How To Adjust To The Peaks And Dips In COVID-19 Cases

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We know. You are probably sick of hearing this, but cases of COVID-19 are rising. This time, it’s due to a subvariant of Omicron called BA.2.12.1, which now makes up about 30% of all new COVID-19 cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently increased the metro Detroit area to a medium risk level in terms of COVID-19 transmission.

This subvariant of Omicron seems to be about 25% more transmissible than “stealth Omicron” or the BA.2 variant of Omicron, which has been the dominant variant in the United States since March. (And “stealth Omicron” is about 30% to 50% more transmissible than the original strain of Omicron.) That said, BA.2.12.1 doesn’t seem to cause a more severe disease than the other strains of Omicron.

“The problem with COVID-19 is that it mutates very quickly—much more quickly than other viruses like the flu, which mutates yearly,” says Dennis Cunningham, M.D., medical director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health. “COVID-19 seems to mutate every few months. And the more often it mutates, the more likely it is that we’ll have another peak in COVID-19 cases.

“But we don’t need to panic. We’re still not anywhere near the hospitalization rates that we saw during the height of the pandemic. We do, however, need to take some steps to keep it under control.”

Minor Ways To Minimize Your Risk Level

Thanks to the vaccines, there are ways to adjust to the peaks in COVID-19 cases without going into complete lockdown. Here, Dr. Cunningham offers five tips to minimizing your risk while still living your life.

  1. Put your mask back on—especially in crowded places. Do you have a trip coming up? Are you headed to the airport soon? If you’re vaccinated and otherwise healthy, you don’t have to cancel your plans. Just be sure to wear a well-fitting mask at the airport and while on the airplane. It's a good idea to start wearing a mask at the grocery store and mall again, too. “You don’t have to stay home, just wear a mask, especially when you’re with a lot of people,” says Dr. Cunningham. "This is especially important if you have chronic health issues that increase your risk of severe COVID-19."
  2. Exercise at home (or outside) instead of at the gym. With people breathing heavily while working out, public gyms can be high risk when it comes to COVID-19 transmission. If you’re able to, move your workout routine into the comfort of your own home. Or better yet, move it outside, since the weather is getting nicer.
  3. Change your indoor gatherings to outdoors. Having friends over for dinner? Host a barbecue on the back patio. Meeting a date for drinks? Reserve an outdoor table instead of an indoor table. “It’s all about making small changes. You don’t have to upend your life,” says Dr. Cunningham.
  4. If you can, maintain a hybrid work schedule. If you have an office job and you’ve been back at the office fulltime, see if you can switch to a hybrid schedule. Suggest that different people work in the office on different days. “If you can minimize the amount of people you’re exposed to at any given time, you’re reducing your risk level,” says Dr. Cunningham.
  5. Stay up-to-date on your vaccinations. Ages 12+ are eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster. (Ages 12 to 17 can receive a Pfizer booster only.) If you’re age 50 or older, and you had your last booster at least four months ago, you can receive a second booster. Learn more about booster eligibility and guidelines here. “The vaccines work—including against the variants—but their effectiveness decreases over time, which is why the boosters are important,” says Dr. Cunningham. “And even if you do contract COVID-19, the vaccines will reduce the likelihood that you’ll experience severe illness.”
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Henry Ford offers COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to established patients. Appointments can be scheduled in MyChart. For updates on booster guidelines and availability of vaccines by age group, visit henryford.com/coronavirus/vaccine-faqs.  

Dr. Dennis Cunningham is the medical director of infection control and prevention at Henry Ford Health.  

Categories: FeelWell