MANATEE COUNTY – For the tenth consecutive week, the COVID-19 Community Level remains high countywide.
COVID-19 Community Levels help individuals and communities decide which prevention actions to take based on the latest information. When the Community Level is high, health officials recommend that anyone at high risk of getting very sick wear a high-quality mask or respirator when indoors in public. Anyone having household or social contact with someone at high risk for getting very sick is urged to consider self-testing to detect infection before contact and consider wearing a high-quality mask when indoors with them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), many people in the United States have some protection, or immunity, against COVID-19 due to vaccination, previous infection, or both. This immunity, combined with the availability of tests and treatments, has greatly reduced the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 for many people.
However, health officials warn that vaccines and previous infections may not provide adequate protection against newer strains of the virus, BA.4 and BA.5 omicron subvariants.
At least 73.1% of Manatee County residents have had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 62.9% of county residents vaccinated twice; 46.3% have chosen to get at least one booster shot.
Despite being fully vaccinated, many are still testing positive.
“My wife and I have both had all four shots, but we both tested positive in July,” said Jim Haas, who is visiting Bradenton Beach from Virginia. “We wore masks on the plane, but I wouldn’t need both hands to count how many people besides us had them on.”
Currently, masks are not required for air travel in the United States, and there are no mask mandates in the state of Florida, including schools. Recommendations by the CDC and Florida health officials should be taken seriously, but are not law.
To combat the new subvariants, the U.S. is planning a fall booster campaign with new shots amid concerns about another wave of infection. Public health officials hope the new shots will provide more durable protection against infection and mild illness.
Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, have asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize new booster shots that target the subvariants for people 12 and older. The current vaccines are FDA approved for anyone six months of age or older.
The new shots must be approved by the FDA before they can be released to the public, and currently it is unclear whether the FDA’s independent vaccine advisory committee will meet to review more data on the shots before the agency authorizes them. As of yet, no date has been given for exactly when they will be available, but officials say when they are, they should be at local pharmacies and the process will be the same as it was for the original vaccines.