Here we are in the grip of another wave of the coronavirus outbreak, but most of the people I see outside are behaving as if the pandemic is over. And I live in Los Angeles County, whose Department of Public Health is arguably one of the most vigilant and proactive in the United States.
We all suffer from epidemiological fatigue. Even the people who should know better let the precautionary measures slip. If you feel a Middle East and Africa neglect On the roadAnd the I will not disappoint.
I admit I’ve been less cautious over the past couple of months than I was early on. I left the house without a mask on a trip to the grocery or the drugstore, and instead of going back to get a mask, I walked in without a mask, telling myself I’d only be there for a little while.
In June, I took a 12-hour transatlantic flight with no masked passengers or crew members. I wore my mask on at first, and the KN95 fit snugly. But after eating, I Somewhat I forgot to put it back. In July, with the apparent rise in the spread of Covid, I hosted a birthday party for my daughter without asking the guests to test themselves before coming home.
And there’s more to where that came from.
Whether through luck or enhanced immunity, I was able to evade the virus. But troubling reports about the BA.5 omicron subvariant—which spread like the California wildfires, in part because it can circumvent some of the defenses offered by previous vaccines and infections—provided the boost I needed to support my behavior.
I didn’t actually break any rules in the situations I described above, because there weren’t any. Public mandates—such as concealment and requiring people to be vaccinated to enter restaurants, gyms and other indoor settings—have been politicized to such an extent that returning to them now, especially in an election year, would be like trying to cram the genie back into the bottle. I think many of us are coming to terms with a future in which keeping the virus out of personal responsibility stops.
Most of California falls into the high-risk coronavirus transmission category, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, even in epidemic-ridden Los Angeles County, reporting thousands of new infections daily and a double-digit rate of positive tests in the danger zone, serious resistance emerged as health officials recently discussed a plan to restore business — and it was eventually put on hold. mask state. Several cities in the county, including Beverly Hills, Long Beach and Pasadena, have said they will not implement them. Business owners frankly wondered if they would require their employees to impose such a rule on unwilling and sometimes hostile sponsors.
“Hidden mandates are polarizing and unenforceable,” Kathryn Barger, a member of the county board of supervisors, wrote in an open letter to voters. The best way to go, she said, is to “trust the public to make COVID-19 personal prevention decisions to keep them and their loved ones safe, enhance the effectiveness of vaccines and boosters, and invest in equitable access to COVID-19 treatments.”
Let’s face it: Covid is with us for the foreseeable future, and we can only speculate on what other variables may blind us in the future or how often we can re-infect without risking permanent damage to our health. Given this inconvenient fact, now is an excellent time to adopt daily habits that reduce your risk of infection – and not just from the coronavirus.
“Covid-19 cases will continue for decades and centuries, in the same way that influenza did,” says Dr. Sahir Khan, an infectious disease specialist in Keck Medicine at USC. He noted that in many Asian countries, there is a culture “where every winter when these viruses spread at a high level, people wear masks in public. I think that should become part of the culture here.”
The satisfaction with COVID-19 that has bypassed many of us is largely credited with vaccines and treatments that have sharply reduced the severity of illness caused by infection. But current vaccines have been shown to be much less protective than the infection itself, especially when confronted with the evasive mechanisms demonstrated by BA.5.
Shira Shaffer, an assistant professor of epidemiology at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, experienced that confusing fact first-hand. When I called her for an interview in this column, she was home with Covid. Shaffer’s 70-year-old mother was planning to visit from Arizona, so she and her husband chose to test themselves and their young son. Their son tested positive, and they asked her mother not to come.
“My son has not had any symptoms,” Shaffer says. “We only tested it because my mom was coming to visit – thank God we did, because otherwise my mom would definitely have been infected.”
The next day, Shaffer’s test result came back positive, and the next day her husband tested positive. She and her husband were reinforced, and their son, who was involved in a trial of the Pfizer vaccine for children under five, received three shots.
The starting point for developing your COVID defense strategy is to determine how much transmission is occurring in your community. If you are in a high prevalence area, as more than 45% of US counties were in late July, use extreme caution. An easy way to find out is by referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention web page, which will show you which category your county belongs to. You can also follow your local health department on social media.
Another good metric is storytelling: “If you know a lot of people who have the virus right now, that means there’s a lot of Covid-19 disease,” Shaffer says.
I know at least 10 people, friends and professional callers, who have been infected in the past few weeks, and all have been vaccinated and boosted. This set off the alarm bells I needed to re-acquaint myself with basic safety procedures.
Among them: wearing a mask in indoor public places and crowded outdoor places. If you are at high risk of getting seriously ill, avoid those places, and look for alternatives like curbside and home delivery.
If you want to host a dinner party, ask guests to do a quick home test before coming. If you’re on a plane, put on a mask the moment you enter the airport, and keep it on at least until the plane is in the air and then again when you land.
If the test result is positive, follow these guidelines: Isolate from people for at least five days after the first symptoms or positive test result. You can finish isolation after the fifth day if you have had a negative test, you have no fever, and your symptoms have improved.
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t worry about the coronavirus because you don’t think it’ll make you terribly sick, remember this: the course of the disease can still be highly unpredictable and has some odds that you’ll end up with Covid. , which can leave you with brain fog, shortness of breath, and heart damage.
If you are not convinced by any of that, then at least consider some of the neighbors, co-workers, and relatives who may be older and sicker than you.
“That’s what worries me,” says Khan of the University of Southern California. “I want to make sure that the community is doing everything it can to protect these people.”
This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an independent editorial service of the California Health Care Corporation.
This article is reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.