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The onus is on us to self-protect

There’s a lot to keep track of in the world these days — it is almost too much to bear.

Last week I was thinking how enormously grateful I am that COVID-19 is not something I have to worry about. I go out unmasked most days and have relaxed my hand-washing protocols. I cleaned out my fat file on coronavirus information to make more room for one on gardening tips. Understandable I think. You too? Maybe not. I hope not, in fact.

The sobering reality I have been trying to ignore lately was vividly presented to me when my smarter-than-average husband made sure we had appointments for the newly available second COVID-19 booster shot. I believe he made the appointments the day availability was announced. I know he loves me, but it was reinforced when Moderna appointments showed up on our calendar — in a large dark font.

On the scheduled date, we sought out a grocery store we don’t often use, waited a few minutes outside of its pharmacy, offered up vaccination and health insurance cards, received a poke in the arm (rather lightly it seemed — almost imperceptible) and went home with four store coupons and a colorful Band-Aid resting on the injection sites.

It had been nine months since our last (make that “first” booster shot), and we are an immunocompromised household, so we stepped up when the opportunity presented itself. If you are over age 50, may I, in a friendly way, recommend you do so too.

Such a simple approach to averting or lessening the likelihood of a major health issue. Whether we embrace the idea, the new strain of virus termed BA.2, a subvariant of the highly infectious omicron variant, is waiting to strike.

If you look at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s color-coded website, which shows community levels for COVID-19 around the country, you will see most of it is “a welcoming green.” But there are cautionary yellow areas in Texas and the Northeast and “orange-colored hot spots” in Montana and the Dakotas.

I know. I know. We are averse to thinking about another life-changing COVID period. But in this world where, as we are seeing clearly in Ukraine, anything can happen, why not do what you can to be prepared for the worst.

It won’t take a lot to ensure you have a well-marked container of high quality masks available. Masks are no longer required in most settings, so the onus is on us to self-protect. My personal gauge is when I am in a store and see a number of people wearing masks, I put one on. It might be faulty reasoning on my part, but I worry that if I see someone wearing a mask, it is because they are not vaccinated. Or they are vaccinated but highly vulnerable. They are self-protecting. So I will too.

Another protection is having available the home-COVID self-tests the government is providing, and some pharmacies are giving out free. We have a full drawer of tests and have, several times, given them to at-risk neighbors. Isn’t this what friends are for?

Sharon Johnson is a retired health educator. Reach her at sharjohn99@gmail.com.