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San Antonio experts explain COVID-19 masks, vaccines isolation and booster misconceptions

This far into the pandemic many people are still confused about the changing COVID-19 rules. Here's what we learned from San Antonio experts.

SAN ANTONIO — We are now close to two years into the coronavirus pandemic, but there are still many misconceptions about it that need to be cleared up.

A lot of it is because we, just like the scientific community, is still learning about the virus as we go. So the rules have to change. Starting with quarantine. With symptoms that is still 10 days. Without, that is a 5 day isolation. Dr. Junda Woo, the Medical Director for San Antonio's Metro Health told us, "The isolation only applies if you don't have symptoms or if your symptoms are very mild. So if by day five you're still not feeling well, then we ask you to isolate for the full 10 days."  

And if you come out of isolation early, you've got to wear a mask. Dr. Woo said, "If you never had symptoms, then you still do need to wear a mask when around other people in public spaces for five days. So it's five plus five. For those people."  

Dr. Woo says many people believe that because the symptoms with Omicron aren't as bad as other versions of the virus, they should just get it to get it over with. That's a big no! Dr, Woo added, "What we mean is you don't need to be hospitalized and you won't die. It doesn't mean you won't have sickness. It still knocks you out for a few days and makes you miss things that you would rather not miss. You could still transmit to other people." 

Then there are the vaccines. Many of us have heard friends or family say...Why get a vaccine if you can still get the virus? Dr. Woo said, "Would you not wear a seatbelt because you could be wearing a seatbelt and get into a car crash and still get hurt? I mean, something's better than nothing, right? So we know you are definitely protected against serious infection."  

How accurate are the home tests? Dr. Woo said, "There are a lot of home tests and they each have their own accuracy level, but it's generally at least 85 percent. Most of them are in the 90 percent range as far as how well they match a PCR test. However, very key if you've got a box of two those. Think of it as a two part test. It's not two separate tests. You have to do both per the instructions to achieve that accurate accuracy that's been advertised."

What does it mean to live with the virus once the latest surge ends? Dr. Woo told us, "It means we're going to pay attention to hospitalizations more than to just case numbers, and right now, hospitalizations are still just a hair under a thousand. In between surges, we've had 100 to 200 people in the hospital with COVID at any time, so it's still a pretty high number. And so that means we still want to be careful. It also means that probably at some point very soon your friendly neighborhood health public health employee will not be calling you for case investigations and contact tracing. People will be expected to just stay home on their own. Notify contacts on their own. And it might mean more surges, but smaller than what we've seen. It might mean no other surges. A lot depends on whether we have a surprise variant."

And who is eligible for a booster right now? Dr. Woo told us, "If you are 12 years or older and it's been at least five months since your MRNA vaccine or if you are 18 years or older and it's been at least two months since your J and J vaccine, then you are eligible."

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