COVID-19 Project: Summer 2022 – A Time of Change and Contrast

By Donna Y. Cheung  |  

September 13, 2022

In the June 2022 issue of this newsletter, Matthew Ota shared his story of surviving COVID-19 during the early period of the pandemic. Two and half years later, in contrast to Matthew’s journey of hospitalization, ICU and memory loss, my family’s experience with COVID-19 is so different, so mild in comparison.

As the Omicron variant of COVID-19 made its way through the U.S. population during this summer, the Cheung family was not spared. First, in June, one of my brothers developed a cough followed by fever. Although two home antigen tests produced negative results, he decided to seek medical advice as his symptoms lingered. Following a positive PCR test, he was prescribed, Paxlovid, the same antiviral medication used by President Biden. However, unlike the President, my brother did not experience any rebound symptoms. In fact, he viewed Paxlovid as some kind of “miracle drug” – he experienced his symptoms lessening with each dose of medication. After about five days, he felt like his normal self. About a month later, my eldest brother also tested positive for COVID – after a technician installed internet equipment at his residence. Likewise, he experienced similar symptoms of coughing, headache and fever. After consulting with a medical professional via video-link (tele-health), my eldest brother was prescribed the antiviral medication, Molnupiravir (lagevrio). In about three days, he was almost symptom free.

Both brothers are retired senior citizens who are fully vaccinated (two shots) and double-boosted (two shots) against COVID-19. Clearly, the Omicron variant is highly infectious. However, my eldest brother could have protected himself better when the internet tech visited. Neither he nor the tech wore a mask. And no attempts were made to increase outside air flow as doors and windows remained closed. Such practice may seem tedious, but it beats being sick. Fortunately, 4

both brothers have no underlying health conditions that would increase their risk for severe illness. Nonetheless, their healthcare providers chose to prescribe antiviral medications given the chance of age-related “cascading effects” – a situation in which one (potentially lingering) illness can trigger other negative health conditions. Yes, like others, they were initially reluctant to test and to seek medical advice, but I nudged them by sharing COVID stories from the community and by letting them know that antiviral drugs are readily available. After two and half years, no one has to “tough it out” anymore when they test positive for COVID-19. In fact, after recovering, one brother compared COVID notes with other senior friends. As it turns out, some seniors are prescribed antiviral treatments via IV (intravenous liquids). Live and learn.

Last year, I shared that I was looking forward to gathering with visiting family for the first time in two years – after we all got fully vaccinated and boosted. At that Thanksgiving, we chatted about vaccine denial and hesitancy and the emergence of the new variant, Omicron. Well, a year later, we have a new, bivalent vaccine that will protect against both the original variant and Omicron. And, once again, I look forward to gathering and chatting with loved ones – with peace of mind – knowing that a positive COVID test – is no longer a medical emergency. Such are the tools – some old, like masking and outside air circulation – and some new, like the latest vaccine and antiviral medications. Holidays – here we come!

COVID-19 Treatments and Medications

Nowadays, when you get COVID-19, there are medications and treatments that your healthcare provider can prescribe to lessen symptoms and shorten the duration of the disease. These options are organized in two major categories: antiviral treatments and monoclonal antibodies. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), antiviral treatments “target specific parts of the virus to stop it from multiplying in the body, helping to prevent severe illness and death.” In contrast, monoclonal antibodies “help the immune system recognize and respond more effectively to the virus.” These treatment options are aimed at people who are “more likely to get very sick.” People who are 50 years or older are considered to be at higher risk for severe illness.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the following four options to treat COVID-19:

  • Nirmatrelvir with Ritonavi (Paxlovid), an antiviral oral medication, authorized for adults and children ages 12 years and older. The medication must begin within 5 days of when symptoms start.
  • Molnupiravir (Lagevrio), an antiviral oral medication, authorized for adults only. The medication must begin within 5 days of when symptoms start.
  • Remdesivir (Veklury), antiviral intravenous (IV) infusions that are administered at a healthcare facility for 3 consecutive days. This treatment must begin within 7 days of when symptoms start. It is authorized for adults and children.
  • Bebtelovimab, a monoclonal antibody treatment that is administered with a single IV injection. The treatment must begin within 7 days of when symptoms start. It is authorized for adults and children ages 12 years and older.

For more information, please consult your healthcare provider and/or the CDC website:

Hey, There’s a New COVID Booster Vaccine for Omicron

For people ages 12 years and older, who have received at least their primary series of (monovalent,) vaccination (two shots of Moderna/Pfizer or one shot of J&J), the CDC recommends getting the new bivalent booster vaccine (one shot). As noted by the CDC, the updated “COVID-19 boosters can both help restore protection that has decreased since previous vaccination, and provide broader protection against newer variants. The updated, or bivalent boosters, target the most recent Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5, that are more contagious and more resistant than earlier strains of Omicron.” The new bivalent vaccine is recommended only as a booster. If you have not received any COVID-19 vaccinations, the CDC recommends first getting the primary series of monovalent vaccines and then one booster of the new, bivalent vaccine.

For people who have recently had COVID-19 or received a (monovalent) vaccination, the CDC recommends waiting 90 days before taking the new, bivalent booster. In light of the upcoming holidays, public health officials are encouraging people, who are eligible, to get the new booster in October, ahead of gatherings with family and friends.

For additional information, including age-specific vaccine and booster recommendations, please check with your healthcare provider and/or the CDC website:

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