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COVID-19 Update: How It Affects You


COVID-19 continues to spread in Maryland. Individuals who remain unvaccinated are at the greatest risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19 including highly contagious variants resulting in hospitalization and death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance recommends booster vaccines for adults over 65, those with high-risk medical conditions, and individuals at risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission due their occupation or institutional settings. The Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine has been approved for a booster after two months. The Pfizer vaccine is available for children 12 and older, and soon will be approved for children 5 years and older. Here’s how the latest COVID-19 news affects you.

The Delta variant

Like many other viruses, the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) continually changes, producing new strains with features different from the original virus. The Delta variant is the most common form of the virus in the U.S. today and is very dangerous, causing most new COVID-19 infections. Here’s what you should know:

  • The Delta variant is significantly more contagious than previous variants, infecting many more people.
  • The Delta variant appears to cause more severe illness in unvaccinated people than previous variants, leading to more hospitalizations and deaths.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are very effective in preventing Delta infections, and the vast majority of new hospitalizations and deaths are in unvaccinated people.
  • Fully vaccinated people can get “breakthrough” Delta infections, but they are rare and are generally less severe than in unvaccinated people.
  • Fully vaccinated people with Delta breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others, but vaccinated people appear to be contagious for a shorter period of time.

Booster shots

COVID-19 vaccines remain highly effective against the virus months after vaccination, but their effectiveness will decrease over time.  The effectiveness of the vaccine is enhanced by getting a booster shot. Based on CDC recommendations, these groups are eligible for booster vaccines:

  • Adults 65 or older who received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least six months ago
  • Adults 18-64 with underlying high-risk medical conditions
  • Adults 18-64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission due to their work or institutional settings
  • All adults 18 or older who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine at least two months ago

Also, individuals with compromised immune systems are eligible for a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least 28 days after the first two doses.

Boosters may be “mixed and matched,” heterologous dosing. While preference remains to obtain the same booster as the primary vaccine, either Moderna or Pfizer can be received as a booster for the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine. This can be discussed with your primary care provider.

MPCP administers the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccines in our offices, and many of our offices will also offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine starting November 1.

Call your MPCP office to schedule an appointment to receive a booster dose. Vaccines are also available at your local pharmacy or health department clinic.

COVID vaccines for children

The CDC is recommending COVID-19 vaccination for children 12+. Here’s the latest:

  • Fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 than adults, but they can still get sick from the virus and spread it to others.
  • CDC recommends everyone 12 years and older should get a vaccination to protect them and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • The two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective for children 12+. As with adults, serious side effects from the vaccine are rare in children, and the benefits of vaccination greatly outweigh the potential risks.

If you have questions about COVID-19 or the vaccine, contact your MPCP doctor or visit Maryland’s covidLINK website.

Dr. Levine is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He serves as MPCP’s Medical Director and Vice President, and sees patients in the Columbia office.

Dr. Carter is an MPCP partner and is certified by the American Board of Family Physicians. She serves as Assistant Medical Director and sees patients in the Arundel Mills office.

Will My Child Be Safe at School?


Maryland children are finally returning to the classroom. This is welcome news for most families, but some parents wonder whether their kids will be safe from COVID-19 at school.

Maryland schools are taking precautions to protect children and staff members, including social distancing, mask wearing, limited class size and stepped-up cleaning. So as reported in Maryland School Reopening Guidance from the Maryland Department of Education, schools are pretty safe when it comes to the coronavirus. Here are some highlights from the report:

    • Many fewer children have been infected with COVID-19 than adults.
    • Children are less likely to become infected than adults.
    • Children under 10 appear to not spread the virus as much as adults.
    • Children generally have milder cases of the disease and lower rates of hospitalization.
    • Spread of the virus in schools is uncommon when prevention strategies are used effectively.
    • When Covid-19 does spread in schools, it is much more likely to be between staff members than between staff and children.
    • From Aug. 10, 2020 to Jan. 10, 2021, only 4.3% of persons 19 years or younger who got COVID-19 said they had attended or visited in a pre-K-12 school. That means most were not infected at school.
    • Maryland has prioritized vaccination of educators and staff in all K-12 schools. This is underway now.

See public and non-public K-12 schools that have reported Covid-19 cases

While schools are taking precautions, you should remind your children to protect themselves with these safe practices:

  • Stay separated (at least three feet, according to the latest CDC guidance): This includes not bunching up while standing in line, leaving space between seats at lunch, and not getting too close to others at recess.
  • Wear face masks: This should be a priority, especially when it’s hard to maintain social distance, such as on the bus or entering the school building. Wear cloth masks or the disposable medical face masks that are now widely available at grocery and drug stores.
    • Give your child a clean mask and back-up mask each day and a clean, resealable bag for them to store the mask when they can’t wear it, such as at lunch.
  • Keep hands clean: Practice hand-washing at home with your child: soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Encourage them to wash before and after eating or after coughing/sneezing. If hand washing isn’t available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Stay home if sick: Children should stay home if they have tested positive or are showing any COVID-19 symptoms:
    • Fever or chills
    • Cough
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    • Fatigue
    • Muscle or body aches
    • Headache
    • Loss of taste or smell
    • Sore throat
    • Congestion or runny nose
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea

Dr. Andrea C. Cuniff earned her medical degree at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She sees patients in the Annapolis office.

Are ‘Meatless Meats’ Better for You?

By: Christine Jones, M.D.

Plant-based meat substitutes are booming in popularity, with grocery stores and restaurants offering meatless “hamburger” and “sausage” that look and taste like the real thing. Some people eat these products because they fit their vegetarian or vegan diets, but many others are trying them because they think “meatless meat” is healthier and will even help them lose weight.

How plant-based burgers compare to beef

When it comes to your health, meat-substitute burgers do have an advantage over beef. They’re plant-based – for example, Beyond Meat uses pea protein and Impossible Foods uses soy and potato protein – so they provide healthy fiber and cut out the cholesterol found in animal products. But their health benefits are not across the board as shown in the chart below, which compares the nutrition of a beef burger to an Impossible Burger and a Beyond Burger.

4 Oz. Patty Calories Fat Carbs Protein Sodium
85% Lean Ground Beef 192* 12* 0 grams 20 grams 55 milligrams
Impossible Burger 240 14 grams 9 grams 9 grams 370 milligrams
Beyond Burger 250 18 grams 3 grams 20 grams 390 milligrams

Nutrition data from the USDA, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. * Calories and fat after cooking. Pre-cooking calories were 283.

Beef and meatless burgers contain about the same amount of protein. However, beef patties can give you fewer calories and less fat since you can squeeze fat out of a beef burger by cooking it longer, as shown in the example above. (Cooking doesn’t affect the calories in meatless patties.) Plant-based burgers are also higher in carbs since they are made of vegetables, and they contain significantly more sodium since salt is one of their ingredients. (You have the option of not salting a beef patty.)

Also remember that adding a bun and condiments, such as cheese, ketchup and mayo, can greatly increase any burger’s fat and calories.

Nutritionists have noted two cautions about Impossible Burgers and Beyond Burgers. First, both are made with processed plant-based ingredients rather than whole foods, which are a more healthful option. Second, both products contain coconut oil, which is high in saturated fat and can raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol) just like beef fat. Coconut oil gives Beyond Burgers and Impossible burgers comparable saturated fat levels to beef.

Bottom line on burgers

You’re not automatically eating healthier by choosing plant-based meat, and if you think eating meatless will make you lose weight, think again. But if you choose a plant-based burger, you can do so knowing that you’re getting comparable taste and nutrition to beef.

Dr. Christine Jones earned her medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She cares for patients at MPCP’s Annapolis office.

Eating to Prevent Cancer

By: Patricia Jett, M.D.

Can you prevent cancer by watching what you put in your mouth? Researchers are discovering that eating certain foods – and avoiding others – can reduce your risk of getting certain types of cancer.

‘Good’ and ‘bad’ foods

People who eat more fruits, veggies, whole grains and beans tend to get less cancer. That may be because those foods are high in antioxidants — chemicals that fight the cell damage that leads to cancer. Besides fresh produce, canned and frozen fruits and vegetables have many of the same important nutrients. Be mindful of canned goods, as they may contain more salt.

On the other hand, if you eat a lot of fat, sugar and refined carbs (like white bread), you’re more likely to gain weight and become obese. Obesity is linked to several types of cancer, so it’s important to keep your weight low. Try to limit your carb intake to < 30 grams per serving.

Are you at a healthy weight? Check your Body Mass Index (BMI).

Some healthy eating tips:

  • Try to eat at least 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables every day, and get a variety of types and colors. Be adventurous; try something new!
  • Choose whole-grain products, such as breads, pastas and brown rice, instead of those with refined grains. Quinoa anyone?
  • Avoid high-calorie processed foods and sugary beverages like soda, sweet tea, and juice-flavored drinks. Also watch those flavored waters – read your labels.
  • Reduce your intake of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, lunch meats and hot dogs.
  • Choose fish and poultry instead of red meat. If you eat red meat, choose lean cuts and smaller portions.
  • Try to drink at least 64 oz. of water a day.

Watch out for alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol is also linked to several types of cancer. All types — beer, wine, and spirits — seem to raise your chances. Limit yourself to one drink a day (1.5 oz. liquor, 5 oz wine, or 12 oz beer) if you’re a woman and two drinks a day if you’re a man.

Besides healthy eating, physical activity is important for reducing your cancer risk. Learn more from the American Cancer Society.


Dr. Patricia Jett is a Maryland Primary Care Physicians, LLC partner and practices in MPCP’s Annapolis office. She is certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. She received her medical degree from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed her residency program in Family Practice at Franklin Square Hospital Center.