As vaccinations continue to roll out and guidelines relax, Sacramento residents are eager to resume their pre-pandemic routines. But what are the best ways to stay safe before herd immunity is achieved?
Understanding herd immunity
Herd immunity, also known as community immunity, means that a disease is unlikely to spread because a large percentage of the population is immune to and thus unaffected by the disease. The percentage can differ from disease to disease; the estimated herd immunity rate for COVID-19 is 70%.
People can become immune to COVID-19 in two ways: becoming infected and subsequently recovering, or getting vaccinated. As of this writing, 34.2% of Sacramento County is fully vaccinated, and 1 in every 14 people has tested positive.
Challenges to herd immunity
Experts are concerned that another surge of cases could occur before herd immunity is achieved, citing political motivations to rushing to reopen. It is unclear how long someone who had COVID-19 may remain immune, and even this rate may vary from person to person. Additionally, several variants of concern – evolved versions of the COVID-19 virus that are more contagious and cause more severe damage – have emerged. Especially concerning is a new variant that is causing complications in kids.
This, paired with a slowdown in vaccinations and premature lifting of restrictions – could cause a surge that pushes herd immunity back yet again.
Sacramento families are understandably frustrated by the mixed messages and trying to keep themselves safe. Children under 12 years old are not yet eligible for vaccination, leaving families worried about how to best protect their youngest from the ever-emerging variants of concern. Those unable to be vaccinated and those in their social bubbles also are struggling to maintain safety despite loosened restrictions in a pre-herd immunity world.
The value of testing
One of the most effective methods of getting back to a normal life is with COVID-19 testing. Identifying those who are sick and isolating them prevents the virus from spreading. As public spaces reopen, entry pending a negative COVID-19 test will be more common as a means of preventing the spread.
The tests administered at most mass testing sites is the PCR test, which is the most accurate COVID-19 test and considered the “gold standard.” The accuracy of the PCR test comes at the cost of speed and convenience, however, as it requires processing at a lab and takes 48-72 hours to produce a result.
Rapid antigen tests, in contrast to PCR tests, can produce results in 15 minutes without lab processing. This speed and convenience makes antigen tests a popular choice for employers, who can reduce the chance of an outbreak by testing staff regularly and getting fast results. Antigen tests are also the choice of event planners for pre-entry screenings. Although the antigen test produces 1 in 5 false negatives, its speed and convenience are ideal for those who need to test regularly to prevent an outbreak.
What are your testing options?
There are several ways you can get tested in Sacramento.
Traditional and DIY tests
Rapid antigen tests are available from healthcare providers, and DIY antigen test kits are slowly hitting retail shelves. PCR tests can be obtained at clinics, drive-up testing locations, and community testing centers. For someone who simply needs a test to meet a one-time requirement, these may work.
However, for those who need to skip a waiting room or extra store trip due to busy schedules or avoid risk of exposure, in-person testing options may not work. The cost of DIY kits may be prohibitive as well, especially due to inflated prices because they are not yet in full production.
It is also possible to get tested at home with a rapid antigen COVID test in Sacramento. In-home medical service providers can send a nurse to your home to administer rapid antigen or PCR tests to your entire household. The nurse will process the test on site, give you the results, and advise you on how to keep vulnerable loved ones safe.
For families who have multiple members in need of tests to fulfill employer, school, airline, or other participation requirements, getting everyone tested at once can save hours of trying to make and attend appointments for multiple members. People with medical conditions in need of testing can have the comfort of tests administered by a healthcare professional without the challenges and risks of leaving the house for an appointment.
A return to normal life in Sacramento is just within reach. Do your part to help contain the spread with these tips:
- Get vaccinated
- Wear a mask in public spaces
- Wash your hands regularly
- Continue practicing social distancing
- Get tested if you think you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19