10 tips for coexisting with covid and leading a normal life
But continuing to live does not mean abandoning caution. Covid is still around and the number of cases is increasing in some communities. We all have to learn to live with covid.
Living with covid can be easy if you take simple, regular precautions. Jay Varma, physician, infectious disease expert and professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine, likened this new normal to the adjustments we all had to make in security after 9/11. We have become accustomed to additional travel restrictions, such as removing our shoes at airline screening lines, as an inconvenience to staying safe.
I spent nearly three years reporting on covid and pandemic life, talking to many global experts on public health and virus transmission. We don’t have to choose between staying safe and living a normal life. We can do both. Here are 10 tips to help you, including some of the steps I take to protect myself.
- Get a booster shot. Start by getting vaccinated or getting a booster shot. Read these Q&As for answers to common questions about the new boosters.
- Mask when it’s easy. No one wants to wear a mask all day, so be strategic. I don’t normally wear a mask at work, but I do wear one in a crowded meeting. You might want to mask up at the grocery store; it’s a building full of foreigners and covid is probably there too. Mask at the doctor’s office or on your journeys if you take public transport. The risk is cumulative, so each time you don a mask in a high-risk situation, you reduce your chances of catching the virus.
- Mask up when traveling. Your risk of coming into contact with covid increases when you travel. Lower it by wearing a mask in the security line and in crowded terminals. Planes have efficient ventilation systems, filtering air as often as every five minutes, but I always wear a mask. If it’s a long trip and you just don’t want to wear a mask, consider wearing one. during the embarkation and disembarkation process, when the ventilation system can be turned off. And here’s a travel tip from virus experts: During the flight, turn on the fan nozzle and position it to blow on your face to help keep any stray virus particles at bay.
- Avoid the crowds. Considering this advice will likely depend on your overall risk. Young, healthy people who are vaccinated may choose to spend time in crowded indoor spaces. People who are elderly or have an underlying medical condition may opt for outdoor spaces when it comes to dining, sporting events and concerts. And for indoor events like going to the movies or the theater, the cautious may still want to wear a high-quality mask.
- Check community transmission levels. Tracking the number of cases in your community can help guide your choices. In the United States, if you are looking at a map of transmission levels from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, be sure to use the drop-down menu to see “community transmission”, not “covid-19 community levels”, which are an indicator of how hospitals are managing and not as relevant to personal decision-making.
- Have a Paxlovid plan. People over 50 and people at high risk can take Paxlovid, a very effective antiviral drug. You must start within five days of diagnosis or onset of symptoms, so it’s important to talk to your doctor and have a plan to get a prescription quickly if you need one.
- Think about your indoor air. Adding a portable air purifier to a space can effectively double the ventilation in the room. Ask your employer to provide portable air cleaners in offices and meeting rooms. Ask how often the filters are changed. You can also ask your employer what steps have been taken to improve indoor air quality in the office. Many workplaces have replaced air filters with hospital grade filters. (Ideally your workplace uses something called MERV-13 filters, but some systems can only handle MERV-11 filters.)
- Use home testing wisely. Although a negative home test means you are probably not contagious, it is not a guarantee that you do not have covid. If you have cold symptoms or are not feeling well, especially if you have been exposed to the virus or been in a high-risk situation such as traveling or attending an indoor concert, you should stay indoors. away from others or wear a mask until your symptoms go away, even if you test negative.
- Stay home when you are sick. One of the big lessons of the pandemic is not to come to the office with sniffles or a sore throat. Stay home and zoom in if you feel well enough to work.
- Plan your life around the most vulnerable person in your orbit. If you have regular close contact with someone who is elderly, chronically ill, or immunocompromised, you will need to take more precautions and be more vigilant about mask-wearing, testing, and avoiding high-risk situations.
The bottom line is that it’s not all or nothing, said Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the Yale School of Public Health. “There are plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t just be vaxxed and finished. An infection with the virus can sideline you or disrupt your life or the lives of those around you very easily.
Three questions. . . on exercising smarter
This week I spoke with Your Move columnist Gretchen Reynolds, who wrote about the dangers of being an active couch potato and whether morning or evening is the best time of day to exercise. .
Q: Why is it so hard for people to establish a regular exercise habit?
A: Most people, including me, say it’s because we don’t have time. But most behavioral science says it’s because we’re not having fun. If people don’t like exercise, they won’t. The good news is that there are many ways to get active. Don’t like jogging? There’s swimming, hiking, mountain biking, strength training, pickleball, line yoga, walks with friends, or whatever movement you like. It might also help to reframe workouts as “me time” or healthy procrastination. In this case, you are not just going for a walk or a swim. You take a mental health break and return to work rested, alert and eager to procrastinate more tomorrow.
Q: Which is more important for health: exercise more or sit less?
A: Can I answer “both”? There is no doubt that sitting down is bad for us. It impacts our bodies in ways that increase our risk for everything from weight gain to heart disease. And new studies suggest that short workouts won’t negate those effects. We probably need to exercise at least an hour a day to combat long hours spent sitting. Or we can sit less and move more, interrupting our sitting posture with gentle activity but no formal exercise. Either approach is healthy, and combining them — exercising more and sitting less — is the healthiest of them all, if you can manage it.
Q: What is your favorite short workout?
A: I love fartlek, which simply means I pick a tree or other landmark when I’m walking or running and pick up the pace until I reach it. My fartlek sessions are usually brief, maybe 15 minutes. But it’s such a fun and easy way to add intensity to a workout and make the time go by faster. I never get bored when I fart.
This week’s daily life coach is Shunmyo Masuno, a monk and the author of a new book I’m reading, “Don’t Worry: 48 Lessons in Alleviating Anxiety from a Zen Buddhist Monk.”
The board: Make your evenings calm. “One of the tricks to making your evening calm is to avoid, as much as possible, having to make decisions at that time,” writes Masuno.
Why you should try it: In one study, researchers tracked the decisions of 184 chess players. The study, published in the journal Cognition, found that the most accurate decision-making occurred between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
How to do: Adding calm to your evening will vary by person. Evenings can be hectic for parents, and sometimes we have to take work home. Whatever your situation, try to carve out some time to calm down before bed. Some people may want to read a book or listen to music. Make the evening the time when you work on a craft or hobby. Light a candle. Take a bath. “When you make time for pleasure, you’ll naturally feel calmer and more at ease,” Masuno writes. “You end up improving the quality of your sleep and you’ll wake up rested and ready for your day.”
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