The CDC is recommending that everyone six months and older get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect against the potentially serious outcomes of COVID-19 illness this fall and winter.

“Vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19-related hospitalization and death. Vaccination also reduces your chance of suffering the effects of Long COVID, which can develop during or following acute infection and last for an extended duration,” the CDC reported in early September. “If you have not received a COVID-19 vaccine in the past two months, get an updated COVID-19 vaccine to protect yourself this fall and winter.”

It is important to be mindful that protection from COVID-19 vaccines decline over time.

In today’s world of COVID-19 infection, having a fever of 100.4°F or greater, coughing and experiencing shortness of breath, tiredness, congestion or a runny nose can be a cause of concern. Similar symptoms can also show up in someone who has the flu. It is possible to get a flu shot and the COVID vaccine at the same time.

“COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. You cannot tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone because some of the symptoms are the same. Some PCR tests (polymerase chain reaction) can differentiate between flu and COVID-19 at the same time,” the CDC reminded.  

A PCR laboratory-based test is usually given by a healthcare provider to check for genetic material from a pathogen or abnormal cell sample.

Dr. Aubree Gordon, an infectious disease expert at the University of Michigan explained that someone with the flu usually has symptoms one to four days after being infected. 

“A person with COVID-19 typically shows symptoms about five days after infection, although this can range from two to 14 days, according to Gordon.

“You can go and get a COVID test at many pharmacies, and your doctor can administer tests for flu,” Dr. Brooke Bozick, an NIH expert on respiratory diseases that affect the lungs, said.

The CDC recommends immediate testing if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. 

“If you test negative for COVID-19 using an at-home antigen test, repeat the test again 48 hours after your first test. Also, consider consulting a healthcare provider to see if you need to be tested for another viral infection or illness,” the CDC reported.

Sometimes people are aware they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 and have symptoms. In this case, the CDC advises individuals to get tested at least five full days after their exposure. If your test is negative for COVID-19 using an at-home antigen test, the CDC advises an individual to repeat the test again 48 hours after the first test. Even if both tests are negative, the CDC stated that a person should repeat testing after another 48 hours for a total of three tests.

Although at-⁠home tests are available for sale around the U.S. and in pharmacies, four free tests per household can be ordered from the federal government, while supplies last. The rapid antigen at-home tests can be ordered by visiting, or by calling 1-800-232-0233. According to the website mentioned above, tests are available for every residential address in the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. territories, and overseas military and diplomatic addresses. The tests will reportedly be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service through the mail. 

Find flu vaccine information via  The CDC also reminded that although “updated COVID-19 vaccines are available to most adults living in the U.S. at no cost through their private health insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid plans,” there are 25-30 million uninsured adults “and additional adults whose insurance does not cover all COVID-19 vaccine costs.” The CDC’s Bridge Access Program fills in the gap by providing “no-cost COVID-19 vaccines for these adults.” Visit to obtain more information about it.

As COVID-19 cases rise, the decision to mask up or wear a N95 respirator in crowded indoor spaces is also back on the table. Newer variants can cause additional concerns, especially if someone is older or if someone lives with autoimmune disease. However, everyone should protect themselves accordingly. 

The CDC states that “disposable masks should be thrown away after they’re worn once.” It is important to remember that reusable masks should be washed at least once a day or as soon as they become wet or dirty.

The CDC added, “If you use respirators, check the manufacturer’s instructions to learn how long they can be worn before they should be thrown away.”If you would like to stay up-to-date about hospital admissions, visit Plug in your geographical information that can help guide your ongoing COVID-19 prevention decisions.

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