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I'm an ER Doctor and Beg You Don't Enter Here 

An emergency room doctor explains everything to know about Omicron and places to avoid right now.

Many hospitals across the U.S. are facing a crisis due to the current COVID surge. Not only is there a lack of beds because hospitals are at capacity, but some are also short staffed as doctors quarantine as they themselves have been exposed or infected by the virus. While Omicron, the latest variant that's creating disruption across the U.S., is highly contagious, there are ways we can protect ourselves like getting vaccinated, wearing masks, social distancing, practicing good hygiene, eating healthy and avoiding certain places where you'll be more likely to catch the virus. Eat This, Not That! Health talked to Dr. Luke Palmisano MD, FACEP, CFL1 Associate Medical Director: Emergency Department Dignity Health California Hospital CrossFit Health Physician who explained where not to go right now and better choices we can make to help prevent catching Omicron. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Crowded Bars

People cheering with beer in bar.

Dr. Palmisano says, "Everything here is relative. If you are young and single and are looking to meet a potential mate, you do need to go out and socialize. Not enough socializing is causing psychiatric disease and overall mental decompensation.  There are relative ways to stay safer though. I'd opt for the outdoors when possible, try and find a less packed or less busy place. Perhaps going at a not busy time as well."


Don't Feel Pressured to Go Somewhere You Don't Want to Be

Don't go "anywhere you really don't want to go," Dr. Palmisano states. "A friend's party that you don't really like, or opting to not stay for your kid's friend's birthday party (i.e. waiting in the car) are all socially acceptable options."


Limit Indoor Dining

Woman Wearing Homemade Mask Picks Up Food at Restaurant During Covid-19 Lockdown

Supporting local businesses and restaurants is important, but instead of dining in, order to go, have food delivered or dine out during off peak hours. Dr. Palmisano says, "Don't eat out often. While eating out with friends is something we need to do to nourish our soul, try and limit it where you can." See above (for example, you really want to go to restaurant X but they are booked tonight. Don't settle on restaurant Y, just reschedule.)


How to Make Smart Choices in Avoiding Omicron

Waiter coughing into elbow while serving customers in a restaurant.

According to Dr. Palmisano, "Preventing Omicron is hard because it's so infectious, but we can still make healthy and smart choices. Don't stand so close to someone in line. Wait outside instead of a waiting room. Keep your mask on when you can. Wash your hands and don't touch your face. Wear glasses. If you see someone you are with frequently sneezing, coughing or wiping their nose, excuse yourself politely."


Why Omicron is so Contagious

Doctor analyzing patient blood and nasal swab testing sample for new covid-19 mutation.

"Omicron is more contagious due to the mutation," Dr. Palmisano explains. "The protein that mutated now matches the receptor on our cells more accurately and binds better. This does not mean worse disease, just higher chance of getting the infection once exposed."


When to Seek Medical Treatment

Pretty brunette coughing on couch at home in the living-room.

Dr. Palmisano states, "Stay out of the ER unless your symptoms are severe. Shortness of breath, easily fatigued or pain with breathing are the ones to be most worried about. If you test positive, buy a fingertip pulse oximeter from Amazon,[which checks pulse rates and blood oxygen saturation levels]. It's cheap and accurate. Any persistent value less than 92% is worrisome and should prompt an ER visit."


Why Hospitalization Rates Are Up

Emergency medic and doctor moving patient to emergency room in hospital

"Hospitalization rates are up not as much because of Omicron (though a positive test does prompt worry and we see a LOT of positive COVID discharges) but because we are back somewhat to normal activity," Dr. Palmisano says. "People almost forgot how to act. We are seeing way more drug and alcohol induced illness, trauma and overall high speed living – which comes with risk. We are trying to make up for lost time with cramming more things into a short day than we were, and the risk that comes with it lands in the ER and hospital."


How to Stay Safe Out There

African American man in antiviral mask gesturing thumb up during coronavirus vaccination, approving of covid-19 immunization

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.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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