It seems we’re stuck in a perpetual pattern regarding COVID. It surges. We get vaccinated/boosted. The surge subsides, and we think we’re out of the woods. Then it surges again with a more vaccine-elusive and more contagious variant. Case counts eventually come back down, and, again, we think we see the light at the end of the tunnel, but only until it surges yet again with an even more immune-evasive and transmissible variant. This is where we appear to be today with the BA.4, BA.5, and the new BA.2.12.1 post-Omicron variants. BA.5 is believed to be a cross between the Delta variant and the original Omicron variant, and it the most evasive to our immunity of all strains to date, as Dr Fauci cited in the Recent Business Insider article “Fauci: Prior Omicron Infecfion Doesn’t Give ‘Good Protection’ Against BA.5“. Furthermore, I just read the Associated Press (AP) article in Yahoo News “New coronavirus mutant raises concerns in India and beyond” about a new BA.2.75 variant that just emerged in India. It appears to be on par with BA.5.
Yes, this is very frustrating and perhaps somewhat discouraging to all of us. However, fortunately, the newer strains have shown to be no more lethal than the original Omicron strain thus far. Dr. Fauci reiterated that in the aforementioned Business Insider Article. This is somewhat good news in terms of how BA.5 and BA.2.12.1 will likely impact our lives.
Meanwhile, the USA and probably the entire world, are experiencing a high level of pandemic fatigue. At least I know I’m sick and tired of dealing with it. I can tell others are too because, despite Greater LA being in the midst of a new BA.4/BA.5/BA.2.12 wave, most people I observe are not wearing a mask and COVID vaccine stations at drug stores are nearly vacant. This is understandable, but I believe we must not let our guard down despite our wanting to be “over it”.
Although some self-discipline and vigilance are still needed, the information below should reveal that, in essence, we now control COVID much more than it controlled us in its early days.
COVID’s Impact On Our Lives Now Versus Early Pandemic
I’m sure we will always remember the second and third weeks in March of 2020. We were suddenly jolted from our perfectly normal pre-pandemic lives to nearly total lockdown. Schools and many businesses were abruptly closed. Many other businesses mandated that a large number of their employees work from home (myself included). In some states, people weren’t allowed on the roads nor in public places except for essential tasks, such as buying groceries or going to the doctor. Mask mandates and social distancing were strictly enforced, etc. Restaurants, movie theaters, places of worship, sports arenas, concert halls, and certain other businesses were either closed or required to significantly reduce the number of indoor occupants. This put many people out of work and caused some businesses to fail. This was all especially true before the vaccines were approved by the FDA and became available to most people.
In addition to mandated precautions, many of us took additional precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones. For instance, a good friend of mine cooked Thanksgiving dinner for his sister/her family and their elderly mother. Instead of gathering at one place, he “catered” portions of the meal to their houses, and then went home and ate his Thanksgiving dinner alone while visiting with his family only via “Facetime”. Also, kids were required to take classes online versus going to school, and they were often not allowed to visit their friends. Although necessary to protect ourselves and others, such resulted in devastating collateral emotional damage. Depression and suicide rates skyrocketed, and Psychiatrists’ and Psychologists’ offices were flooded (virtually/online if not physically). My Church and other parishes have since launched a Mental Health Ministry for the first time. All these ill effects were a direct result of the pandemic precautions that were draconian yet necessary at the same time.
The good news is the worst of all that now appears to be clearly behind us, as the most draconian of these measures are no longer needed. As vaccines rolled out and became available to most people, things slowly started to return to normal. Children and college students returned to in-classroom studies, gyms and movie theaters started to reopen, and restaurants started to resume indoor dining. I know it felt great to go out to dinner with my family after being cooped up at home for months. In short, for most of us, our lives were initially turned off like a light switch and are slowly turning back on like a dimmer switch, which I believe is the most pragmatic way to return to normal.
At the present time, we are now arguably returning to the pre-pandemic normal. I don’t know of any business in LA that restricts indoor activities/attendance and the same with large outdoor events. Instead, we just need to take what I consider to be rudimentary precautions to protect ourselves and those around us. As such, the ever-evolving “new normal” is reverting more and more toward the pre-pandemic normal. (I actually reject the term “new normal” because there is nothing normal about it, and it’s only temporary.)
So, exactly what should we do now to prevent getting COVID?
Having consulted with multiple sources, including the CDC, it boils down to basically five (5) things for most people:
- Vaccines: Stay current on your COVID vaccines. If you haven’t yet been vaccinated, I believe this should be a top priority. Although vaccines are not much effective in preventing contracting the newer COVID strains, they are still highly effective in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death. Please stay tuned for a separate post on vaccines.
- Masks: Wear a mask indoors when community transmission levels are substantial or high (> 50 cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period). When the count drops below 50, then most people can safely not use their masks. As we know, this is often a highly emotional subject and, frankly, I’m not quite sure why. Please check in soon for an upcoming post on masking as well.
- Avoid crowds and poorly ventilated areas: Do this at least when case rates are high.
- Test: If you start to experience symptoms, you should get tested ASAP. If positive, please seek medical treatment ASAP, as many of the available COVID treatments must be started within the first five days in order to be effective. Also, please self-quarantine for at least 5 days or until you test negative. This will help prevent the spread to others.
- Wash your hands: Although COVID is spread mainly via inhalation, there have been some cases traceable to contaminated surfaces.
In all of this, I’m sure all of you can see the good news that we can take all of these precautions with little to no interruption to our daily lives (except in cases of testing positive)! We go to work. Our kids go to school. We can go work out at the gym, go to dinner and take in a movie, concert or sports event. We can travel domestically and internationally. (OK, I’ll admit air travel certainly isn’t what it was, but I believe that will also come to pass as the airline industry continues to return to its pre-pandemic staffing levels and throughput.) I believe is often underemphasized.
Regardless, if you are immunocompromised or otherwise consider yourself to be at risk, please consult with your doctor regarding the best precautions for your situation.