If your family is similar to my family, this spring has brought upper respiratory ailments and allergy-related ailments. This was often the case earlier this season, but this year we have to ask ourselves, “Is it a cold or allergy or is it COVID-19?”
That’s a question many of us would rather not ask. We want to return to normal; we don’t want to wear masks; we definitely don’t want to be told to wear masks and social distance. There was even a sentiment expressed: “COVID-19 is now basically endemic. We’re all going to get it, so I might as well get it over with.”
I understand the fatigue this pandemic has caused and I certainly understand the desire to go back to what we had before. But there are some things we need to be aware of.
COVID-19 rates are rising again, and there is a new variant that appears to be spreading more easily than previous ones. Infection rates have increased significantly in many states, and in Wyoming, infection rates are beginning to rise. Symptoms of this new variant appear to be fairly mild, with some individuals reporting no symptoms at all, but COVID-19 is long lasting in some, regardless of symptom severity when first infected.
According to Science Daily, 30% of COVID-19 patients will develop COVID-19 for a long time, and information from the University of Michigan and Pennsylvania State University suggests that number could actually be as high as 50%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that children who have had COVID-19 are at significantly increased risk of a new diabetes diagnosis. All of this is worrying and I will address one more concern before moving on to what we should be doing.
At first, during the 1918 flu pandemic, public health measures to prevent the spread were widely adopted, and the flu virus had not even been discovered. They fought an unknown. But as the years went by and they dealt with flare-ups, those measures began to wear off. By the time it reached its fourth wave, it was no longer a headline. However, a lack of mask-wearing and social distancing meant that in New York and many other places more died in this wave than in the first two. (Washington Post, February 6, 2022).
We must take this to heart as we prepare to face this new virus wave and not make the same mistakes. In 1918 there were 103 million Americans and they lost 675,000 to the flu with no vaccines or information on how viruses spread. In America today we have 332 million people, knowledge of how viruses spread and access to vaccines, and we’ve lost a million Americans.
With that in mind, and I don’t want to depress you, we need to evaluate how we are dealing with this pandemic. Wyoming usually lags behind other states in this kind of thing. We have space and can easily distance ourselves from others in our everyday lives. But it’s coming to Wyoming, and cases are increasing.
COVID-19 is a potentially fatal disease. According to pbs.org, cnbc.com and washingtonpost.com, the Omicron wave killed more people than the Delta wave. Long COVID-19 is devastating for many, and we must protect our children from the increased risk of diabetes.
So what to do? Don’t be complacent about actions you can take to protect yourself and others. to be vaccinated. Protect your children by getting them vaccinated. Wear a mask in places where you’re around others — COVID-19 spreads much more easily than the flu, the CDC says.
If you’re sick, test yourself to make sure it’s a cold or allergy. Be considerate and stay home and away from work when you are sick. I repeat, get tested if you are ill. Free home tests are available from the government at health.wyo.gov and covid.gov.
Your rights end where they can affect another person. Hopefully your symptoms are a cold or allergy, as has been the case in my family this time.
Above all, show the traits I love about Wyoming people: caring and compassion for one another.
Judy McDowell is a retired nurse who used to work at Sheridan Health Center.