Coronavirus cases are going down nationally—but they are still too high, about 95,000 compared to a far more preferable under 10K. Some states are faring worse than others right now—and they might not be the ones you expect. With this in mind, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, appeared on his COVID: What Happens Next podcast with a warning—but also some much-needed perspective about where we are right now in the pandemic. Read on for five life-saving pieces of advice—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Where are we at right now in the pandemic? “So big picture: The Delta surge of the summer has clearly turned a corner. No doubt about it. Infections are down 40%. Hospitalizations are down 30. Deaths are down 10, 15%, which, death always lags, but death will come down. And that is fabulous. Really good. The horrible surge of the South I think is over. I mean, Florida, boy, it was, it was among the worst in the world and now it’s like, well, below national average. So the South has really turned around. I think there are pockets of concerns I have—certainly in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains states, because the weather is getting colder and we know the virus spreads a little more efficiently in cold weather, but really it spreads when people gather indoors, unmasked, unvaccinated people. And so if you look at the Upper Midwest, you look at the Great Plains states, North Dakota, Montana, large parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, you’re seeing infection numbers, still rising in those places. And I’m worried about some of those parts—nationally much better shape, but there are pockets of the country where I still remain concerned.”
“I think trick or treating last year was pretty safe because it was outdoors,” said Dr. Jha. “I think it’s going to be really safe this year. Obviously I had been pushing and hoping that we might get first shot into five to 11 year olds. That’s the sweet spot of Halloween trick-or-treaters; I was hoping they’d had their first shot by Halloween. They won’t. I think we’ll miss it by a few days. But what that means is probably—especially with the young kids—I wouldn’t do large house parties. But is it safe to go trick or treating? Absolutely. Is it safe to step inside somebody’s house for 30 seconds to pick up a piece of candy? Absolutely. Kds should—if they’re going to go inside, they should wear a mask. If they’re outside, they don’t need to wear a mask. So I think Halloween should be maybe not a hundred percent normal, but let’s say very, very, very close to normal.”
“Last Thanksgiving, my wife and I spent it with our kids alone. We spent some outdoor time with some friends and then Christmas was probably the saddest thing because we basically just had a little mini-Christmas dinner, but we didn’t see any family. And it was sad, it was sad. It was not the holidays we wanted totally different this year. And I’ll tell you why. First of all, everybody’s vaccinated. And my nine year old is going to be vaccinated by the holidays. He may not be fully vaccinated by Thanksgiving. It’ll be close. He may have a second shot by then, but by Christmas/Hanukkah time, he’ll be fully vaccinated. So everybody over five who wants to be vaccinated will be fully vaccinated. I think that’ll make a big difference.”
“Second,” he continued, “is, I think for elderly people or high-risk people, they all should have gotten their booster by them. And then, look that alone means if you do any kind of holiday gathering with all vaccinated people, boy, you’re in like very, very, very low risk situation. For people who are still nervous, you add, or if you have a family member or two who are unvaccinated, you can add some rapid tests and rapid antigen tests are becoming more widely available. And so if you really want to be extra careful, give everybody a rapid test before they come over for Thanksgiving dinner, it takes 15 minutes, get a negative result. Everybody’s vaccinated—boy, at that point, I don’t know what else you can do to make it safer. You’re in an exquisitely safe situation.”
Kids aged 5-11 should have a Pfizer vaccine approved for them by early November. “It’s a good thing,” said Dr. Jha. “And you know, there are a lot of people who say, well, what’s the big deal? Five to 11 year olds are at low risk….It’s been striking to me how much people keep comparing kids outcomes to adult outcomes and saying, kids are safer. That’s true for everything—for cancer! Kids have better outcomes than adults, but we don’t say, well, “kids’ cancer doesn’t count! Not that important because they have better outcomes than adults.” We’ve never use adults as a comparison. The way to think about kids and COVID is ask how big a risk is COVID for kids compared to other risks that kids face like influenza, like RSV other kinds of childhood injuries. And when you use that light and that prism, COVID is a big deal.” Get your kids vaccinated.
Jha says: “There’s a lot of trepidation out there about this fall and winter. And I understand it, especially with Delta variant out there. We’re in way better shape than where we were last October. We’ve got high levels of population immunity—not high enough. We need more people vaccinated. We’ve got boosters, we’ve got an oral pill”—he was talking about the Merck pill that can reduce your risk of hospitalization and death by half; it is not yet available but the makers have applied for emergency use authorization. “That’s an important advancement. There’s a lot that is going for us. So yes, we’re going into another fall and winter, but I will tell you last October at this time I felt a sense of dread and was worried. I am not this year. We still have some rocky days ahead with some bumpy waters. We’re not done, but we’re in way better shape than where we were a year ago.” As for yourself, get vaccinated, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.