MERIDEN —With the rate of fully vaccinated residents hovering around 50 percent in the city, health officials continue to press quarantining and isolation among the unvaccinated.
Vaccinated people who may have come in contact with a person infected with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine as long as they remain symptom free, said Lea Crown, Meriden’s director of health and human services.
But unvaccinated people who have exposure, which means coming within six feet of someone for a total of 15 minutes or more during the infectious period, or 48 hours prior to an asymptomatic positive test result, or 48 hours prior to symptoms starting, should quarantine, Crown said.
The mRNA vaccines, Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna, administered in two shots, have been shown to be effective against the easily transmissible delta variant that is appearing in parts of the U.S. where there are low vaccination rates.
The one shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine has shown to be highly effective against serious illness or death but has a lower rate of infection prevention, leading some national medical experts to suggest that J&J recipients get a dose of one of the mRNA vaccines to boost their protection against the virus.
Locally, infectious diseases expert Dr. Ulysses Wu of Hartford HealthCare said he had heard chatter about the possible booster, but had no definitive guidelines.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky appeared to clarify the matter on Thursday when she tweeted that based on how well Johnson & Johnson protects against other variants of concern “we anticipate that this vaccine will also protect against the delta variant. ...We have no information to suggest that you need a second shot after J&J, even with the delta variant.”Quarantine, precautions
For the unvaccinated, the rules about quarantine are complicated and based on risk assessment, Wu said. ‘
“It depends on whether it’s high-risk or low-risk exposure,” Wu said. “Not everybody is being told to quarantine.”
Because the delta variant is more transmissible and could cause more serious illness, it is important for vaccinated people to continue taking precautions, Wu said.
“If you’re in an indoor group situation and you don’t know everybody’s vaccination status, lean toward masks and social distancing,” Wu said. “If you’re outside it’s fine, unless it’s a large crowd.”
Contact tracing to determine exposure to the virus has dropped significantly since the vaccine rollout but is still being used to prevent spread and illness among unvaccinated people, Crown said.
A significant number of school-age children were quarantined during the most recent school year due to contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19. The quarantines put a strain on students and their families, forced to stay home from work or seek child care.
Crown hopes the vaccine will be available to school-age children before the fall to avoid school and family disruptions. Some parents who held off getting vaccinated came to the vaccination clinics when they were made available to children age 12 and up.
“We’re hoping to see a lot of families,” Crown said. “If our (case) numbers continue going down, we should have a good year where we don’t have to quarantine as much as we did. If we identify someone in school, it dominos onto the parents. It really does impact the student and the family as well. Certainly, not having to quarantine is one of the many benefits of COVID-19 vaccination.”