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Booster shots now available, mask guidelines change for schools

LISBON — Booster shots are now available for all three vaccines and mask guidance has changed statewide this week for schools.

According to Laura Fauss, public information officer with the Columbiana County Health Department, all booster shots are now approved for all three COVID-19 vaccines.

Anyone 18 and older who received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, which was the one-dose vaccine, can now receive a booster dose as long as they received their first dose at least two months ago.

For those who had Pfizer or Moderna with their final dose at least six months ago, anyone 65 and older is currently eligible for booster shots. Additionally, those 18 and older who either live in a long-term care facility, have an underlying medical condition or work or live in high-risk settings can receive a booster dose of Pfizer or Moderna.

The CDC also now allows for a change in the type of vaccine, mixing and matching the doses. A person who received Pfizer as an example can now choose Moderna or Johnson and Johnson. Fauss said the health department is recommending people speak with their doctor about that decision.

Although vaccines are still available at pharmacies and other locations throughout the county, including for those who have yet to receive any doses, the Columbiana County Health Department will be offering a clinic for first responders and health care workers from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Nov. 6 at the Columbiana County Career and Technical Center. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson will both be available at that clinic. Registration is not required, but those receiving the doses are asked to bring proof of identification and employment, certification or licensure.

In the near future, the health department will be announcing drive up booster clinics for the general public at the Columbiana County Fairgrounds.

Schools are now working with new guidelines, which will reduce the number of students and staff required to go home after being exposed to COVID-19 at school. Instead of a mandatory quarantine, the student or staff member has an option of attending school while wearing a mask for the 14 days after their last date of exposure. The person should continue to self-monitor or be monitored by a parent and isolate only if they begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Additionally, if the staff or student tests negative for COVID-19 between five and seven days after exposure and have developed no symptoms, that student can discontinue with the procedure.

Students exposed without symptoms can continue to participate in extracurricular activities provided they where a mask when able, such as in the locker room, on the sideline or bench and while being transported. While participating in the sport, where the mask can make it difficult to breathe, it can be removed. Additionally, that student needs to test when they learn of exposure and test again between days five and seven. If they are negative both times, the student has tested out of this new quarantine.

Fauss said the new school quarantine guidelines have been put in place after one school district was allowed to use this system and found it did not lead to an increase in cases. The system should reduce the numbers of healthy students currently being called and asked to quarantine for days.

For those looking for BionaxNOW COVID-19 test kits, Fauss said they are available at the Columbiana County Health Department or by going to local libraries. It is a rapid test that requires a telemedicine visit and can be picked up at the health department’s outside drop box to help prevent those who are ill from entering the building. Those interested are asked to call ahead at 330-424-0272.

After reaching a high of 80 positive cases a day, the county’s COVID-19 case numbers are starting to decrease. According to Fauss there was an average of 61 cases per day last week and so far this week the daily number continues to decrease.

There have been 14,282 cases in Columbiana County since the beginning of the pandemic, leading to 728 hospitalizations and 279 deaths linked to the COVID-19.

Additionally, Fauss said they want to remind people this is the right time of year to get a flu vaccine, which can also be deadly. The CDC recommends a flu shot before the end of October and before the flu is prevalent in the area.

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