As of Feb. 7, 2021, there have been nearly 28 million Covid-19 cases in the United States, with Virginia accounting for 529,125 cases. A year ago right around now, many of us hadn’t even heard of the virus. Now after a full year of quarantining, social distancing and rising numbers, pandemic fatigue and the increased availability of vaccines can make it all too easy to slack off and slip into careless behavior.
“Remember that we aren’t out of the woods yet—everyone has a responsibility to do their part to slow the spread,” says Dr. Sunil Budhrani, CEO and Chief Medical Officer of Innovation Health—a joint venture partnership between Aetna and Inova. “There is no magic light switch here—this is a marathon not a sprint.”
Here are some reminders and new tips for this winter and beyond.
How does the discovery of the new virus variants change the precautions we should be taking?
Covid-19 has been around for more than a year and there is a lot more data surrounding transmission and the effectiveness of various precautionary measures. That being said, many of the precautions the CDC has been recommending from the start are still effective. These new variants are also spread through the air, so avoiding public spaces will help reduce your risk of contracting the virus. If you’re still going out once a week to buy groceries, go during off-hours, have your groceries delivered, or go for larger and less frequent trips. If you have been inconsistent with wearing a mask up until this point, I highly recommend that you start.
What else can you do if you feel like you are already taking the necessary precautions?
Are you 1) continuing to physically distance, limiting your exposure to new people and shopping at off-peak hours, when fewer people are out and about; 2) wearing a mask when in public spaces, in businesses and offices, and in spaces where you do not know the individuals; and 3) frequently washing your hands for 20 seconds with warm water and soap, especially if you have gone out in public or come into contact with an individual exhibiting symptoms, or if you can’t using hand sanitizer whenever possible? If all of these are true then look for ways you can take it to the next level—conduct your shopping online, further physically distance yourself from others and remove higher-risk individuals from your bubble.
What should you do if you test positive?
Get lots of rest, drink plenty of water and closely monitor your symptoms—if you start to experience severe shortness of breath, worsening cough or other emergency warning signs, such as bluish lips, persistent chest pain, or extreme weakness, call 911. Immediately self-quarantine for at least two weeks, avoid public spaces, have your groceries delivered, wear a mask around other members of your household and ensure that high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and kitchen counters are frequently cleaned. Finally, alert everyone you’ve been around within the last week of your test results and encourage them to get tested as well.
How can we maintain mental resilience after all this time? What can we do to help with our physical well being?
The Covid-19 outbreak may bring a lot of fear, anxiety and grief to the surface, so keep a close eye on yourself and your loved ones. Take proactive steps like structuring your day around tasks and goals, getting fresh air outside, staying socially connected via calls or video chats with friends and family, exercising with online classes, exploring meditation and other mindfulness activities like yoga, and avoiding alcohol as much as possible. Also, don’t hit pause on all ongoing health needs: schedule necessary checkups for chronic conditions and behavioral health treatment including therapy.
What are the easiest ways to “slip” into dangerous behavior and how can we prevent them?
The most dangerous behavior is to think somehow the rules and recommendations don’t apply to you. This is the first time we’ve gone through the winter in quarantine—over the last few months, a number of people have traveled to see family and expanded their “bubble” because they could no longer socialize outdoors. Each of these behaviors risks the health of our community. Whenever you’re about to allow someone new into your bubble or engage in a higher-risk activity, keep the high-risk people in your life in mind and think through whether or not it is safe. We all want to be with our loved ones, but we need to think long-term and choose safety now so we can be together later.
What are your thoughts on having a Covid bubble? If yes who should/should not be in our bubble and what are best practices?
Absolutely yes. This pandemic has been a mental health crisis nearly as much as a public health one. Given all the stress of the situation, it would be unreasonable to expect people to completely self-isolate until this is over—a Covid-19 bubble is the best compromise. Be smart about who you include. Your housemates are a given, but beyond that it gets more difficult to navigate. I recommend avoiding adding people to your bubble you know are engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as refusing to wear a mask. Once you’ve established your bubble, the best practice is honesty. Be transparent and communicative about expectations, precautionary behaviors, and plans to see people outside of your bubble. Immediately flag if you’ve come into contact with any positive cases and be willing to get tested.
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