Who was that masked man?

First, an update.  I am fortunate.  While COVID is not something to be dismissed or taken lightly, my experience of it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  For me, it was like the worst cold I have ever had.  I think it is safe to say I am on the backside of my own recovery.  Each morning I am feeling more like myself, though I will say the accompanying fatigue is hard to shake.  I am still under quarantine, and getting a bit antsy.  As a disabled person confined to a wheelchair, I have learned over the last fifteen years that inertia is my enemy — to avoid what I call, colloquially, the “sads,” I need to “do stuff,” even if it’s just dead-heading my flowers or running a Swiffer® across my floor.  And I haven’t been able to do that for almost a week.  It may sound wonderful to just kick back in your recliner, feet up, and watch tv or stream movies all day, but it is not.  There are only so many words you can read, in books or online, before they start to blur together and hurt your eyes.  So I am really looking forward to getting outside in the sunshine and pulling a few weeds and watering a few plants in my garden.  I am certain, though, that as I am in a high risk category (immunocompromised) with multiple co-morbidities, being fully vaccinated (with two shots) and boosted is what has kept this horrible virus from affecting me much worse.  And so I again appeal to anyone out there who may be on the fence about the vaccine, please protect yourself and those around you and get the shot(s).

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) issued new guidance yesterday on the wearing of masks.  They laid out a system that designates individual counties as being at either low, medium, or high risk from COVID-19.  The new system focuses less on the total number of new infections to look at how well the health care system in each county is able to respond.  According to the CDC, their focus is on minimizing severe disease and ensuring hospitals are able to cope with COVID cases while still delivering standard care.

By using data counties provide to the CDC on an ongoing basis — such as the rate of COVID cases that require hospitalization and the percentage of beds in hospitals that are occupied by people who have COVID — they can designate counties as being in one of three risk categories and target mask guidance accordingly, rather than issuing blanket, one-size-fits-all, mask mandates.  Those designations are:

This science-based, data-driven scheme takes into consideration the important metric of immunity as a result of vaccination or prior infection and fewer people contracting COVID developing severe disease, allowing more counties to move into the low-risk designation and ease masking requirements.  But if a new variant emerges which causes more severe illness and/or a county’s infection control is inadequate (likely due to lower vaccination rates), this would be seen in rising hospitalizations, and that would trigger one of the higher county designations (Medium or High) meaning a targeted return of the recommendation to wear masks.

These are the designations, countrywide, as of last Thursday:

Currently, 28.2% of the country lives in a county where it is recommended all people wear masks in indoor public settings.  The CDC has provided an online tool where you can enter your state and county to determine the category your area falls in.  CLICK HERE for "COVID-19 County Check.”

Some IMPORTANT caveats:

  1. High risk individuals such as the elderly and immunocompromised may choose to mask and continue to practice social distancing as a precaution regardless of their county’s designation.
  2. Some settings such as schools and high-risk congregate settings such as hospitals or long-term care facilities (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, community centers, and the like) may choose to mask/social distance based on information and data about the characteristics of that setting or as needed in the event of a facility outbreak regardless of their county’s designation.
  3. No one should be harassed or discriminated against for choosing to mask, distance, or practice/insist on safety protocols.  No one.

Health is a precious commodity.  I’ve had it, lost it, regained it, watched it slipping away in myself and others, and seen what remains when it is gone for good.  If you are healthy, I’m glad; let’s keep it that way.  And let’s protect it in others, even if they’re not protecting it themselves.

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