As COVID-19 and new variants continue to spread, there are some things you should know.

There are three new COVID-19 variants spreading across the United States. CBS reports that the “dominant” strand is EG.5, making up around 21.5% of new infections. The FL.1.5.1 variant, “Fornax,” is the second largest strand accounting for 14.5% of infections. The third variant is the Omicron BA.2.86, “Pirola,” being detected in 11 countries, primarily in the USA.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s new procedure says if you have symptoms, take a test right away. If you were just exposed, you should test five days after being exposed. There is no need to take a PCR test after getting a positive result when home-tested, but it is recommended to isolate. You may return to regular activities after five days of isolation, no symptoms and are fever-free for 24 hours without any medication. 

There are three treatments to minimize damage from symptoms. Paxlovid and Lagevrio are oral pills to take when mild symptoms appear for up to five days. These pills stop the virus from replicating itself in your body. People aged 12 years and older are eligible to take the Paxlovid pills but younger than 18 years are not eligible for Lagevrio.

Veklury, a shot given by IV or drip, should be taken as soon as possible or within seven days of a positive test. Children who are 28 days old or older, weigh a minimum of seven pounds, have mild to moderate symptoms or are at high risk are eligible to receive this treatment in a healthcare facility for three consecutive days with prescription.

Like most treatments, side effects vary from person to person. According to the CDC, pain, redness or swelling on the injection site on the arm, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, chills and a low-grade fever are all symptoms one could have after receiving the new booster.

Since cases and hospitalizations are rising, speculation about facing the strict rules from 2020 are stirring up. Mask rules will not be similar to 2020’s rule. For masks, it is recommended to wear if you are at risk or if you test positive. Wear a mask indoors and around others at home for 11 days and wear a mask for 10 days if exposed.

For air travel, the Transportation Security Administration disproved rumors of reimplementing the mask mandate for workers and travelers and a second lockdown happening in December. A spokesperson for the CDC confirmed to AP News that these rumors are “utterly false.” 

As for booster shots and vaccines for this new wave of COVID-19 variants, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the companies that produced the first round of boosters, have been approved to distribute new boosters. Their shots are formulated to target the omicron sub-variants that are currently circulating. Moderna has published data showing that its booster generated almost a nine times increase in antibodies in a lab-based study for the variant BA.2.86.

As of Sep. 12th, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech boosters were approved by the FDA and CDC for ages 12 and older. Pharmacies and healthcare providers across the country will start administering by the end of this week, or early next week.

Dr. Denis Nash, a professor of epidemiology at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, tells ABC News, “I’ve been telling people who are medically vulnerable, older people, if they’re not up to date on their vaccines now … it’s probably best that they get the vaccine…”

ABC reports that while these new boosters are approved for ages 12 and older, they are only “authorized for emergency use for children between ages six months to 11 years old.” 

The distribution of the vaccine and booster will be different this year. This round of shots will not be purchased by the federal government, however, this does not mean that you will be charged for the vaccine. Due to the CARES Act, a law passed early in the pandemic, private insurers have been required to cover coronavirus vaccines as soon as it has been approved by the FDA. Those with Medicare or uninsured citizens are covered by the government and the Biden Administration’s “HHS Bridge Access Program For COVID-19 Vaccines and Treatments Program.”