LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles County Public Health Director, Dr. Barbara Ferrer, stopped by Good Day LA on Friday to answer COVID-19 questions.
This week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new definition of what "close contact" with a person infected with COVID-19 means. The CDC had been saying the standard was 15 "consecutive" minutes within six feet of someone who is COVID-19 positive. Now it says the effect is cumulative, saying exposure could be a "total" of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, meaning spending time with someone infected for short periods over the course of the day.
Good Day LA anchor Michaela Pereria asked Dr. Ferrer for some clarity.
Ferrer: "It is confusing unless you really just accept that the reality for us here, and in the entire world right now is: Keep your distance from other people, as much as possible, all the time. What it's basically saying is if you're within six feet of a person who's infected, and over the course of 24 hours, which is an entire day, you have 15 minutes of exposure, you have a higher likelihood of being infected, mask on or mask off."
Ferrer: "Mask on — 100% better than mask off. Mask on, reduces the chances of you spreading the virus. So if the person you're in closer contact with who's infected has their mask on, their reducing their chance of infecting you as well. But as we've noted from the very beginning: Masks are not 100% effective. Nothing is 100% effective right now, and it's really just using every single tool in combination with everything we know, which means keeping 6-feet of distance as much as possible, all the time when in contact with people not in your household, and then it means always wearing your mask, because that reduces those respiratory droplets from spreading."
Pereria: "L.A. County has been closing the gap in the cases in minority groups. But there's still work to do in the Latinx community. We've made progress in other areas, can those same tactics apply here?"
"Even with the Latinx community, while the disproportionality is highest here, when we compare people who are Latinos or Latinas with everyone else, they still have higher case rates, higher hospitalization rates and higher, unfortunately, death rates. But all of those gaps have narrowed. The issue for us right now is, what do we know that works? One thing we know for sure is we have to protect our workers. People that are going work every day have to have every protection possible at their workplaces. And this is particularly true for low-wage workers and workers who work in situations where they're either in a crowded factory, or a crowded manufacturing plant, or they're serving the general public because they’re working in grocery stores or restaurants. We have to make sure that those folks have as much safety at work as possible."
Pereria: "Will a vaccine mean a return to normal life?"
Ferrer: "Similar to our face-coverings, vaccines may not provide 100% protection, particularly the first set of vaccines that we get. But it'll be so perfect when we get an additional tool in our toolbox to get us to herd immunity and that's what vaccination offers us. But it will not necessarily protect us 100% and it will take us time to get enough vaccine into our communities to be able to vaccinate everyone — because everyone is gonna need to be vaccinated."
Ferrer: "I think this virus, like other viruses, very similar to flu, will be with us for a very long period of time probably. The good thing about people, and the power of people working together, we have a lot of innovations that help us manage not just this disease, but all diseases. This isn't the only disease that has struck humanity over centuries. In every case, scientists, researches, public health practitioners medical clinicians have really come together to give us strategies that continue to protect us."