Dear Fellow Weakley Countians,
COVID 19 cases are on the uptick again. Virtually all of the USA is painted red, meaning, almost everywhere is a COVID hot spot. This, of course, includes Weakley County, Tennessee. I am convinced that there are more cases here now, than at any other time in the pandemic. You cannot go by the reported numbers now because many, if not most, infections are confirmed by home testing or are not confirmed at all. These cases are then, unreported. However, it is also true that on the whole, the severity of illness during this wave is less than in previous waves. This is likely due to a population with immune systems on hyperalert due to immunizations and previous infections. Another factor for the decreased severity of illness this time around, may be that the current circulating Omicron substrains seem to cause more upper respiratory and less lower respiratory tract infections than previous strains. In fact, for the reason of less severe illnesses, I have put off writing this letter. Now, however, hospitalizations are rising and we need to take action.
There are two main actions that I want to recommend. One is getting a booster vaccine. If you have only had the original two COVID shots, your immunity for this current COVID strain is running low. You need a booster vaccine. If you have been boosted, but it has been four months or more since your booster, get a second. This recommendation is meant for persons who by age or preexisting health conditions are at greater risk of poor outcomes including death, should they contract the virus. The boosters are easy to obtain at pharmacies and the health department. They will significantly boost your immunity within 7-10 days of taking the shot. Billions of COVID vaccines have been given, and they are without a doubt safe and effective. Please do not listen to people with no medical training who tell you differently. Please listen to the experts who have dedicated their lives to studying infectious disease control. The later group would include the incredible scientists at the CDC.
My second recommendation is that if you get sick with the COVID virus and have risk factors for severe disease, you likely would want to take antiviral treatment. Paxlovid is the common treatment now prescribed. It is a combination of two antiviral medications. Taking it would be similar to taking Tamiflu when you have the flu. If started within five, and preferable even three days of the onset of symptoms, it shortens the course of symptoms and helps prevent severe disease. There are potential drug interactions that your health care provider will need to consider. Some people will develop symptoms again after completing their course of Paxlovid. All in all, though, the medication is quite effective in preventing severe disease.
Also, please do not forget that high-quality masks are very effective protection, even against the highly-contagious omicron variants of COVID 19. If you are at high risk or are going to be around persons who are at high risk for severe infection, please consider wearing a mask when you are in a crowd, particularly indoors. This, of course, would include being in stores, funeral homes, churches, movie theaters and the like.
Science, nature, and public health have enabled us to make a lot of progress in our battle against the pandemic known as COVID 19. Though this battle is not over, we can now certainly hope and even believe that the worst is behind us. I look forward to the day that I will no longer feel the need to wear my mask.
It is a privilege to be your neighbor.
Michael Hinds MD