (1) it reduces your risk of catching the flu, and (2) it decreases the burden on the healthcare system meaning more resources can be directed to other health concerns. It’s also important to get a flu vaccine each year because the virus that causes influenza changes from one season to the next. Each year research is conducted to update the vaccine based on  how the virus is predicted to change for the upcoming season. Here are some additional benefits of getting the flu vaccine:

  1. There is some evidence that having the flu vaccine will provide a temporary boost to overall immune system function, which is now more important than ever with COVID-19.
  2. Getting the shot prevents most people from getting the flu. This means you are less likely to get the flu which can weaken your immune system making you more susceptible to COVID-19 disease. 
  3. In 2018-2019, the flu shot prevented over 4 million influenza cases in the United States, and thousands of related hospitalizations and deaths.
  4. The flu vaccine can save children’s lives. In the 2017-2018 flu season, there were 185 child deaths due to influenza in the United States. 
  5. The flu shot can make your disease less severe even if you still catch the flu. Vaccination is not 100% effective BUT the flu vaccine not only prevents infection in most people but it also can reduce how bad the disease is even if you do get flu. 
  6. The flu shot has shown to be helpful for those with chronic conditions. It has been associated with reduced cardiac events, hospitalizations for diabetics, and lung diseases associated with the flu (e.g., COPD, chronic lung disease).
  7. Pregnant women who receive the flu vaccine are also helping to protect their babies.
  8. Remember flu, like COVID-19, can be transmitted to others before you even know you are sick! By getting vaccinated for the flu, you are protecting you, your loved ones and those around you who may not be able to get the vaccine.

The flu shot is a safe and effective way to keep our communities healthier. You can find a location to get your flu shot at this link.

Information for this update was gathered from the CDC. For more information about the importance of receiving a flu shot visit our previous update

2. Pandemic Preparedness: Reducing COVID-19 risk during holiday celebrations

Now is the time many people are trying to decide what they are going to do during the holidays. This is a challenging time and you must balance the risk-benefit of your activities. It is critically important to ask yourself and your family and friends some of the following questions before making your plans. 

  1. Are there vulnerable people that would be at the holiday gathering you are considering? 
  2. Do you or other members of your household have potential exposures due to activities that put you in close contact with people outside your household on a regular basis? This could be by choice or it could be due to your job. 
  3. Would you be going for such a short time that you would not be able to get tested before joining with your gathering or is testing inaccessible?
  4. Would you need to travel and not have time to quarantine after your travel and before the holiday gathering?
  5. Is the level of transmission where you would travel to much higher than where you are residing?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, consider staying put this year and celebrating with your immediate household or your quaranteam or pod. Transmission is increasing all over the country and the likelihood that you could have someone in a large gathering that is infected is becoming considerable. 

If you still decide to have a gathering during the holidays it may need to look different this year.  Here are some ways to make  holiday celebrations safer and reduce your COVID-19 risk:

  1. Have open and frank conversations about risk and level of acceptable risk among everyone who will attend. 
  • Each family will have different risk taking behavior. Some of you may go to the grocery store in person, or feel comfortable going to small parties with friends or out to eat. Others may only order online and never get together with people outside their immediate household. It is critical that everyone be entirely honest about their level of risk and comfort. It’s ok to say you just don’t feel comfortable getting together in-person this year. You can still do something meaningful like having a virtual celebration, sending small home-made gifts or notes, or having a gift exchange through the mail. 
  • Don’t feel offended if someone says they just don’t want to get together. It is important to respect everyone’s comfort level. 
  1. Quarantine before and after you travel and encourage those who might be traveling to see you to do the same. 
  • To reduce the chance that you are infected when you see others, minimize your interactions with people outside your household as much as possible prior to the gathering for at least 10 days and up to 14 days. 
  1. If you are traveling, especially by public transport where you may be exposed to alot of people, consider finding a place to stay after you arrive where you and / or your household are away from the other household members. 
  2. Consider getting tested prior to the gathering. But keep in mind, a negative test is not a guarantee that you are virus free. Continue to use face coverings, wash hands, and distance as much as possible during your visit. 
  3. Opt for hosting celebrations or get togethers outside instead of indoors. This may be hard for many parts of the state and the country, but plenty of us live in areas that have good weather during the holiday season or have heat lamps on a patio to make it possible to gather outdoors. 
  • COVID-19 spreads more easily in enclosed spaces compared to outdoors.
  • Check out our previous update for more information on what components are necessary for a COVID-19 infection.
  1. If gatherings are hosted indoors, ensure that there is good airflow
  • Opening windows and doors, turning on fans, and keeping the air conditioning on are good ideas to ensure proper ventilation.
  • Hospital grade air purifiers have also been shown to have some impact but they need a high air exchange rate – i.e. they need to be powerful and might be expensive. 
  1. Limit the number of family and friends at a gathering 
  • Keeping gatherings small (e.g., fewer than 10) is a good way to lessen the risk of spreading COVID-19.
  • Also think about the number of households represented. Two households coming together with 10 people means less pooling of risk of multiple households with different exposure levels. 
  1. Space out seating to follow physical distancing guidelines
  • Spacing out seats by at least 6 feet can be a helpful way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread.
  • You can save room by clustering people by household since they are already in close contact with each other. 
  1. Encourage guests to wear cloth face coverings during the gathering whenever possible 
  • Wearing cloth face coverings has been proven to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is particularly important to have distance when people are eating as masks will have to be removed.
  1. Tell family and friends to stay home if they are not feeling well, or have had any recent potential COVID-19 exposures
  • Ask guests to take their temperature before arriving and to stay home if they are not feeling well. Guests should also avoid coming to the gathering if they believe they had a recent potential exposure to COVID-19. 
  1. Avoid sharing drinks, utensils, and other items amongst guests
  • If eating together, it is a good idea to encourage guests to serve themselves food and then wash their hands before they begin eating. It is also important to avoid sharing objects or items whenever possible (e.g., don’t pass phones around to share pictures, etc.).
  • You may want to consider having everyone bring their own dish. This reduces the likelihood of contamination. 
  1. Everyone at the gathering should wash their hands regularly 
  • After having contact with objects that other people may have touched, it is a good idea to wash your hands.
  1. Keep the celebrations short
  • Remember that risk of infection is directly related to the duration of exposure. Keeping visits shorter can reduce the potential for spread. 
  1. If possible, opt to stay in a hotel or airbnb rather than in the house with family and friends. 
  • Crowded conditions increase the chances for the virus to spread and sharing the same living space if you haven’t quarantined beforehand can increase the risk of transmission between the host and the guests. 

Remember the pandemic will be finite. We had great news about the COVID-19 vaccine this past week. Early studies indicate it could be 90% effective! This means we may only have to do this for one holiday season. It is extremely important we all fight the COVID fatigue and do our part to keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safer so we can maximize our chances of having many holidays to come with the ones we love. 


3.   Information You Need: Free antibody testing with blood donations

The need for blood never slows down, but the availability of donors to give blood has dropped due to COVID-19. As we head into winter, a season known for a drop in blood donations, it is more important than ever to prioritize donating blood if you are able. Every few seconds, a cancer patient, trauma victim, or critically ill patient receives a transfusion, and it is only made possible by you. 

As an added bonus for blood donors, the American Red Cross and many other donation centers across Arizona are offering free COVID-19 antibody testing. If, for example, you are curious to know if you were one of those “asymptomatic” carriers, or if that sore throat you had a few weeks ago really was COVID-19 after all, an antibody test can tell you if you were previously exposed. These tests cannot diagnose a current illness, so if you feel ill at all, please wait to donate. 

If you have previously had confirmed COVID-19, but are fully recovered, you may also be eligible to donate convalescent plasma. Convalescent means that you had an illness, and plasma is a component of blood which carries the antibodies your body made to help fight off the illness. So, convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich part of your blood, and it may be used to help treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients during their recovery. Donating plasma is a longer process than donating blood and is a little more intensive so it may not be right for everyone. Contact your local donation center to find out if this service is offered and learn more about the procedure. 

To find a donation center near you, visit the American Association of Blood Banks website. Call ahead to a nearby donation center to:

Check your eligibility:In order to address the increased demand, the FDA has changed some of their eligibility criteria, so if you were previously unable to donate it is worth checking again.
Find a blood drive near you:If there are no donation centers convenient to your home, you can call to find out if they will be holding any blood drives in your neighborhood.
Schedule an appointment:Appointments are typically required to help control the flow and number of people and maintain physical distancing.
Download the appIf you can, download the donation center’s app or create an online account. Benefits of doing so may include checking in and completing screening questionnaires before you get to the donation center, easily scheduling appointments, checking eligibility, and seeing results from antibody testing after donating.
When donating, remember to:✓ Wear a face covering or mask
✓ Stay 6 feet apart from others
✓ Take only necessary supplies into the building
✓ Leave guests and kids at home if possible
✓ Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands as soon as possible
✓ Stay only as long as necessary
✓ Avoid touching unnecessary surfaces

The next update will cover information about a vaccine update. If you would like to learn more about this and other topics related to COVID-19 in Arizona, please complete next week’s AZCOVIDTXT survey that you will receive via text in about a week.

View Updates from Past Weeks:
Update from week of November 9th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of November 2nd (English | Spanish)
Update from week of October 26th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of October 19th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of October 12th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of October 5th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of September 28th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of September 21th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of September 14th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of September 7th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of August 31st (English | Spanish)
Update from week of August 24th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of August 17th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of August 10th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of August 3rd (English | Spanish)
Update from week of July 27th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of July 20th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of July 13th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of July 6th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of June 29th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of June 22nd (English | Spanish)
Update from week of June 15th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of June 8th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of June 1st (English | Spanish)
Update from week of May 25th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of May 17th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of May 11th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of May 4th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of April 27th (English | Spanish)
Update from week of April 20th (English | Spanish)


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