But continuing to live does not necessarily mean throwing caution to the wind. Covid is still here, and the number of cases is rising in some communities. We all have to learn to live with Covid.
Living with COVID can be easy if you take simple and regular precautions. Jay Pharma, MD, an infectious disease expert and professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine, compared this new normal to the adjustments we all had to make in terms of safety after 9/11. We’re used to additional travel-related restrictions, like taking our shoes off at airline check-in lines, as an inconvenience to stay safer.
I’ve spent nearly three years reporting coronavirus cases and the pandemic, and I’ve spoken to many of the world’s leading experts in public health and virus transmission. We don’t have to choose between staying safer and living a normal life. We can do both. Here are 10 tips to help, including some steps I take to protect myself.
- Get a booster dose. Start by vaccinating or taking a booster dose. Read this FAQ for answers to frequently asked questions about new boosters.
- Hide when it’s easy. Nobody wants to wear a mask all day, so be strategic. I don’t usually wear a mask to work, but I do wear a mask to a crowded meeting. You may want to make a mask at the grocery store; It’s a building full of strangers and there’s likely to be covid too. Mask at the doctor’s office or on your commute if you take public transportation. The risks are cumulative, so every time you wear a mask in a high-risk situation, you reduce your odds of contracting the virus.
- Mask when traveling. The risk of coming into contact with the Covid virus increases when you travel. Lower it by wearing a mask at the safety line and at crowded stations. Airplanes have efficient ventilation systems, filtering the air every five minutes, but I still wear a mask. If it’s a long trip and you don’t want to wear a mask, consider wearing one During the process of boarding and disembarking the plane, when the ventilation system is closed. Here’s a travel tip from virus experts: During the flight, turn on the fan’s nozzle and position it to blow on your face to help keep any roving viral particles away.
- Avoid crowds. Whether you heed this advice likely depends on your overall risk. Young and healthy people who have been vaccinated may choose to spend time in crowded indoor spaces. People who are older or have an underlying health condition can Choose the outdoors when it comes to dining, sporting events, and concerts. And for indoor events such as going to the movies or the theatre, caution may still be willing to wear a quality mask.
- Check community transmission levels. Tracking the number of cases in your community can help guide your choices. In the US, if you look at a map of transmission levels from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, be sure to use the dropdown menu to see “community transmission”, not “covid-19 community levels”, an indication of how hospitals are managed and not relevant to personal decision-making .
- Have a backsloped plan. People over 50 and people at high risk are eligible to take Paxlovid, a highly effective antiviral medicine. You have to start within five days after diagnosis or symptoms appear, so it’s important to talk to your doctor and make a plan to get a prescription quickly if you need it.
- Think indoor air. Adding a portable air cleaner to a space can effectively double the ventilation in the room. Ask your employer to provide portable air cleaners in office spaces and meeting rooms. Ask how often the filters are changed. You can also ask your employer what steps have been taken to improve indoor air quality in the office. Many workplaces have upgraded their air filters to hospital-grade quality filters. (Ideally, your workplace uses something called MERV-13 filters, but some systems can only handle MERV-11 filters.)
- Use home tests wisely. While a negative home test means that you may not be contagious, it does not guarantee that you will not contract the virus. If you have cold symptoms or feel unwell, especially if you’ve been exposed to the virus or are in a high-risk situation such as traveling or an indoor concert, you should stay away from others or wear a hide until your symptoms subside – even if your test negatively.
- Stay home and away from work when you are sick. One of the greatest lessons of this pandemic is that we should never go to the office with a cold or sore throat. Just stay home and zoom in if you feel comfortable enough to work.
- Plan your life around the most vulnerable person in your orbit. If you have regular close contact with someone who is older, chronically ill, or immunocompromised, you will need to take extra precautions and be more vigilant about concealment, testing, and avoidance of high-risk situations.
The bottom line is it’s not all or nothing, said Greg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “There are plenty of reasons why we should not be sabotaged and do so. One infection with the virus can marginalize you or disrupt your life or the lives of those around you very easily.”
Three questions. . . About the smartest workout
This week I spoke with Your Move columnist Gretchen Reynolds, who has written about the dangers of being an active potato, and whether morning or night is the best time of day to exercise.
Q: Why is it so hard for people to get into the habit of exercising regularly?
a: Most people, including myself, say it’s because we don’t have the time. But most behavioral science says it’s because we don’t have fun. If people don’t like exercise, they won’t. The good news is that there are many ways to be active. Don’t enjoy running? There’s swimming, hiking, mountain biking, weight training, pickleball, online yoga, walking with friends, or whatever movement you enjoy. It may also be helpful to rephrase workouts as “me time” or healthy procrastination. In this case, you will not just walk or swim. You take a mental health break and you’ll be back at work refreshed, alert, and eager to procrastinate more tomorrow.
Q: What is more important for health: exercising more or sitting less?
a: Can I answer “both”? There is no doubt that sitting is harmful to us. It affects our bodies in ways that increase our risk for everything from being overweight to heart disease. And new studies suggest that short workouts won’t cancel these effects. We probably need to exercise at least an hour a day to beat the long hours of sitting. Or we can sit less and move more, and break up our sitting with gentle activity but not formal practice. Both approaches are healthy and their combination – exercising more plus sitting less – is absolutely the best, if you can manage it.
Q: What is your favorite short exercise?
a: I love fartlek, which just means I pick a tree or other landmark when I’m outside walking or running and picking up speed until I get to it. My fartlek sessions are usually short, maybe 15 minutes. But it’s a fun and easy way to sharpen your workout and make time pass faster. I never get bored when I fart.
This week’s daily life coach is Shunmyo Masuno, a monk and author of a new book I’m reading, “Don’t Worry: 48 Lessons in Reducing Anxiety from a Zen Buddhist Monk.”
Advice: Make your evening quiet. “One trick to making your evening calm is to avoid having to make decisions at this time as much as possible,” Masuno writes.
Why you should try it: In one study, researchers tracked the decisions of 184 chess players. The study, published in the journal Cognition, found that the most accurate decision-making occurred between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
How do I do it: Adding calm to your evening will vary depending on the person. Evenings can be crowded for parents and sometimes we have to take work home with us. Whatever your situation, try to take some time to calm down before bed. Some people may like to read a book or listen to music. Make the evening the time to work on a craft or hobby. Light a candle. take a shower. “When you make time for fun, you will naturally feel calm and relaxed,” Masuno wrote. “You end up improving the quality of your sleep, and you’ll wake up refreshed and ready for your day.”
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