Vaccinations for persons aged 18 years or older in the U.S. began on December 14, 2020. On March 17, 2021, the HHS issued a directive expanding COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Americans. On April 19, persons aged 16 or older were made eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, and on May 10, FDA approved the emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents aged 12-15 years. On August 23, the FDA approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for persons aged 16 years or older. FDA authorized emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11 years on October 29, 2021.
In June 2021, mounting concerns over the Delta variant significantly crippled efforts to tackle the spread of COVID-19. The more contagious and transmissible variant spread fast, especially among unvaccinated populations, leading to a spike in cases and hospitalizations. Subsequently, the Biden administration mandated vaccines across the general public, including foreign visitors to the United States.
Beginning November 8, 2021, fully vaccinated foreign travelers were allowed in the United States. Those traveling by air must show proof of vaccination and a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test report, taken within three days before boarding the plane.
RT-PCR COVID-19 testing has been the gold standard for detecting the viral load in suspected patients. RT-PCR tests of people who show symptoms of infection such as sore throat, fever, trouble breathing, or loss of the sense of taste and smell, those who are asymptomatic, and who may have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 by identifying affected individuals in the early infection stages. A positive RT-PCR COVID-19 test in a timely fashion allows affected persons to isolate themselves and seek early treatment, thereby limiting the chances of further spread of the infection.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, limited capacity and supplies of labs resulted in significant delays of RT-PCR COVID-19 test reports. Moreover, the standard norm was that reports were available after at least 2-3 days of RT-PCR tests. So, people who had an urgent or last-minute need to travel internationally could not afford to get a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test report on them.
As the world was slowly limping back to normalcy, a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 was reported to the World Health Organization on November 24, 2021. The new variant was first detected in specimens collected from Botswana and South Africa. WHO named the new variant ‘Omicron’ and classified it as a variant of concern. The U.S. designated Omicron as a variant of concern on November 30, 2021, and the first confirmed case of Omicron in the States was identified on December 1, 2021.
As was done for previous SARS-CoV-2 variants, CDC continues to track the course of Omicron using genomic surveillance and frame public health practices accordingly. To date, no conclusive data is available regarding the mode of spread of Omicron, how well available medications and vaccines work against it, or the severity of illness it causes.
As per CDC, at least one case of illness caused by the Omicron variant has been detected in more than 20 states of the U.S., including Arizona. Once Omicron can be accurately estimated at low frequencies, surveillance data will be available in CDC’s COVID Data Tracker. RT-PCR tests remain the standard for diagnosing the new variant.
Persons who are yet to be vaccinated or have a compromised immune system or an underlying medical condition should continue taking COVID-19 preventive measures to stay safe. If you are experiencing any typical COVID-19 symptoms, isolate yourself immediately, get an RT-PCR COVID-19 test done at the earliest, and seek medical care accordingly.
Are you looking for a reliable COVID-19 testing facility in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Sun City, Arizona? Affordable Rapid Testing offers rapid, reliable, and contactless same-day RT-PCR tests, rapid COVID-19 testing, mobile testing, Organization testing, and events testing options. In addition, our same-day travel testing facility ensures that you never have to miss a flight and get tested on the go because our lab is just 4 minutes away from Phoenix Harbor Airport, Arcadia, Phoenix.