I keep hearing people talk about “when we get back to normal” or that they wish life would back to what it was like “BC.” I know what they mean – the hope that at some point life will return to what it was like before Covid.
But we should probably accept that Covid is something we will be living with for the foreseeable future and accept that we are in a “new normal” which is much like living with the flu, allergies, or the common cold. While we accept those as inconveniences, they can be very serious – and in the case of the flu – even deadly.
So, what does the “new normal” look like? Regular vaccination, taking precautions when you’re exposed, and being smart about protection when you’re in high-risk situations.
Last week, early in my “staycation,” I visited a friend who tested positive for COVID the day after our visit. For her it meant isolation as she waited to see if serious symptoms developed (thankfully they didn’t). But for me the CDC ten-day precaution protocols kicked in. Here’s what that meant:
I started counting. Precaution protocol lasts for 10 days, and Day One is the day of exposure.
I wore a mask. Because I had no symptoms, I didn’t have to isolate, but I wore a mask to protect those I interacted with until I was certain I hadn’t contracted the virus.
I avoided places where masking is impossible. Actually, there aren’t many that I can think of, but it’s worth thinking about and avoiding places where it’s impossible.
I took extra precautions when around the most vulnerable. Given my mom’s situation, I was extra careful around her – making sure there was plenty of ventilation in the parts of our home that she frequents and keeping a safe distance when possible.
I took antigen COVID tests. On Day 6 it was time to test to see if I had contracted the virus. And it was important to test even though I had no symptoms. I was able to get antigen tests for free from the Cleveland Park Library. Thankfully, my results were negative.
I got back to “normal.” You can still develop COVID symptoms up to 10 days after exposure, so I had to keep a close eye on my temperature and any other symptoms. But as far as getting back to “normal” … I think where we are now may be as good as it gets – which means staying vigilant.
There is good news – even though COVID is still with us the level in DC is low based on hospitalizations and disease severity. If you’re wondering about the likelihood of exposure, I recommend the CDC’s article on understanding exposure risk. It covers all the risk factors and should help dispel any misinformation.
In the “new normal” we must rely on our community to help keep us safe. I hope my friends and family members will not be afraid to share when testing positive or showing symptoms - so I can protect myself and those I love.
Keep a couple antigen tests handy – you can get them for no cost. Wear a mask indoors around others, know the protocols if you are exposed, and stay up to date on vaccinations.
Last week, the CDC recommended everyone ages 12 years and older get an updated COVID-19 booster to help restore protection that has decreased since your last vaccine and get improved protection against the latest variants. Updated boosters, also known as bivalent boosters, in addition to the original SARS-CoV-2.
The CDC also provides a tool which helps you to determine when you should get your bivalent booster (which target the most recent Omicron subvariants, known as BA.4 and BA.5). Generally, they recommend at least 2 months after 2nd dose or last booster and can be Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.
Stay safe everyone and let’s get comfortable with the “new normal.”
Frank Finamore is Executive Director of the Village