This advisory was issued by Shannon Gillis, REHS, Director of Public Health, Tewksbury Health Department
The rapidly spreading Omicron variant is causing a steep increase in COVID-19 infections in the Town of Tewksbury. Activities that were thought to be reasonably safe for vaccinated people a few months ago now carry greater risk. Given the very high transmissibility of Omicron, the Tewksbury Health Department urges residents and local businesses to observe these recommendations, at least through the end of this month.
New data indicate that the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will not provide adequate protection against infection from the Omicron variant, but will protect against severe illness. COVID-19 vaccination followed by a booster dose is the single best way to reduce the risk of infection and severe illness from the Omicron variant.
The Tewksbury Health Department strongly recommends:
• Vaccination for people age 5 and older.
• Booster vaccine: the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 booster is available to anyone ages 18 and older. The Pfizer COVID-19 booster is available to anyone ages 12 and older.
• You’re eligible for a booster if:
Moderna: It’s been at least 6 months since your second dose
Pfizer: It’s been at least 5 months since your second dose
Johnson & Johnson: It’s been at least 2 months since your first dose
• You can mix and match vaccines. You do not need to get the same vaccine brand for your booster as your original COVID-19 vaccination. If you are ages 12-17, you can only get a Pfizer booster.
Note: The Health Department recommends the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine and booster for people who are eligible. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine and booster are only recommended for people who are unwilling or unable to get the two-dose vaccines.
Wear a Mask
The Tewksbury Health Department urges residents—regardless of vaccination or booster status— to wear a mask indoors when outside the home and in some outdoor settings. Recommendations and tips:
• In addition to indoor places where masking is mandatory, people should wear a mask when visiting the homes of friends and family, apartment building common areas, workplaces, and other indoor settings.
• Not all masks provide the same protection. How well a mask fits, how well it filters the air, and how many layers it has are all important to consider when choosing which mask to wear. Higher-quality masks, such as KF94 and KN95 masks, offer much better protection to the wearer than cloth masks.
• If someone in your household may have COVID-19, have them isolate if possible, and all household members should wear a mask.
• Consider wearing a mask outdoors if you are in a crowded area where physical distancing is not possible.
• Remove your mask by using the ear loops or ties and then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
Stay Six Feet Away From Others
• Inside your home:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Outside your home:
Remember that some people without symptoms may be able to spread virus.
Stay at least 6 feet (about two arm lengths) from other people, especially if you are at higher risk of getting very sick.
Avoid Crowds and Poorly Ventilated Spaces
• Being in crowded places like restaurants, bars, fitness centers, or movie theaters puts you at higher risk for COVID-19.
• Avoid indoor spaces that do not offer fresh air from the outdoors as much as possible.
• If indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible.
• Consider shopping during non-peak times to avoid crowds.
Test to Prevent Spread to Others
Please visit this covid testing link on the State website to find a location. Home test kits, when available, are another option. The Tewksbury Health Department does not have any home test kits for residents.
You should get tested for COVID-19:
• If you have symptoms of COVID-19.
• Five days after having close contact with someone who has COVID-19.
• Before and after attending a gathering, especially if you or any attendee is not fully vaccinated.
• If you are not fully vaccinated or boosted, and have frequent in-person contact with others.
• Regardless of the test type you select, a positive test result means that you have an infection and should isolate and inform your close contacts to avoid spreading disease to others.
• Over-the-counter self-tests can be used at home or anywhere, are easy to use, and produce rapid results. Anyone can use self-tests, regardless of vaccination status or whether they have symptoms or not.
Wash Your Hands Often
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
• It’s especially important to wash your hands:
Before eating or preparing food
Before touching your face
After using the restroom
After leaving a public place
After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
After handling your mask
After changing a diaper
After caring for someone sick
After touching animals or pets
• If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Cover Coughs and Sneezes
• If you are wearing a mask: You can cough or sneeze into your mask. Put on a new, clean mask as soon as possible and wash your hands.
• If you are not wearing a mask:
Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.
Throw used tissues in the trash.
Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Clean and Disinfect
• Clean high touch surfaces regularly or as needed and after you have visitors in your home. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
• If someone is sick or has tested positive for COVID-19, disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
Use a household disinfectant product from EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Coronavirus according to manufacturer’s labeled directions.
If surfaces are dirty, clean them using detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
Take Precautions if Traveling
• If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit the CDC’s Travel page.
• Remember that wearing a mask is required when traveling on public transportation (including airplanes) and indoors in transportation hubs (including airports).
• Do not travel if you have been exposed to COVID-19, if you are sick, or if you test positive for COVID-19.
• If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends that you delay your travel. If you must travel, get tested both before and after your trip.
If You are Infected With or Exposed to COVID-19:
• Tell your health care provider about your positive test result and stay in contact with them. Let them know if you are feeling very sick. If you have trouble breathing, go to your local emergency room or call 911.
• Observe public health quarantine and isolation guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
• Notify close contacts directly and/or through the state’s MassNotify system. MassNotify is a voluntary, anonymous service that alerts you if you may have been exposed to COVID-19. If you test positive for COVID-19, the system also allows you to anonymously share your COVID-19 positive test result with other MassNotify users.
Best Practices for Businesses:
• Strongly recommended masks for customers/patrons entering your business. If available, make masks available for the public to use while in your business.
• Provide sanitizer wipes to wipe down carriages and frequently touched surfaces.
• Maintain 6 feet away from others.
• Alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol should be made available for patrons.
For additional information please visit mass.gov/covid19. If you are not feeling well, please contact your doctor.