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COVID-19 Trending Topics: Omicron, At-Home Tests, and New Guidance

With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, COVID-19 remains at the forefront of our minds and those of our clients. Vaccine and booster shots remain essential. Clients should also prioritize vital and doable everyday safety measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection and contagion. Some practices, such as washing our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, are common knowledge to many at this stage of the pandemic. Other practices have evolved. Guidance on mask-wearing has changed, and clients now have access to more at-home testing options. Additionally, congregate living arrangements and evolving immigration process prerequisites relating to vaccines may bring forth more questions as Omicron spreads.

Read on for the latest in resources and guidance from the National Resource Center for Refugees, Immigrants, and Migrants (NRC-RIM) that you can share with clients and review yourself to further your understanding of recent COVID-19 guidance.

Updated Guidance and Requirements

USCIS Adjustment of Status Change: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) now requires applicants 5 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for adjustment of status application submissions. You can find helpful information on USCIS requirements here.

 New Mask-Wearing Protocols: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently updated their guidance on mask-wearing, emphasizing that people should wear the most protective masks they can. In their guidance, the CDC stated that loosely woven cloth masks offer the least protection, surgical masks and KN95s offer good protection, and N95 masks and other respirators offer the most protection.

Congregate Housing Considerations for Direct Service Providers: Many refugees, immigrants, and migrants (RIM)—especially Afghan new arrivals—are living in congregate settings, making them more vulnerable to variant outbreaks. This four-page fact sheet shares detailed health education on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in congregate settings.

Omicron Insights

Omicron Fact Sheet: As Omicron cases continue to rise rapidly, clients can review a new NRC-RIM fact sheet for key preventative measures. Languages available: EnglishArabicDariPashto, and Swahili (Congolese) 

Conversation Guide on Variants: As variants like Omicron spread, many understandably have questions on variants. Those working with RIM communities can read this conversation guide on variants of concern to understand how to address frequently asked questions with clients.

The Latest on Testing

Free At-Home Tests: Every home in the U.S. is now eligible for 4 free rapid at-home tests. Clients can visit this website to order their tests. People who have difficulty accessing the internet or need additional support placing an order can call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) to get help in English, Spanish, and more than 150 other languages from 8:00 am to midnight ET, seven days a week. If clients need additional tests, they can purchase them or contact their local health departments for more information on accessible tests.

 At-Home Testing Instructions: This NRC-RIM webpage has translated instructions for seven brands (in written and video format) with step-by-step details on how to take at-home tests. Instructions are broken down by individual brands, and translations vary by tests.

Testing Fact Sheet: Clients looking to learn more about testing recommendations can refer to fact-based testing guidelines mapped out by NRC-RIM. The fact sheet is available in Arabic, Burmese, English, Kinyarwanda, Chin Hakha, Korean, Sango, Simplified Chinese, Somali, Swahili (East Africa), and Traditional Chinese. Additional translated languages and customizable versions can be found here.

Looking to learn more? Visit NRCRIM.org for COVID-19 health education, toolkits, and resources that center the needs of refugees, immigrants, and migrants. If you need a resource but don’t see it, or your agency needs technical assistance on engaging with clients around COVID-19 and the vaccine, contact the NRC-RIM team at nrcrim@umn.edu

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