As COVID cases rise across Bay Area, doctors share ways to avoid new FLiRT variant

ByLeslie Brinkley KGO logo
Tuesday, July 9, 2024 3:22AM
Bay Area doctors share ways to avoid new COVID variant as cases rise
There is a COVID uptick underway and many expect cases to keep going up in California and the Bay Area as the summer progresses.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- If you thought you could forget about COVID-19, think again. There is an uptick underway and many expect cases to keep going up in California and the Bay Area as the summer progresses.

ABC7 News dug into the strategies that might help you skip getting sick with the new FLiRT variant.

"We're playing a better game of COVID roulette, one that's more in our favor now than it was four years ago," said Dr. John Swartzberg with the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

RELATED: COVID-19 'FLiRT' subvariants on the rise across the US. Here's what to know

So how to best hedge your bets against this new COVID variant called FLiRT?

For starters, data from wastewater samples from Santa Clara County show we are experiencing a new peak of activity here in the Bay Area. COVID is spreading.

"Wastewater is our kind of early warning system. It's the best we have," said Dr. Swartzberg.

If you have cold or flu symptoms now consider Dr. Swartzberg's advice.

"The tests we buy over the counter, the tests we get at a doctor's office or pharmacy they work very well for these FLiRT variants," said Dr. Swartzberg.

A positive result means you have COVID but a negative result doesn't put you in the clear. You have to test again and again and again if you're negative but feel sick.

RELATED: Small study shows a possible reason some long COVID patients experience 'brain fog'

As for masking up?

"When I go out and about to my shopping in Berkeley, when I'm on planes and in airports these days it's a very small percentage of people who are wearing masks. I would estimate 5%," said UC Berkeley Epidemiology professor Dr Arthur Reingold.

The experts agree wearing a good mask does reduce your risk but it's no guarantee. There are vaccines to consider.

According to the CDC, the 2023-2024 version of the vaccine can increase protection against symptomatic illness by 54% even with the new variant. Very few people got it in California, only 36% of seniors are up to date on the latest vaccine, 18% of those 50 to 64 years old, and only 10%of adults under 50.

The 2024-2025 version should be available by September.

RELATED: Moderna's combo COVID and flu shot offers strong immunity in older adults during late stage trial

So do you get a vaccine now?

It depends on your health, your plans and underlying conditions. Just keep in mind you have to wait a minimum of four months between vaccines.

"I'm probably going to wait until the new variant booster that the FDA approved recently a couple weeks ago becomes available. I'll be one of the first in line," said Dr Reingold.

Just like the flu, the peak season for COVID is again expected to be late fall and winter despite all the cases circulating now.