I'm at High Risk for COVID and Beg You Not To Do These Things
BA.5 is causing a surge of COVID-19 cases across the country—but author, speaker, and disabled disability consultant Stephanie Tait is warning that it's much worse than people think. Tait is one of many "high risk" people who have to take extra precautions to avoid getting infected, and she is deeply concerned about the official response (or lack thereof) to this new surge. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
BA.5 Should Not Be Underestimated
"BA.5 is an absolute beast y'all," Tait says. "Even if you just had COVID 3 weeks ago? You can get reinfected again right now by BA.5. It's THAT evasive of immunity. And because of the BIG leap in transmissibility over old Omicron even the briefest of exposures is likely to lead to infection."
Wear a Mask Whenever You Can
"If you aren't wearing a mask in public, you are likely going to get BA.5," Tait says. "If you are wearing a surgical (or heaven forbid cloth) mask in public? You are likely going to get BA.5. If you are wearing a non-fit tested N95? Your risk is reduced, but still significant. Yes, even for people who just recently got boosted. Yes, even for people who just had COVID recently. BA.5 is just terrifyingly adept at evading various forms of immunity, and at transmitting quickly and effectively."
There Are No Safe Events
"Reduce your risk by cutting back on whatever non-essential interactions you can. If you can switch to curbside/delivery? Do it. Even if you have access to quality respirators rated N95 or higher, if you CAN avoid it, then right now that's highly advisable," Tait says. "Move any gatherings you can outdoors, and even then you should still use masks. If you need to eat/drink then distance each household away from each other outdoors and resume masking once you have finished. Yes, even outdoors the risk with BA.5 really is that significant. Eating indoors in restaurants right now is all but a guarantee you'll get infected in this wave. Eating outdoors at most restaurants is unfortunately still a decent risk with BA.5, because there just isn't enough distance from others to fully mitigate the danger."
Vaccinations Won't Prevent Reinfection
"And if you're assuming getting infected won't matter much because you're vaxxed? Hospitalizations in the UK (they've had BA.5 longer than us) are climbing FAST, despite high vaccination rates," Tait says. "If your last shot was more than 5 months ago? The protection has waned significantly. In states like mine that still publish numbers for breakthrough cases, vaccinated people are making up around half of the official COVID-19 deaths now. (To be clear, vaccinated people make up the majority of the population, so when we account for that they still fare better than the unvaxxed overall. But the idea that vaxxed people don't end up hospitalized/don't die from COVID doesn't hold up anymore. Hasn't in months)."
Long COVID Is a Serious Threat
"Even if you are one of the lucky ones and your case is relatively 'mild?' Your risk of long Covid is approximately 20% each and every time you get infected," Tait says. "(Newer info actually suggests the risks INCREASE with each and every subsequent infection.) Death isn't the only issue. Do with this info what you will. Nobody can MAKE you do anything anymore as our leaders have all but abandoned us when it comes to this pandemic. Mask mandates are unlikely to ever return in most places. So if you're waiting for that as a sign of when to get serious? It won't come."
BA.5 Is In Your Community
"BA.5 is the dominant strain now. If you think 'it's probably not reached where I live yet,' you are wrong. If you think 'cases are still low in my state/area,' you are wrong," Tait says. "I know this is all hard to hear, but you deserve to have all the facts necessary to make INFORMED risk assessments. Consent matters, and it isn't possible when info is withheld or deliberately manipulated to push you to choices you might not otherwise be willing to make. But for what it's worth, I'm begging you to REALLY up your precaution level for the next few weeks. Even if you've managed to dodge COVID so far, PLEASE don't assume whatever you're doing will still be safe. This isn't the same COVID as before."
Check On Your High-Risk Loved Ones
"Stay safe out there everyone. And check on your high-risk loved ones to see how you can support them through this extra-dangerous wave," Tait says. "(For example, make sure they have the resources they need to avoid grocery stores for a while. Make sure they have a supply of N95s. Etc)."
Avoid Large Events At All Cost
"At this point, events that require vaccination and/or testing but not masks are NOT safe," Tait warns. "The risk there is very very very high. *Especially* if they require both vaccination AND tests. Why? Because vaccinated folks tend to develop symptoms much earlier after exposure, because of the learned immunity, which unfortunately means we are often symptomatic well before our viral load is actually high enough for a test to pick up properly yet. And despite what you may have heard, 'you aren't infectious/can't transmit if you aren't positive on a rapid test yet' isn't actually true. Sorry. So the odds of someone who got a negative rapid test walking around transmitting COVID at your event is actually SIGNIFICANT. (That's why we've seen numerous events that required vax & testing, everything from conferences to conventions to government events like the correspondents dinner, all end up being superspreaders. And that was BEFORE BA.5)."
Wear a Mask and Social Distance
"All this to say, I'm sorry but there are no shortcuts or get out jail free workarounds here that will allow you to live normally and mask free right now," says Tait. "Sorry. N95s or better & social distancing (meaning limiting contact with others, not physically spacing out) are the only way."
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.