COVID restrictions have been lifted, but the pandemic isn't over. While we're all tired of the virus, people are still getting infected daily and cases are rising in many areas. It's still important to try to prevent catching COVID, especially if you're immunocompromised and elderly in an effort to protect your overall health. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Javeed Siddiqui MD/MPH, Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer at TeleMed2U tells us COVID hotspot places we should avoid and why we shouldn't expose ourselves to the virus. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss Already Had COVID? These Symptoms May "Never Go Away".
It Seems Like There's No Avoiding COVID, So Why Shouldn't We Expose Ourselves and Get it Over With?
Dr. Siddiqui says, "SARS-CoV-2 is a complex and sophisticated virus that causes a myriad of symptoms and severity of disease. This is a virus that tends to mutate frequently with variants with variation of intensity and symptomatology. This concept of self-exposure to the COVID-19 virus was a strategy that was employed by several countries, specifically Sweden and Spain under the overall concept of herd immunity. Unfortunately this does not work as postexposure antibodies last for most individuals 90 days and for some can extend out as long as 120 days. After that an individual is again susceptible to reinfection. Furthermore this concept of being exposed to the virus once in order to prevent further infections does not take into account the emergence of variance which can be genetically different from the initial viral infection thereby leaving the individual susceptible to infection by the variant virus."
What Safety Precautions Should People Take in Order to Avoid COVID?
According to Dr. Siddiqui, "Among the most important safety precautions one can take is actually believing it, understanding that this is a disease that is far more complicated than traditional seasonal influenza and taking the concept of prevention seriously. Wearing a mask around others and social distancing and avoiding close proximity with groups of individuals and avoiding mass gatherings are all effective preventive measures. In addition one of the most significant preventive measures is vaccination and receiving booster vaccinations when appropriate. I understand that these are not popular sentences with the majority of the population however the current trend that we are on believing that the pandemic is over or under control or something that an individual does not have to worry about any longer it's a completely false perception.
Bottom line: vaccinate where a mask social distance avoids gathering. We need to stop celebrating the fact that we can cough on each other in airplanes and airports."
How Effective is the Vaccine Against the New Variants?
Dr. Siddiqui explains, "At this time the goal of vaccination is not only to provide a degree of immunity which science and clinical medicine understand is not 100% nor was it ever publicized as being 100% preventative but more importantly to decrease the intensity and duration of the infection thereby reducing the risk for hospitalization and death. The current vaccines do provide a degree of immunity which provides protection from infection to a varying degree based on the circulating variant and has the potential of decreasing the risk of hospitalization and death."
If You're Going Out in Public, Mask Up
Most people are venturing back out into public now and Dr. Siddiqui shares how important it is to still wear a mask. "We have learned that throughout this pandemic masking plays an important role in reducing aerosolization of an individual's secretions thereby reducing the risk of transmission."
Avoid Mass Gatherings
Dr. Siddiqui emphasizes, "Avoid mass gatherings. They place patients in close proximity to one another and thereby increasing the risk of transmission of viruses. Given the current epidemiology of COVID-19 and the current rise in the number of infections avoiding mass gatherings plays an essential role in getting control of this virus."
Dr. Siddiqui states, "Given the inherent nature of air travel with close proximity and in some cases lack of circulating air and lack of use of HEPA filters it is important that we continue to mask in order to decrease the air solicitation of secretions.Individuals should be aware that the end of the mandate to wear masks in airports and airplanes was based on a technicality rather than unscientific and clinical data."
Stay Home If You're Sick and Self-Isolate
Dr. Siddiqui reminds us to, "Self-isolate when you are sick. I understand that many individuals with the current infection state that they have minimal symptomatology such as a sore throat, a low grade fever, malaise and a cough. This should not be an indication that they can be around others and go to work or engage with others in public because they have a significant risk of transmitting the virus to other individuals. When you are sick, please stay at home."
Dr. Siddiqui urges people to, "Please vaccinate yourself please vaccinate your loved ones please vaccinate your families next paragraph please wear a mask please social distance please wash your hands and please stay at home when you are sick."
How to Stay Safe Out There
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.