After nearly three years of constantly thinking about COVID, it’s alarming how easy it is to stop. The truth is, as a healthy person, being young is immune to the brim who already had COVIDNow, an epidemic often feels more like an abstraction than a crisis. My perception of personal risk has decreased in recent months, as has my tolerance for precautions. I’m still Care About COVID, but I also eat out at crowded coffee shops and go maskless at parties.
As the third pandemic winter approaches, things have changed. Most Americans seem to have caught COVID. precautions have practically disappeared; Except for the deep blue cities, wear a mask, ok, amazing. Reported cases have declined since the spring and summer, but perhaps the biggest reason for the behavioral laxity in America is that most of the country sees COVID as a minor nuisance, no more bothersome than a common cold or the flu.
And they’re right to some extent: Most healthy working-age adults who are up to date on their vaccines won’t get severely ill — especially now that antivirals like Paxlovid are available. Other treatments can help if the patient becomes very ill. “Vaccinated people who are relatively healthy and infected with COVID do not develop this disease,” Virginia Tech epidemiologist Lisa Lee told me. So people think, Wow, I got COVID. It wasn’t that bad. I don’t really care anymore. “
Still, there are many reasons to continue to care about COVID. About 300 people die every day. COVID is on track to be Third cause of death in the United States for the third year in a row. The prospect of developing prolonged COVID is real and terrifying, as it is Concerns about re-infection mount. But these, admittedly, sometimes appear in my mind as a dull, omnipresent horror, rather than an urgent insult. Continuing to care about COVID while also easing behaviors is an uncomfortable situation. Most of the time, I just try to ignore the guilt gnawing at my brain. At this point, when so few people feel that the potential benefit of avoiding infection is worth bothering with precautions, what does it even mean to care about COVID?
In a perfect pandemic scenario, everyone would willingly deploy their entire arsenal of COVID precautions, such as masking and avoiding crowded indoor activities, especially during waves. But this kind of blanket response no longer makes sense. “It is probably not realistic to expect people to take precautions every time, permanently, or even every winter or fall, unless there is a particularly troubling reason to do so,” Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist at Brown University, told me.
But, now more than ever, we must remember that COVID is not just a personal threat but a societal threat. For people who are older and immunocompromised, the risks are still high. For example, people over 50 years old represent 93% of deaths are related to COVID In the United States, though, they account for only 35.7 percent of the population. As long as the death rate remains as high as it is, Concern for COVID It should mean directing precautions to protect them. This idea has been around since the pandemic began, but its prominence faded when Americans put their personal health first. He told me: “If you are healthy, it is very easy to think about yourself.” “We have to think very carefully about that other part of infectious disease, which is the part where we can harm other people.”
Directing behavior in this way gives low-risk people a way to take care of COVID that doesn’t require constant masking or skipping all indoor activities: They can relax knowing they won’t encounter people at risk. Like the productivity adage “work smarter, not harder,” this perspective allows people to take precautions strategically, not always. In practice, all it takes is some foresight. If you don’t live with vulnerable people, make it your nature to ask: Will I be seeing vulnerable people anytime soon? If the answer is no, then do what you feel comfortable doing with your own responsibility in mind. If you’re 30 and living alone, going to befriend other people your age is different than spending Thanksgiving dinner with the parents and grandparents.
If you are going to see a vulnerable person, the most direct way to avoid giving them COVID is to avoid getting infected yourself, which means wearing a good mask in public and minimizing your interactions with others in the week before, in what some experts have called “Small spa. Not everyone has this luxury: parents, for example, have to send their children to school.
It is difficult to plan spontaneous interactions with vulnerable people, but they follow the same principle. On a crowded bus, for example, he told me “there’s no question that if you’re close enough to someone who could be harmed by getting COVID and you can get it, then yeah, a mask is the way to go.” Of course, it is not always possible to tell when a person is at high risk; Young people can also be at risk medically. There are no clear guidelines for these situations, but caution doesn’t take much effort. He told me, “Carry a mask with you.” “It’s not much of a lift.”
Get a boost – if not for yourself, then for theirs. Just 11.3% of eligible Americans got the most recent bivalent shot, which potentially lowers their chances of catching and passing COVID. It also means getting tested, so you know when you’re contagious, and being aware of respiratory symptoms — of any kind. Besides COVID, influenza and RSV put many people in the hospital, especially the very young and the very old. No matter how low your personal risk is, if you have symptoms, avoiding transmission is critical. “The sensible thing to prioritize is: If you have symptoms, keep it from spreading,” Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told me.
As we move away from a personal approach to COVID, we have an opportunity to expand the idea of what care looks like. Low-risk people can, and should, take an active role in promoting the protection of vulnerable people they know. In practical terms, this means ensuring that people over 50 — and especially those over 65 — are boosted and have a plan to get Paxlovid if they get sick, Nuzzo said. “I think the biggest problem we have right now is that not everyone has enough access to the tools, and this is where people can help.” She noted that she is particularly concerned about seniors who struggle to book vaccine appointments online. Caring “doesn’t mean abstaining, per se. It means facilitating. It means empowering and helping people in your community.” This holiday season, caring could mean sitting at a computer to schedule a booster appointment for Grandma, or driving her to the pharmacy to get her.
If you lose your motivation to care about COVID, you may find it in the people you love. I didn’t feel the personal need to wear a mask to the concert I attended yesterday, but I did because I didn’t want to accidentally hit my partner’s 94-year-old grandfather when I see him next week. Having this experience with a pandemic is a privilege. Many don’t have the option to stop caring, even for a moment.
Prevent Another Omicron-esque eventFortunately, we will never go back to a moment when Americans were collectively obsessed with Covid. But this virus is not going away, so we cannot escape having a society divided between the high-risk minority and the low-risk majority. Rethinking the meaning of care allows for a more accurate and livable idea of what responsible behavior looks like. Now, the language we use to describe one’s stance on COVID, Nuzzo tells me, is “black and white, the absolute — you either care or you don’t.” There is a distance between these two extremes. At least for now, it’s the only way to make compromises between the world we live in and the world we want.
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