COVID isn’t going away, so this is how we can live with it

Marshall S. Runge

With more than 500 americans still dying every day from COVID-19, the pandemic continues.

go to surge of cases in Asia and Europe — which has foreshadowed outbreaks in the United States — suggests that another wave of infection and death may be coming. The emergence of a new subvariant, BA.2, which is already becoming prevalent, will pose new challenges because existing vaccines appear to provide quickly waning protection against it.

However, while the pandemic is far from over many Americans are done with it. Restaurants and malls across the country are now filled with mask-less patrons; most schools have returned to in-person instruction and many are dropping their mask mandates. While the state of Michigan has dropped its mask mandate, the organization I lead, Michigan Medicine, still requires all health care workers to wear masks along with anyone else in spaces where patients might be present for care or related services.

Bottom line: get vaccinated; limit your direct exposure to others through protective gear such as mask and the liberal use of soap and sanitizers, and try to avoid confined spaces where possible, Runge writes.

While spread of the rapidly mutating viruses may lead federal and state officials to re-impose more stringent safeguards. philadelphia reinstated its public mask mandate on April 11. But it, to date, is the only major city to do so. For the time being at least Americans will be left on their own to decide how best to protect themselves.

What to do?

Two years into the pandemic, the science shows that everyone, including those who are fully vaccinated, is vulnerable. Since the only way to contract the disease is from other people, the safest course is to avoid human contact. That, of course, is not really an option. The challenge then is to calculate your personal risks, your tolerance for risk and then avail yourself of the proven strategies that can limit exposure and the virus’s impact if you do get sick.

These efforts include:

Assess Personal Risk: Although anyone can contract COVID-19, the data are clear that the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions — including cancer, lung problems, heart disease, diabetes and obesity — are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus. Such individuals must take more aggressive steps to limit their potential exposure. The TH Chan School of Public Health offers a nifty tool for assessing a range of other risk factors.

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