Since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged in early 2020, COVID has become one of the top causes of illness and death in the US, and has especially impacted aging adults, for both health and social reasons.
Older age is one of the top risk factors for severe COVID; it’s even a stronger risk factor than vaccination status. So this is an important issue for us to follow in geriatrics.
On this page, I’ll be posting updates related to COVID and older adults, for 2023. I’ll be focusing on important developments and what I think is most important for older adults and their families to know, to be safer and manage these COVID times we are living through.
I also have a section below on general COVID safety principles for older adults.
Covid & Aging Adults: COVID News 2023-2024
COVID winter update December 20, 2023
As anticipated, we are seeing a substantial rise in COVID activity this month. This can be seen in wastewater and we’re also seeing a rise in hospitalizations.
What is a little more worrisome is that a new variant, JN.1, now seems to be taking off in the US. This variant has been active in Europe, where it is causing a marked exponential spike in COVID wastewater levels.
We are also seeing a fair amount of RSV circulating, plus some influenza.
For more on the state of these respiratory viruses, I highly recommend reading this update by epidemiologist Katelyn Jetelina, MPH PhD: State of Affairs: Dec 19, 2023.
All three of these viruses (COVID, RSV, influenza) can hospitalize vulnerable older adults 🙁
So as you consider holiday travel and gatherings, here are my recommendations:
- Avoid gathering with others inside if you have cold symptoms (or anything worse). If you need to gather, consider wearing a mask and be sure to ventilate the space with a HEPA air filter (or open windows).
- Consider rapid tests for COVID before having a gathering with vulnerable older adults.
- Wear a N95 or KN95 when traveling on planes or other forms of crowded public transit.
- Consider a mask when in malls or other crowded indoor spaces.
- People over age 65 should get the 2024 COVID vaccine (if they haven’t yet had it), for renewed protection against hospitalization.
- The exception is if you’ve actually had COVID within the past few months; that’s like getting a booster but much more effective.
- Paxlovid still works. Older adults should request it if they test positive for COVID.
COVID fall vaccine update September 21, 2023
The CDC announced recently that new COVID vaccines are available for the 2023-2024 season.
They are recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months, and are especially recommended for adults over the age of 65.
This fall, the COVID vaccine is a monovalent vaccine based on the XBB.1.5 subvariant of Omicron (which was the most prevalent variant at the beginning of the summer). Although there are different Omicron subvariants currently circulating, the XBB.1.5 is expected to provide good protection against hospitalization and deaths.
If you are a details and data person, you can find the slides presented at the 9/12/23 CDC meeting here.
Learn more about the new fall COVID vaccines here: CDC: Stay Up to Date with COVID-19 Vaccines.
I highly recommend that adults aged 65+ get this updated COVID vaccine, especially if they have not had COVID in the past 4 months.
Otherwise, my recommendations for how to stay safe in regards to COVID have not changed since my most recent video update from August, which you can view below.
Here is my most recent video update, from August 14, 2023: [Read more…]