It seems like long ago, when almost everything we did was colored by the threat of COVID-19.
In fact, it was barely two years ago when our high-tech society, whose medical advances had imbued many of us with a sense we would always have a treatment for whatever ailed us, was staggered like Europe during the Black Death. Our hospitals ran out of beds; out of ventilators for those lucky enough to get a bed; out of nurses to administer the ventilators and whatever other care might with luck spare a person’s life from the ravages of the lurking virus.
Thankfully, the pandemic subsided. Spreadsheets now show far fewer cases. Fewer bodies fill the morgues.
Naturally we’ve moved on. But let’s not move on just yet.
Another COVID wave is rocking Palm Beach County and Florida.
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To be sure, the latest infections come with milder symptoms. But so much remains unknown. COVID is still new to us. We don’t know if those who recover might be revisited by the symptoms, or how to cure those who come down with a version that lingers endlessly, or whether newer, deadly variants might enter the mainstream.
Florida hospitals saw 7,674 cases between May 27 and July 22 this year, down from more than 35,000 during that period in 2022. We buried 635 people during the six weeks ending July 20, down from 2,072 a year earlier.
So, yes, much better, reason to cheer. But that’s still 635 family members, friends and colleagues who won’t be coming home.
So, ask yourself: When was the last time you got a booster shot? They’re still free, and they take just a few minutes to administer. CVS pharmacies, for example, administered more than 88 million vaccines and provided more than 61 million tests during the pandemic “and remain prepared to meet our patients needs for immunizations, testing and treatment of COVID-19,” said Matt Blanchette, senior manager for retail communications. Why not take advantage?
Alas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of June 30, just 12.6% of Floridians have the latest booster that was approved last August. That’s the 10th-lowest rate among all states. Only one-third of Florida seniors are up to date on their shots, a rate lower than all but five states.
The advice from Dr. Larry Bush, an infectious disease specialist in Palm Beach County: If you’ve already been vaccinated, at this point it makes sense to wait until late summer, early fall, to get re-boosted, when new vaccines are coming out that more precisely target current variants. There is some crossover effectiveness between the original COVID-19 vaccines and newer strains but, says Bush, the newer shots will work better. That doesn’t mean you might not still get the disease, or experience a reaction to the shot, but if you’re weighing the protection versus potential ill effects, in his view, the benefits outweigh the risks.
Ask yourself also, why not still keep a mask in your purse, pocket or glove compartment, in case you find yourself at a crowded event, on a grocery store line where people are breathing down each other’s necks, or in a confined setting like the movies? There’s little question the combination of vaccination and masking, while by no means perfect, reduces the spread of the disease.
It’s true, says Bush, there’s no hard and fast proof that masks work well against COVID. A new study in Britain did demonstrate that after masking requirements for hospitals were dropped, the spread of COVID in hospitals went up. But that’s going to be true with every respiratory infection, he points out.
But look at it this way: If you put an umbrella over your head when it’s raining, the rain is not going to hit you. In the same way, if you put something in front of your face, you’re going to breathe in less COVID, and someone who has COVID will spill out less for others to catch.
So decide for yourself. No one’s mandating anything anymore. But by all means, let common sense guide you. If you don’t trust us, ask your doctor. Be well.