Signs COVID is "Dangerous" Where You Live Now
With COVID-19 rates dropping across the country and mask mandates being lifted, you might be wondering if it's safe to go back to a "normal" life without worrying about catching the virus. Unfortunately, certain places are not as safe as others, when you take into consideration factors such as vaccination rates and hospitalizations. You can check your community's COVID-19 level on the CDC's website or by calling 800-232-4636—and here are five more signs COVID-19 is still dangerous where you live now. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Low Vaccination Rates
If you live in a place with low vaccination rates, there is still a danger of getting COVID-19—even if you are fully vaccinated yourself. "As long as there are people who are not vaccinated, as long as this virus is around in any part of this world, and as long as those variants exist—whether that would be Omicron, Delta or any other variant—this will spread and that can lead to resurgence and more waves of this pandemic or disease," says Devang Sanghavi, MD. "That's why I would strongly insist and request everybody out there who's not vaccinated to get vaccinated at least—that would be them doing their part. That is the only way out of this pandemic, otherwise there will be new variants and strands that would test our immunity against the vaccines that we have."
If there is a high rate of hospitalization in your area, protect yourself and the community by wearing a mask indoors, staying up to date with vaccinations and boosters, and practicing caution in how you interact with others. "When you have so many more people who are being affected by the storm, you are still going to end up with an overwhelmed health care system," says Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine at UVA. "Nothing about this has been mild for us at all. We're still working just as hard to try to keep people alive with omicron as we were with delta."
Mask mandates might be lifted where you live, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should be in a hurry to ditch your mask—with vaccines not being 100% effective, people going maskless indoors may put others at risk. "Independent of whether there's mandates or not, I think people should reasonably wear masks when they're indoors for the next few weeks until we're much farther down then where we are right now," says Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "We're almost there."
Rise In COVID-19 Cases
If COVID-19 cases are officially rising where you live, take extra precautions for your safety. "You can cut down on risk factors by wearing masks, especially indoors with other people around," says infectious disease expert Steven Gordon, MD. "But the bottom line is to make sure, first and foremost, that you get fully vaccinated, including getting boosted. That's the best protection, moving forward, for breakthroughs from variants of concern."
Flu Cases On the Rise?
Because there are so many overlapping symptoms between COVID-19 and the flu, it's difficult to know which you might have without being tested—so be sure to practice extreme caution if flu cases are on the rise where you live. "Influenza can be deadly on its own," says infectious disease specialist Kristin Englund, MD. "But it's going to be very difficult for people to understand whether they have COVID or influenza during this timeframe because more people will have symptoms. I would encourage you to wear masks during the respiratory illness season. There's a lot of different viruses that can cause harm, not just COVID. I think we're going to have to get very comfortable with practicing all of these preventative measures. Masks, for example, may become a routine part of our lives during these severe respiratory illness seasons. And that's ok, if we're able to protect people and lower the number of deaths. With these preventative measures, we're not only protecting ourselves, but we're protecting those around us."
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.