Wow! It’s fall, when some of my hobbies and interests collide, and decisions need to be made about what to enjoy and when, although one solution my brothers and I have dreamed of for a number of years was recently put into place.
Since one brother just retired from teaching and another retired a while ago (one still is working), we decided to combine two sports we really enjoy into a one-day event. We had our first ever “Cast and Blast” — we went trout fishing in the morning and inline deer hunting in the afternoon. The cast part was very successful although the hunting was not; however, we still enjoyed a great time of year and the spectacular fall countryside.
Of course, we also look forward to the upcoming rifle deer season, holiday gatherings and conversations about the World Series and college football. Enjoying this time of year and anticipating the holidays make this time special to many of us in this area as it brings us closer to family and friends.
And please don’t be put off, but while we anticipate the upcoming holidays, we must initiate commonsense ways to protect ourselves, family and friends from COVID.
A concern this year is that many people think COVID is over, and that COVID is not much different than the flu. This all-too-common misconception can have tragic consequences.
Penn State is currently ranked Number Three in the Big Ten East Division. Did you know that COVID has a similar ranking, as the Number Three disease causing death in the United States last year? It was outranked by heart disease and cancer. It was the only infectious disease listed in the top ten. The flu didn’t even make the top ten.
Yes, some people think only those with underlying conditions die from COVID. Conditions such as a weakened immune system, diabetes and obesity contribute to COVID’S impact; however, COVID still gets credit for cause of death because many of these people would still be alive if they hadn’t gotten COVID.
Think about it this way. A running back scores a touch down because he had a terrific block which allowed him into the end zone. Who gets to celebrate in front of the cameras and gets credit for the score? The running back, which is not unlike COVID getting credits for deaths.
Many of you may know people who have recently had COVID, and you hear they just had a mild case. You may know people who said they were sure their symptoms were caused by a sinus infection or cold so they did not test for COVID or contact a health care provider.
As sinus infections, colds, allergies and the flu share symptoms with COVID, if they didn’t test for COVID, the only people who may know which virus they had are the ones who tested positive for COVID after an encounter with the infected person.
This is a major reason for not treating COVID like the flu. COVID is more severe and contagious than the flu and has more long-term implications than the flu.
Starting around Halloween and leading to Thanksgiving there has always been a major bump in COVID cases. As the weather becomes colder, the days shorter and gatherings move indoors, we must take seriously the potential for COVID infection.
Be prepared; have a supply of COVID tests on hand. If you have any cold, flu or sinus infection symptoms, test for COVID. You can order free tests at covid.gov/tests or call 1 800 232 0233.
If you test positive for COVID immediately isolate: stay away from other household members, mask if you must enter shared space, such as a bathroom, and do so until you test negative twice, 48 hours apart. Follow the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines at cdc.gov. Note: Paxlovid, if taken within five days when symptoms appear, reduces the infection’s severity and risk of death.
Have a supply of N95 masks available. Take one for quick use, when you’re in a crowded area or line, or are around someone displaying COVID-like symptoms.
Use hand sanitizer, and get the COVID vaccine.
As we enter flu season, please understand that the flu and COVID are two very different infectious diseases. The flu has been around for decades, and many of us get the flu vaccine each year before flu season gets underway.
COVID, on the other hand, is not seasonal. It is a year-round infectious disease, and while medical treatments have improved, it remains a disease with unknown or not fully understood outcomes. Remember, it was the third cause of death last year in the U.S. The COVID vaccine greatly reduces the risk of COVID-related hospitalization and death.
Be vigilant this holiday season. Be COVID-conscious. Protect yourself and others as you enjoy gatherings with families and friends.
Joe Smith is a native of Lycoming County and a member of Let’s end COVID! He enjoys hunting, fishing, biking, paddling and xc skiing in our area’s great outdoors.