In recent months, MLive’s public health team has sought to bring answers to specific reader questions related to coronavirus and the ongoing pandemic.
Questions in recent weeks have had to do with Michigan’s lack of mask mandate and the timeline for younger children getting vaccinated, as well as questions about the experimental COVID-19 pills, and effectiveness of natural immunity.
Below are some of the questions MLive received over the last week, along with answers collected from local and federal health officials, studies and guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q: What can you tell us about COVID rash?
While not amongst the most common symptoms of COVID-19, some patients do develop a skin rash following a coronavirus infection. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), the rash can show up in the form of a patchy rash, itchy bumps, or blisters that look like chickenpox.
It’s not yet clear who is more or less susceptible to getting a COVID rash, though local doctors said it’s more common in children than adults. The symptom can typically last between a few days and a few weeks, and can get better on its own if left untreated.
One particular symptom, known as COVID toes, involved the discoloring and/or swelling of the toes. The condition is rare, but more common in children, teens and young adults compared to older individuals. According to the AADA, many people don’t feel anything when they have COVID toes. If there is pain or itching, they recommend applying a hydrocortisone cream to the affected area and to contact your doctor if it doesn’t bring relief.
Q: I’ve tested positive for COVID-19. I isolated for five days, and have been wearing a mask for the next five days. On day 11, I’m symptom-free but I tested positive again. Will I always test positive? Am I contagious? Do I need to reenter protocol?
For starters, if it’s been 11 days since you first tested positive, it’s unlikely that you are still contagious and thus you don’t need to re-enter quarantine. Health officials first set the quarantine period at 10 days because most of the transmissible virus is gone after that time.
Some individuals will go on to test positive for an extended period of time after their infectious period as a result of some leftover virus remaining in their cells. As those cells die off and are broken down, there could be remnants of the dead virus that can be picked up by a PCR test despite being at very low levels.
Q: I am 80 with ulcerative colitis, for which I get an infusion every eight weeks. I also have nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, and I have thrombocytosis for which I take a cancer drug. I’m triple-vaccinated and I wear a KN95 mask. With omicron around, can I safely go volunteer in a large space with about six other people two days a week?
First and foremost, you should speak with your doctor to gauge your level of risk and protection against COVID-19. They know your situation best and can help to provide you with proper guidance.
With that said, I asked Dr. William Sims, an infectious disease specialist at Beaumont Health to weigh in on your question. He said it might be worthwhile to ask your doctor about getting a quantitative antibody test that can assess your level of protection against coronavirus. If your body hasn’t developed a good immune response in the form of antibodies, it’s possible you’ll qualify for injection of a new form of monoclonal antibodies known as Evusheld, which can reportedly offer six months of protection for individuals who don’t respond well to the vaccine.
Generally speaking, Dr. Sims said to a certain extent, we all have to gauge our own comfort levels. Getting fully vaccinated and wearing a well-fitting N-95 mask are good steps to protect yourself, however. For those at higher risk of severe disease, eye protection could also reduce the risk of infection in close settings with other people.
Q: Why aren’t all school students/staff mandated to wear masks?
The state health department has often been asked about mask mandates, and officials have made it clear that the state has no plans to set a blanket mandate throughout the state. Masking in schools remains a strong recommendation from the state, but there doesn’t appear to be a threshold in which a statewide mandate would go into effect.
Last week, a spokesperson for the health department side-stepped the direct question and instead reiterated the importance of indoor masking during times of high viral transmission and of getting vaccinated if eligible. They said schools should encourage all who are eligible to get vaccinated, and called universal indoor masking “a critical prevention strategy for all school districts to allow students to maintain in-person learning.”
As of earlier this month, Michigan had 180 school districts with mask requirements. Those districts account for about 656,391 students in traditional public schools, or about 52.39% of the state’s public school student population.
Q: What is the prediction for COVID in 2022? Will we have a better handle on it by the end of the year?
It’s the question we’re all asking, but there isn’t a clear answer thus far. A few health officials have offered optimism, while also noting the history of “curveballs” thrown by coronavirus over the last 20+ months, including new variants and society’s lack of dedication to prevention methods.
Dr. Sims at Beaumont recalled being asked the same question in late 2020 about 2021. At the time, vaccines were first becoming available for COVID-19 and he predicted the end of the pandemic would come around the end of 2021 or early 2022.
However, he expected fewer people would be hesitant to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Asked again Wednesday, Jan. 12, Sims said “It’s just impossible to predict.”
Another infectious disease specialist, Dr. Liam Sullivan of Spectrum Health, recently said to ask him again March, hopefully after Michigan’s major winter surge has subsided. He added that getting more people vaccinated will only help in ending the pandemic.
If you have any COVID-19 questions that you’d like answered, please submit them to email@example.com to be considered for future MLive reporting.
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