Jul 05

Hoag Guidelines for Returning from International Travel

To my family of friends and patients,

Once again, here is some information from Hoag Hospital that may be of interest to you. (For those outside of Orange County, I’m sure similar things may be happening in your own communities.) Also, see below for my current answer to your most frequent question:  Dr. Weiss, when will you start seeing patients again?

Included below are the latest guidelines for the Hoag medical staff and employees returning from international travel. Think of how these facts might apply to your own home and workplace situations.

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Basically, even if you are vaccinated and without symptoms (asymptomatic) you should still be tested for COVID-19 between day 3-5 after returning. Quarantine and testing is suggested for those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.

When will we start seeing patients again?

If you asked me literally 7 days ago, I would have told you that I was shortly (in a matter of weeks) going to resume seeing patients again in Fashion Island with Jackie and Tamara (I’m very happy to say), having already made preliminary plans. The new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 were very low, as was the positivity (both metrics associated with very little COVID-19 incidence in Orange County.)  My family and I had started to venture out to restaurants and even had guests in our home on several occasions.

But those immediate plans came to a screeching halt last week when I read about the new COVID-19 wave in Israel fueled by the Delta variant (and especially the Delta-plus variant that hasn’t yet gotten much press attention) in which about half of the new coronavirus cases were in people who had been fully vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Every day since then the news has been rapidly changing and increasingly discouraging, both in this country and around the world:

  • According to the Wall Street Journal (6/25/21) “About half of adults infected in an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in Israel were fully inoculated with the Pfizer Inc. vaccine.”
  • Just yesterday, Israeli Health Ministry reports that Pfizer vaccine effectiveness in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease fell to 64% (down from 95%) since June 6 (although the vaccine was 93% effective in preventing hospitalizations and serious illness.) In Israel, one of the most vaccinated countries in the world, they are now discussing the need of a third Pfizer vaccine dose.
  • In the Netherlands, of 650 people who attended a concert in the Dutch city of Enschede and who had to prove they were vaccinated or COVID-free prior to admission, 165 have already tested positive in the aftermath.
  • According to Reuters, in the UK, new cases were up 53% in the last week!  They report a rise in cases between June 29 and July 5 of just over 53% compared with the previous seven days.
  • Closer to home, COVID-19 positivity in LA county quadrupled in the past month from 0.3% to 1.3%, and new cases in LA are up 10%.
  • In the last month in the US, the new variant is now responsible for more than 26% of current Covid infections!
  • It may be worse in California. According to the California’s variant tracker, “the Delta variant, first identified in India, has gained momentum and accounted for 35.6% of cases sequenced in June. That’s a big jump from May, when it accounted for only 5.6% of cases sequenced, and April, at 2.1%.”
  • And today, even as I was writing this, I learned that a close friend, patient and neighbor just tested positive for symptomatic Covid-19 (along with two acquaintances) despite all having been immunized with 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine months ago. That’s hitting a little close to home.

In light of OC COVID-19 restrictions having been lifted on June 15, the recent July 4 long weekend, and clear evidence of the more contagious variant rapidly taking over (for which the vaccines seem to be slightly less protective), I’ve decided to postpone my decision to re-open for at least a few weeks and then reassess. I want to be fair to my surgical patients and have a good probability of being there for them for many months post-procedure to provide the level of care that I require.

In any case, we are looking forward to starting up again as soon as I consider it safe in the long run. I believe that especially for non-essential cosmetic procedures, I want to be careful not to jeopardize the health of my patients, my staff or myself until it is completely safe.

In closing

I want to impress to you the continued importance of getting vaccinated, if you haven’t already. Almost all hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are among the unvaccinated!

I’ll keep you informed of further significant updates. In the meantime, please stay safe.

Best regards,

Dr. Weiss

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