In my early 30s I had a chronic illness that went undiagnosed. I went from being extremely active and working out daily to being unable to walk. I suspect I had lyme disease as I lived in Connecticut and would hike frequently. Although I recovered and am now almost as active as I used to be, it changed my perspective on health and the healthcare system. So many doctors told me it was “stress” and dismissed serious symptoms that came on suddenly. Medications didn’t help and recovery took about two years.
I am now risk averse when it comes to my health, especially given that even mild covid can cause chronic illness. I am careful about wearing a mask and my socialization is limited. A few weeks ago I had a close call where I would have caught covid if I did not insist on wearing a mask in a car. (We talked about that in podcast #115 around 4:30.) As far as I know, I have not had it yet and am of course vaccinated and boosted. That’s all preface to this story in the San Francisco chronicle that it’s best not to catch covid if you can avoid it. This sounds like a no-brainer of course, but US public policy is not consistent with this approach.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently estimated that around 43% of people in the U.S., or about 140 million people, have been infected with the coronavirus, which leaves almost 60% never having had it. The estimate counts each person once, so some of the more than 140 million Americans estimated to have had COVID may have been infected more than once.
While during the omicron surge experts and public health officials cautioned that the highly contagious variant would infect many people, they don’t think ending up with the virus is inevitable, at least in the near future. But, they say, it’s going to require a fine balance as we transition into the endemic stage of COVID-19.
“From my perspective, no, it’s not inevitable” over the next year or two, said UCSF Chair of Medicine Dr. Bob Wachter, who also hasn’t gotten COVID yet. He said when case rates are low, as they are now in the Bay Area, the roughly 60% of the population that has not had COVID is unlikely to get it, “since they won’t be exposed very much.”
Those who are vaccinated and boosted, he added, “will remain relatively protected even if they do get exposed.”
Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF, agreed, adding that as long as we’re in the transition period into the endemic stage of the virus, there’s no clear answer for whether you’ll inevitably get COVID in the long run — but it doesn’t have to be now.
“Are we all going to get it? Yes, biologically, that might happen,” he said. “Are we at a time to embrace that philosophy? No, because the virus is still causing a lot of suffering. Almost 2,000 deaths per day is no walk in the park.”
But Chin-Hong and other experts agree that — with some vigilance — it’s still possible to avoid the virus while enjoying life.
I’m glad it’s not inevitable we catch it, but of course we have to stay safe. The article goes on to say that it’s also worth delaying catching covid if possible because treatment advances will be available in just a few months. What’s more, and they don’t even mention this, is that hospitals are still strained from the pandemic, particularly in certain areas. I hope if you’re reading this you’re vaccinated. Breakthrough infections are common and we don’t know the long term effects or how it will affect people we come in contact with.
As I’ve mentioned, I live in a rural area where many people didn’t wear masks even pre-vaccine. The CDC flip flopped on this issue so many times and recently changed their statistical models to say we can remove the masks in some places again. This is despite the fact that transmission and death rates remain high. Almost 1,700 people died of covid in the US just yesterday. The fact that mass death has been normalized and that masks are optional again blows my mind. Children under five still cannot be vaccinated and we know that covid can cause serious long term illness in children, including increasing the risk for diabetes. I’m going to keep masking for myself and for others. I give zero sh-ts what people think, because I know people who think masks impede “freedom” or that it’s no big deal to catch or spread covid are misinformed at best.
This is the transmission rate by county from the CDC’s website. I took this screenshot at 6:15 am today, March 8th. Why take your mask off in a “blue” county when the next county over is red?