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Vaccines, Tests, and Masks

Important Tools to Keep Kids Progressing This School Year

Rappahannock Area Health District now offers free testing at a new convenient location.

As the world marks two years since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are understandably exhausted. From navigating ever-changing work and school schedules to managing worries about the health and safety of family members, parents have been under immense stress during the pandemic.

While the Omicron variant surge is driving record-high caseloads and placing a new level of strain on hospitals and healthcare workers, it’s important to remember that we have an array of tools at our disposal that can help us mitigate the spread and severity of new virus variants, so that families can continue to safely engage in school, work, and other important activities.

Using a layered approach that relies on vaccinations, masking, testing and common-sense habits offer a path forward to help your family continue to enjoy the benefits of in-person activities while limiting the risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19.

Vaccines prevent severe illness

Vaccinations remain the best way to prevent serious illness from the virus that causes COVID-19. Everyone ages 5 and older is now eligible to receive an FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccine. Pre-registration for these free vaccines is no longer required, and individuals can visit vaccinate.virginia.gov to find a location.

The Virginia Department of Health recommends individuals 12 and older receive booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

  • For individuals ages 12 to 17, a Pfizer booster dose is recommended 5 months after completion of the first Pfizer vaccine series.
  • For individuals 18 and older, any COVID-19 vaccine booster dose is recommended 5 months after completion of a Pfizer or Moderna primary series.
  • For individuals 18 and older, any COVID-19 vaccine booster is recommended 2 months after receiving a primary Johnson & Johnson vaccine dose.

Vaccines and boosters are conveniently available at the Rappahannock Area Health District’s Community Vaccination Center, located in the Central Park Shopping Center in Fredericksburg. Located at 1877 Carl D. Silver Parkway, the center is open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Walk-ins are welcome for everyone including children ages 5-11, but appointments are strongly recommended to avoid a wait. Visit vaccinate.virginia.gov or call (877) VAX-IN-VA (877) 829-4682.

It’s getting easier to find a test

[embed in this text block: Use the QR code to find a testing appointment near you.

A Community Testing Center (CTC) for COVID-19 tests is now open in Fredericksburg in at the Fredericksburg Nationals Stadium at 42 Jackie Robinson Way, Fredericksburg, VA 22401. This center was authorized by the Virginia Department of Health, in an effort make provide free, reliable tests more widely available to Virginia families.

The CTC offers PCR tests. Considered to be the most reliable measure of infection, these tests deliver results in two to three days. The center will operate by appointment only and be open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Thursday. Testing is available for individuals ages 3 and older. RAHD is encouraging those with appointments who have found testing elsewhere or know they will be unable to arrive at their scheduled time to please cancel their appointment so that others may then schedule to be tested.

Rapid tests have also been in high demand. Federal efforts are underway to make these tests more widely available. The Central Rappahannock Regional Library has been serving as a distribution point for free at-home COVID tests. While supply is limited, you can find out if any are available and reserve a test for curbside pickup at librarypoint.org.

Masks are for everyone’s protection

One thing we have learned over the past two years about this virus is that individuals can still spread it, even if they don’t show symptoms that might lead them to seek a test. That is why masks are still such an important tool in managing the rate of infection.

When worn correctly and consistently, masks can prevent you from spreading the virus to others through exhaled droplets and can protect you from contracting the virus by inhaling droplets spread by others.

All masks are not created equal. Here are features to look for to ensure the mask you choose will offer the best protection for you and your family members. Parents should consult with their school’s medical staff as they select masks for their children, as many area schools have issued more specific guidelines in recent weeks.

A good mask should:

  • Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face with no gaps.
  • Completely cover the nose and mouth.
  • Have two or more layers of fabric. The tighter the weave, the better.
  • Be secured with ties or ear loops.
  • Have a nose wire that can close gaps around the nose.
  • Block light when held up to a bright light source.
  • Allow for breathing without restriction.

Outside of schools and healthcare facilities, there is no mask mandate in Virginia. However, parents can talk to their children about why the choice to wear a mask in public places is not only a way to protect your family from illness but also a way to show compassion for others, by reducing the chance of spreading the virus.

Good habits are good for everybody

Some of the habits that help us mitigate COVID-19 spread are important lessons for children to learn that will still apply, even after the pandemic eases. Teach children to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap, and to do so after every trip to the bathroom, after returning home from being outside the house, and always before eating or handling food.

It is important for individuals to stay home and not come to schools and workplaces when experiencing symptoms such as a fever, sore throat, cough or body aches. This is important not only for preventing the spread of COVID-19, but also for other illnesses such as flu and other viruses. While COVID-19 quarantine and isolation guidelines have been recently updated by the CDC, it’s important to check with your school and employer about their specific guidelines, as different organizations may have different standards.

Here are the latest CDC standards for quarantine and isolation.

Stay tuned to the Fredericksburg Parent Facebook and YouTube channels in February for a video with more information from the Rappahannock Area Health District.

Emily Freehling
Emily Freehling
Emily Freehling is an award-winning journalist who helps Fredericksburg Parent and Family's advertisers tell valuable stories through magazine advertorials and videos. Emily also produces content for a wide variety of other clients and outlets. Find her on LinkedIn and at emilyfreehling.com.

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