Safe Summer Gatherings for Families | News, Sports, Jobs

What a beautiful day…

Your first real family has been meeting for over two years. It had been months, if not years, since you had seen many of your family members.

COVID has really put a glitch on traditions, holidays and family celebrations.

But now it looks like infections are down and life is getting back to normal.

So when you got together on this beautiful summer day, the possibility of contracting COVID didn’t seem like a threat.

It was an outdoor event, but unlike a concert, you weren’t neck and neck.

There was a breeze to carry the virus away.

Hand sanitizer containers were installed on all tables and antimicrobial wipes were used on food service surfaces and serving utensils.

You were pretty sure most people were vaccinated, so why worry?

Therefore, it was a surprise two days later when you started to feel “sinusoidal”; a bit of a cough, tired stuffy nose, off your mark.

Your spouse advised you to take a home COVID test, which at the time just sounded silly, but the biggest surprise was that the test result came back positive. And the third surprise was your spouse, who had no symptoms, also tested positive.

How is it possible ?

Let’s start at the beginning by stating the obvious. COVID is alive and well and spreading over all of us, especially as we allow ourselves to believe that it’s not as bad as it once was, and we’re just sick of the fear of COVID . Unfortunately, the new BA.5 variant is the most contagious yet, so even if we want to let our guard down, we can’t.

It was recently reported that a woman attending a similar outdoor activity developed COVID after hugging a friend as she left the event. Although she was super careful, even masked when she got close to others, the two friends had removed their masks as they walked towards their respective vehicles. In the few seconds they shared a hug, they also shared the virus.

You need to be vigilant to protect yourself and your family members from COVID.

Get vaccinated AND boosted. Like the flu vaccine, immunity to COVID vaccines only lasts a limited time, and our immune systems need that extra boost to keep COVID at bay. If you haven’t received a reminder this year, get one. If it’s been four months since you received your first booster and you’re over 50 or have certain compromised health/immunity conditions, get the second booster. Don’t wait for the new vaccine scheduled for the fall. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that getting vaccinated now will not prevent you from receiving the new vaccine.

Vaccinate your children. If they are 5 years or older, they can receive a booster; if they are 12 years and older, they can receive a second booster if they are moderately or severely immunocompromised. Encourage other family members and friends to get vaccinated and to receive a booster.

A fully vaccinated and boosted person can still contract and carry the virus. Not all infected people show symptoms. If you plan to attend a larger gathering, consider each attendee as a potential COVID spreader.

Wear a tight-fitting N-95 mask indoors and sometimes outdoors (cloth masks and surgical masks do not provide adequate protection). Although events are often considered safer outdoors, proximity increases the risk of infection.

When you protect yourself, you protect others. If the event you plan to attend includes people such as the elderly and others at risk due to immune deficiencies and underlying conditions, do a home test before attending. Test again two days after the event, whether or not you have symptoms.

If you test positive and you have symptoms, stay home for five days and isolate yourself from other people at home. Call your health care provider or pharmacy for Paxlovid as soon as you test positive. Test again on the fifth day. If you leave your house after five days, wear an N-95 mask around other people. Take precautions until day 10; avoid high-risk travel and people. Do not eat at the same place as the others.

Know your community. Are COVID infections on the rise? Stay informed of updates reported by local media. Ask your family and friends if they know anyone who has recently been infected.

Be aware that many positive home test results go unreported; therefore, infection rates could be higher.

If your summer plans involve travel, be prepared if you get infected while you’re away. Have a complete list of your and your family’s medications, immunization history, and contact information for medical providers. Remember to have sufficient financial resources if a COVID infection forces you to extend your stay. Carry over-the-counter medications that can ease COVID symptoms.

Muncy’s Chris Smith was a prevention education/traffic safety specialist for over 35 years and is a member of Let’s End COVID!, a group of people in North Central PA working to overcome the pandemic of COVID-19 through education, awareness and mitigation.

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Sara H. Byrd