Here we are in the grip of another outbreak of COVID-19, but most people I see are acting like the pandemic is over. I live in Los Angeles County, whose public health department is one of the most vigilant and proactive in the United States.
We all have pandemic fatigue. Even people who should have known better took precautions. If you feel my guilt on the way, I will not disappoint.
I’ll admit, I’ve been less cautious these past couple of months than I used to be. When I go to the grocery store or the drug store, I leave the house without a mask, and instead of going back to get a mask, I walk in without a mask, knowing that I will only be there for a short time.
In June, I took a 12-hour trans-Atlantic flight where no passengers or crew members wore masks. I was wearing my first mask, a fancy KN95. But after eating I how so forgot to put it back. In July, when COVID was clearly on the rise, I hosted my daughter’s birthday party without asking guests to get tested before coming home.
And there is where it came from.
Either by luck or by boosting my immunity, I was able to get rid of the virus. But alarming reports that the BA.5 Omicron subvariant, which has spread like wildfire in California — can partially bypass some of the defenses provided by vaccines and previous infections — provided the jolt I needed to solidify my behavior.
I didn’t break any rules in the situations I described above because none were in place. Government mandates like wearing masks and requiring people to get vaccinated and enter gyms and other indoor spaces have become so heavily politicized that returning to them now, especially in an election year, is like trying to bottle a lunatic. . I think many of us are coming to terms with a future where keeping the virus at bay depends on individual responsibility.
Most of California is in the high-risk category for the spread of COVID-19, as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even in pandemic-hit L.A. County, with thousands of new infections a day and double-digit positive test rates at risk, resistance has emerged as officials recently discussed plans to restore the district and eventually masks. mandate. Several cities in the county, including Beverly Hills, Long Beach and Pasadena, said they would not comply. Business owners openly questioned whether they would ask their employees to enforce such a rule against unwilling and sometimes hostile patrons.
Kathryn Barger, a member of the county Board of Supervisors, wrote in an open letter to voters that “masking mandates are polarizing and unenforceable.” A better way to go, he said, “is to trust the public to make personal decisions about COVID-19 prevention to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, promote the effectiveness of vaccines and stimulants, and invest in equitable access to COVID-19 treatment.” .”
Let’s face it: the virus will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we can only speculate about other options we might not see our way or how many times we can get reinfected without long-term damage to our health. With this inconvenient reality in mind, now is a great time to adopt daily habits that will reduce your risk of contracting not just COVID-19, but an infectious disease.
“For decades and centuries, there will be cases of COVID-19, just like the flu,” says Dr. Saahir Khan, an infectious disease specialist at USC’s Keck Medicine. He noted that in many Asian countries, “every winter, when these viruses are at a high level, people wear masks in public places. I think it has become part of the culture here.”
The pandemic calm that has engulfed most of us is a credit to vaccines and treatments that have dramatically reduced the effects of infection. However, current vaccines are far less protective than the infection itself, especially when faced with the evasion mechanisms exhibited by BA.5.
Shira Shafir, an associate professor of epidemiology at UCLA’s School of Public Health, has seen the troubling reality firsthand. When I called him to interview him for this column, he was at home with COVID-19. Shafir’s 70-year-old mother was planning to visit from Arizona, so she and her husband decided to give it a try for themselves and their young son. Their son gave a positive assessment and told his mother not to come.
“My son has no symptoms,” says Shafir. “We only got tested because mum was visiting – thank God, otherwise mum would have been exposed and caught it.”
Shafir tested positive the next day, and her husband tested positive the day after that. Both her and her husband’s condition improved, and their son, who was participating in a Pfizer vaccine trial for children under 5, received three shots.
The starting point for developing your defense strategy is to determine the extent of transmission in your community. If you’re in a high-prevalence area, which more than 45% of US counties had at the end of July, you should be extremely cautious. An easy way to find out is to refer to the CDC webpage, which shows which category your county falls into. You can also follow your local health department on social media.
Another good measure is anecdotal: “If you know a lot of people with COVID right now, that means there’s a lot of COVID,” says Shafir.
I know at least 10 people who have been infected in the last few weeks, both friends and professional contacts, all of whom have been vaccinated and recovered. It was then a wake-up call that I needed to familiarize myself with basic safety precautions.
Among them: wearing a mask in closed public places and outdoors. If you are at high risk of serious illness, stay away from those places and find alternatives like curbside pickup and home delivery.
If you’re hosting a dinner party, ask for a quick test at home before guests arrive. If you’re going on a plane, wear a mask when you enter the airport, at least until the plane is airborne, and then again when you land.
If you test positive, follow these guidelines: Isolate from people for at least five days after your first symptoms or after you test positive. If your test is negative, you have no fever, and your symptoms are improving, you can stop isolating after the fifth day.
If you’re one of those people who isn’t worried about COVID-19 because you don’t think it’s going to make you very sick, keep this in mind: The course of the disease can still be unpredictable and includes the possibility of death. prolonged COVID, which can leave you with brain fog, shortness of breath, and heart damage.
If you’re not sure about any of this, at least think about your neighbors, co-workers, and relatives who are older than you and may be sick.
“That’s what worries me,” USC’s Hahn says. “I want to make sure society is doing everything it can to protect those people.”
This story was prepared by KHN (Kaiser Health News), one of the three main operating programs of the KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation).