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What you need to know
- Viewing this COVID-19 winter as “mild” means we risk accepting this level of disease.
- The COVID-19 virus is still unpredictable and isn’t “like the flu” yet.
- One of the most impactful decisions you can make is to get the bivalent booster, especially if you are an older adult, are immunocompromised, or have underlying medical issues.
COVID-19 emergencies are ending in a few months. There has been no major new variant since Omicron first emerged more than a year ago. And COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all peaked at lower levels this winter compared to previous pandemic winters. It’s evident that we are in a much better place now, but the virus is still around. Here’s why viewing this COVID-19 winter as “mild” can be misleading and why it’s important to continue taking precautions.
Is this COVID-19 winter “mild”?
This COVID-19 winter is definitely better than our previous pandemic winters. But it’s not very helpful to use past winter surges as a comparison for our current situation. We now have tools like prior immunity, bivalent boosters, and Paxlovid to fight severe disease. We also haven’t faced a major new variant in over a year. So it’s expected that we should be in a much better position than before.
Still, this winter we saw a dramatic spike in hospitalizations among older adults, and we continue to see thousands of COVID-19 deaths every week. The issue with viewing our current situation as “mild” is that we run the risk of believing this level of disease is acceptable.
How can we ensure that the pandemic continues to get better from here?
More COVID-19 spread means more chances for the virus to mutate, which is why we need to keep limiting transmission. This means putting masks back on if cases are rising again in your area or if a new strain is circulating. Improving ventilation, especially in schools and offices and during gatherings, is another precaution worth advocating for.
The COVID-19 virus is still unpredictable and hasn’t reached the point where it’s “like the flu” yet. The current dominant strain in the U.S.—Omicron subvariant XBB.1.5—is the most transmissible strain yet and is resistant to many of our existing drugs and treatments. Preventing stronger strains from popping up is crucial to getting through this stage of the pandemic smoothly.
How can I protect myself at this stage of the pandemic?
Just like it’s important to take it easy while healing from an illness (even if you’re already feeling better), it’s important to continue taking precautions at this stage of the pandemic. One of the most impactful decisions you can make is to get the bivalent booster. The updated booster is especially important if you are an older adult, are immunocompromised, or have underlying medical issues. Staying up to date on vaccines is key to a smooth pandemic recovery because boosters strengthen our immune systems against current circulating COVID-19 strains.