AtlantiCare COVID-19 FAQ

Our partners at AtlantiCare have provided Stockton answers to common FAQs.

Please also view our Campus Operations FAQ.

Ethylene Oxide is a gas sterilant that is commonly used to professionally sterilize instruments and supplies for use on patients including test swabs. This is a widely used process that is highly regulated by the EPA (protect the environment), FDA (protect the end users), and OHSA (protect the workers who sterilize medical supplies). Anything sterilized in this manner has no residual left behind that could cause harm.

The vaccination that is available to you and that you feel most comfortable receiving is the best vaccination you can get right now. However, if you are choosing between the three currently available vaccines: Pfizer-BioNtech (Comirnaty), Moderna or Janssen (Johnson and Johnson), the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are currently showing to be a bit more effective at preventing COVID-19 infection.

Data from studies conducted in Israel, the U.K. and the U.S. have shown that vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic COVID infection have declined over time. However, the vaccines have remained extremely effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalizations.

The CDC recommends that people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems receive an additional dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, only Pfizer has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the FDA for booster doses of the COVID vaccine. Groups the CDC recommends getting a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine include adults aged 18 years of older who received their second Pfizer vaccine dose at least 6 months ago and are at risk for severe COVID due to older age (over 65), pre-existing health conditions, work in high-risk settings or live in high-risk settings.

More data on the effectiveness and safety of Moderna and J&J/Janssen booster shots are expected soon. With those data in hand, CDC will keep the public informed with a timely plan for Moderna and J&J/Janssen booster shots.

Groups the CDC recommends getting a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine include those who received their second vaccine at least 6 months ago and are one of the following: people aged 65 years and older, residents aged 18 years and older in long-term care settings, and people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions. CDC also recommends the following groups may receive a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine: people aged 18–49 years with underlying medical conditions and people aged 18–64 years at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting.

Breakthrough infections are defined as a positive test in a person who has been fully vaccinated. Many breakthrough infections are mild. A majority of the patients sick enough to be hospitalized are unvaccinated. Breakthrough infections are expected as the number of fully vaccinated people increases and they make up a larger portion of the population.

The vaccines are extremely effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalizations.  According to a study published by the CDC, unvaccinated people are 5 times more likely than vaccinated people to get COVID-19 and are 29 times more likely to require hospitalization for their infection.

Signs and symptoms in breakthrough cases mirror regular COVID infections, however, are often milder. Symptoms may include loss of taste and smell, fever, chills, dry cough and body aches.

If you did have COVID, adding a vaccine will offer better protection than natural immunity alone against reinfection.  If you did not have COVID, vaccination provides the best protection without risk of severe disease, death, and long COVID symptoms.

It is not likely to become reinfected within 90 days of an infection. Typically, your body produces antibodies to guard against reinfection and these antibodies are still present 90 days after infection. However, the recommendation is to still be vaccinated after your illness to boost your immunity.

Unvaccinated people should ideally quarantine for 14 days after exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19, whether they have symptoms or not. The health department does offer options for shortening quarantine, which includes quarantining for 10 days without a test and returning on day 11 or quarantining for 7 days, being tested at 5-7 days after exposure, and returning on day 8 with a negative test. However, shortened quarantine options are not permissible by the state health department in institutional outbreak situations and when rates of community transmission are high or very high. If an exposed person develops symptoms, they should seek testing ASAP and quarantine while waiting for results.

If there is an outbreak situation in an institutional setting, the health department may require the full 14 day quarantine. Also, when there is substantial COVID-19 community spread, defined as Very High (red) or High (orange) on the CALI report (published by NJDOH weekly by region), NJDOH recommends quarantine for 14 days where feasible to reduce the risk of spread of COVID-19 and particularly for persons who live with or care for persons at high risk of severe complications for COVID-19 (older adults, persons with underlying conditions or obesity, and pregnant women). When COVID-19 transmission risk is Moderate (yellow) or Low (green) on the CALI report (by region), while a 14-day quarantine is preferred, CDC’s recommended shortened quarantine timeframes are acceptable alternatives.

Fully vaccinated persons with exposure to someone with COVID-19 do not need to quarantine as long as they remain asymptomatic and do not have a positive test. They need to monitor closely for signs and symptoms and get tested as soon as they begin experiencing symptoms. If they remain asymptomatic, it is recommended to get tested 3-5 days after exposure. As an extra precaution, fully vaccinated persons who are exposed to someone with COVID-19 should wear masks when in indoor spaces for 14 days following the exposure.

If you develop signs or symptoms of COVID, you should immediately quarantine and get tested. If the test comes back negative and you continue to experience symptoms, get tested again in 2 days and seek an evaluation by a health care provider. If you are still negative and have not been exposed to someone who is positive for COVID, you do not need to quarantine as long as you are fever free and are able to control coughs and sneezes. 

Everyone aged 6 months or older should get a flu shot every season with very few exceptions. Getting a flu shot will often protect you from getting sick from the flu. Even though the flu shot doesn’t always prevent you from getting the flu, it can shorten the duration and lead to a milder case of flu than in those who are unvaccinated.

Since the influenza vaccine or COVID-19 vaccine do not contain live virus, they can be given on the same day. There is no time interval necessary between receiving the two vaccines. However, if you are concerned about side effects, you can space the vaccines 2 weeks apart.

There are many variables to consider. Hopefully, individuals will continue to get vaccinated and vaccines will be available for kids ages 5-11 years old soon. Increased vaccination rates will help to reduce community transmission.

However, as people head indoors during the colder months, we may see an uptick in cases. Models predict COVID to peak in October and begin declining through the winter months. As long as a new variant that evades immunity obtained through vaccination or natural infection does not circulate, those projections should hold true.

COVID is not the only respiratory virus we are concerned about in the upcoming months.  Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and other viruses that cause cold and flu-like symptoms may spread easily this upcoming fall. Many of these viruses did not circulate last year due to public health measures such as masking, social distancing and avoidance of crowded settings. Immune systems have not been “primed” to fight these viruses in over a year. It is important to wash hands, practice respiratory etiquette, stay home when sick, get your annual flu shot, and to continue to practice the effective public health measures to stay safe the fall season. What can help decrease the spread and new variants is more people geting vaccinated and wearing a mask when in public indoor spaces.

Remember that outside is always better for get-togethers. During times of high community transmission, it is recommended that both vaccinated and unvaccinated persons wear masks when indoors, especially in crowded settings. It you plan to attend an event such a large sporting event or concert, bring a mask with you to wear indoors and when social distancing is not possible. Make sure to wash your hands often and try to limit time indoors with people that do not live in your household.

Hand hygiene stations should be located upon entry and placed throughout the space.  Ensure that there is adequate air circulation (HVAC system fans on during the event, portable HEPA units) as well as space for people to physically distance. Each small step taken is a layer of potential protection.

People with COVID Long Haul syndrome are not contagious beyond their initial illness phase.

There are no studies that have shown any issues with infertility or pregnancy in vaccinated people. Many women who have received the mRNA vaccines have gone on the have healthy pregnancies. There was some misinformation posted online regarding some of this but it was not accurate and was quickly dispelled as false by OB/GYN providers. Additionally, recent evidence has shown that rates of spontaneous abortion were not different between vaccinated and unvaccinated women, indicating the vaccine is not associated with increased risk of spontaneous abortion.

There are no known risks, however, there is a very positive aspect. The baby may receive some of the mother’s antibodies (IgG) through the breast milk as they already do for other immunity protection from the mom.

Studies will continue to ensure safety for the public, and the Pfizer vaccine (with a different genetic code) has been in use for other disease trials since about 2002.

No vaccine is 100% effective against disease. The vaccine is a layer of protection. Layers of protection include vaccination, masking, physical distancing, good hand washing, etc.  When there are high rates of community transmission, the probability you will encounter COVID positive people during everyday activities such as going to work, grocery shopping, etc. increases. For each time you are exposed to COVID, there is a chance for you to become infected. Once infected, vaccinated people are able to transmit the virus as well.  Wearing a mask in indoor spaces, regardless of vaccinations status, helps protect you against getting infected with COVID and helps to prevent you from spreading the virus to others.

The tests are sensitive and can really help to alert you to illness, however, a negative test only means you were negative at the time. You could still be exposed or ill after that.  Weekly or random testing, especially of unvaccinated people, can help catch asymptomatic infections. Once detected, positive individuals can receive instructions to isolate to prevent spreading COVID to others.