A New Covid Surge: What You Need to Know This Time
Well, it’s back. The Rona. Vid. Sars-COv19.
It was nice to let the pandemic fade into the background for a while. As predicted, the virus has mutated again and there is a surge beginning all across the U.S., including here in Colorado.
(This is a long one…look for bold print for highlights if you’re in a hurry.)
New Variant causing the surge
This latest version of the highly contagious Omicron variant has mutated a few more times. The current dominant variant across the country, B.1.1.529, is twice as contagious and has gotten better at evading vaccines for infection.
Vaccines are still providing protection against severe illness, hospitalization, long-Covid, and death, even with breakthrough cases. Long-covid cases among the vaccinated are also on the rise alongside breakthrough cases (although still much, much lower than for unvaccinated.)
The Data on the Latest Surge
Transmission starts to surge when case positivity goes above 5%.
Here in Colorado, according to the state’s Covid19 page, the case positivity rate as of today (5/18/2022) is at 8.37%, up from under 3% over a month ago.
Nationally, cases are rising, too, with 99,247 cases/day on average, when the national average a couple of months ago was about 36,000 cases/day. As of today (5/18/2022), U.S. Health officials said one-third of Americans live in areas with such high transmission, they should consider wearing masks indoors, regardless of local policy.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard from more patients and friends about new covid cases in the past 2 weeks than I have in a few months. These cases range from asymptomatic to quite sick, even among some fully vaxxed/boosted healthy people, although no hospitalizations yet.
Most of these cases are first-time infections, although we’ve heard of a few people getting covid for the 2nd time lately, too.
Is Covid really that big of a deal anymore?
Take it from people who’ve been treating acute and long-Covid…you really don’t want to get this if you can avoid it.
For those who say Covid is no worse than the flu, I’d like to note a few points…
- Influenza sucks. Bad. You can expect to be quite sick for 7-10 days, then run down and not yourself for another week or two after that. It is common to then get sinus infections, pneumonia, and even auto-immune issues after influenza, extending your misery. So why is this comparison used like it’s no big deal?
- Covid spreads much more easily than influenza, can cause more serious illness, people are contagious longer, and serious complications leading to hospitalization and death are much more likely even in healthy people when compared to influenza.
- According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, Covid has a much higher risk than influenza of long-term complications affecting multiple other organs.
- Personally, I like to avoid being horribly sick for weeks regardless of the cause. I think most people can agree on that.
What you can do
Ok, that’s a lot of data (I am a data nerd…see all the footnotes if you are, too).
I know there is some serious pandemic fatigue out there. I feel it, too.
So what can you do to stay healthy?
And do you really need to worry about it? Isn’t it just around, like the flu?
Covid isn’t really considered endemic yet, and since there’s so much of it around still, it’s mutating frequently, which means the game keeps changing, like it has recently. Yet again. So, if you just don’t care, just stop reading. If you’re concerned, and want to know what to do, keep going.
If you or someone close to you have chronic health issues, (like me with asthma), it’s worth paying attention and taking some steps to protect your health, as well as the health of people around you.
Boost your immunity
Start with your day-day routine. Here’s the best things you can do to keep yourself healthy …
- Get enough sleep!
I know this is basic, but most of us could be a lot better about making sure we get enough sleep. Aim for 8 hours a night.
- Drink lots of water
Being dehydrated puts your body under stress. Try to get those 8 glasses a day.
- Eat those fruits and veggies
They’re full of vitamins, mineral, electrolytes, fiber…the list goes on. You know this, now go do it!
- Minimize sugar, dairy, fried foods, alcohol and processed foods
These foods cause inflammation and tank your immune system. Plus, according to Chinese Medicine,they create more phlegm in our bodies, which is a perfect breeding ground for viruses.
These are the top 4 supplements I recommend for immune support. You can order them online here.
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin C
- Use Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal formulas are helpful for prevention, treatment, and recovery. You’ll need to see a qualified practitioner to get the right formula for you. You can book with me here.
- Get regular acupuncture
According to this article in the National Library of Medicine, “More and more research has revealed that acupuncture can regulate immunity, for example, to enhance anticancer and anti-stress immune function and exert anti-inflammation effects.” Bonus…it will also help your sleep, digestion, stress, periods…..You can book here.
Avoid catching it in public
I know, I know, we’re all tired of masks. But they work. If you want to greatly reduce your chance of getting Covid, a mask is one of your best lines of defense.
The science and data are exceedingly clear that masks dramatically reduce transmission of Covid and other viruses. Especially if it’s a well-fitted, multi-filter mask like a KN95 (here’s what we use.) They are safe to wear all day.
Right now, I’d say if you’re high-risk for any reason, or people in your family are high-risk, wear a mask when indoors around other people.
If you don’t want to wear it all the time, here’s a good guideline:
If you are within 6 feet of people for more than a few minutes, wear the mask.
For example…if you’re at the grocery store on a Monday afternoon and hardly anyone is around, you are safer without a mask than on a Saturday morning when it’s packed. Make sense?
A note…most local governments have said they won’t implement a mask mandate unless hospitals fill up, which is a very different criterion than before when cases hit a certain number per hundred thousand. This means cases can be really high, but they won’t necessarily do any kind of mandate, just “recommended.”
And remember, people are contagious for 1-2 days before symptoms show up, so you can’t tell just by looking.
Here’s the TL;DR list of What to Do to Avoid Catching Covid in Public…
- Wear a mask when indoors in crowded places…regardless of whether they are required.
- Social distance when indoors
- Do your socializing outside and enjoy the weather.
- Wash your hands (do this anyway, because gross)
What if someone in my family has Covid?
Excellent question, and one I am able to answer from experience.
My very healthy, no high-risk-factors, vaxxed and boosted husband just got covid about a week ago, at work. Several other people there got it, too. Most were vaxxed, and/or had already had it in the past 6 months.
Much to our surprise, even with herbs and supplements, my husband got very sick… Like I was watching to see if he needed to go to the ER kind of sick. He had chest pain, was coughing up profuse dark mucus, 102º fever for 3 days even with alternating ibuprofen and Tylenol every 3 hours, body aches, chills, very sore throat, and total misery kind of sick. Two different doctors said they couldn’t give him antivirals or monoclonal antibodies because he isn’t high-risk.
Thankfully, he’s on the upswing now, though still sick.
The good news is that, so far, my kids and I are negative for Covid and have no symptoms.
Here’s what we do to keep the rest of us healthy:
- Run humidifiers
Airborne virus particles travel best in dry air. Running a humidifier to about 40-60% humidity, especially here in dry Colorado, can help minimize transmission.
Clean the ever-lovin’ daylights out of high-touch surfaces OFTEN…doorknobs, light switches, and faucets. Wash the towels on hot and change them frequently, especially hand and kitchen towels.
Ventilation is important to lower viral concentration.
- Open your windows
- Run a HEPA filter in common areas and in bedrooms with more than one person (I suspect this plus a humidifier helped me NOT catch it even though we sleep in the same bed until he had symptoms).
- Run your furnace fan to keep the house ventilated and bring in outside air.
- Sick person quarantines in a separate room and uses a separate bathroom
Keep those germies to yourself!
- The sick person always wears a KN95 mask if leaving the quarantine room even for a minute.
- Healthy people wear a KN95 mask if around the sick person (ie. to bring them food or medicine)
- Do the above “Boost your Immunity” stuff…sleep, eat well, etc.
- Test frequently
You can get free home-test kits from the U.S. Gov’t here.
Walgreen’s still has free drive-up NAAT rapid molecular tests and PCR tests. Book an appointment here.
The State of Colorado still has some free testing sites that you can find here.
Finally, I know it’s hard to know where to look for good info on the current Covid situation. My favorite all-in-one source for well-researched and vetted current info, from an actual epidemiologist, who explains it all in understandable terms, is Your Local Epidemiologist, Katelyn Jetelina, who started this blog way back at the beginning of the pandemic to help people understand things like R0, etc. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and at Substack here.
For other Covid data if you’re interested:
Tri-County Health Department https://www.tchd.org/818/Coronavirus-COVID-19
State of Colorado https://covid19.colorado.gov/data
Centers for Disease Control https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#datatracker-home
World Health Organization https://covid19.who.int
Stay healthy, friends.
Dr. Jennie Luther, DACM, L.Ac
Family Tree Acupuncture & Wellness