Avoid Covid and flu this winter

Too many healthcare-policy experts are minimizing the threat of Covid, and they are doing a disservice to the public by not urging more active prevention measures

BRATTLEBORO — Covid will always be with us, and most of us have learned to live with it.

Unfortunately, people continue to die from the disease at a rate of 255 deaths per day in the United States. Hospitalizations for the disease are up 8.7%, and the death rate has increased by 4.5%. The U.S. full vaccination rate is 68%.

Mask wearing continues to be rare, but it seems to me that a few more people are starting to mask up again, and I am even considering if it makes sense to wear a mask in crowded public places now that a new variant is on the scene.

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Many healthcare policy experts who also serve as talking heads tend to operate in the political realm as well. Too many of them are minimizing the threat of Covid, and they are doing a disservice to the public by not urging more active prevention measures.

The fact that the federal government has declared an end to the public health emergency doesn't help.

Americans can no longer get free test kits. They are not cheap, and that means that as the disease spreads this winter, lower=income people will become even more vulnerable to the disease, as they have been all along.

The government will no longer pay for vaccines and, unless you have insurance, either privately or through Medicaid or Medicare, you will have to pay out of pocket.

Once again, those who can't afford insurance will go unprotected, and they will suffer and die more than the rest of the population.

Just another day in the land where "survival of the fittest" is the operative motto.

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If you want a reality check, here's something from a recent piece in The Nation.

"While too many people who should know better are downplaying the ongoing public health risk from Covid, others are trying to signal the peril of our current moment.

"The New York Times recently reported on new estimates from researchers that Covid might lead to at least 45,000 deaths between September and April - and that's the best-case scenario.

"'Based on these projections, Covid is likely to remain in the leading causes of death in the United States for the foreseeable future,' Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, told the Times."

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There is some good news for those of us who can afford to avail ourselves of test kits, vaccines, and masks: If we stay vigilant and get the latest vaccine, which is now available, our chances of contracting the virus will remain low, and the likelihood of getting sick enough to be hospitalized will be low.

There is also comfort in recent news from the CDC.

"Approximately 97% of the U.S. population has antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 from vaccination, previous infection, or both (hybrid immunity).

"Immune responses to vaccines and infections are complex and involve both humoral (antibodies) and cellular immunity. It is likely that the humoral and cellular immune responses will continue to provide protection against severe disease from this variant.

"Laboratories are currently working on measuring antibody neutralization of BA.2.86 [the new variant] as well as other immune responses. This is an area of ongoing scientific investigation."

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The CDC notes that the newest variant does not show any signs of spreading faster or causing more severe disease than prior variants.

The federal agency urges people to stay up to date with vaccines. You can get a flu shot and a Covid vaccine at the same time, and now is a good time to do it.

Using commonsense prevention measures as winter approaches will give you a fighting chance not to be one of the 45,000 Covid deaths predicted or one of the 36,000 flu deaths that happen in most years.

Richard Davis, a retired registered nurse and tireless advocate for access to health care, is a former Brattleboro Reformer columnist. He continues to post his writing on his Facebook profile (bit.ly/575_davis).

This Voices Viewpoint by Richard Davis was written for The Commons.

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