Even though we want the COVID-19 pandemic to be over and behind us, new data has been indicating a spike in the number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations across the country.
And while this is going on, confusion about mask mandates has been making it difficult for vulnerable individuals such as myeloma patients to establish safe day-to-day habits to avoid being infected by COVID-19.
Once again, it is time to reassess the situation, clarify what actions need to be taken, manage expectations, and provide proper guidance.
Status of surges and waves
Cases of the omicron BA.2 subvariant (also known as “stealth omicron”) have been rising steadily across the U.S., but it appears that what we must watch out for is the rise of another omicron subvariant — BA.2.12.1 is turning out to be 25 percent more contagious or transmissible than BA.2 and with its rapid takeover, might become the new dominant strain sooner than later.
Additionally, according to data from the CDC, BA.2.12.1 accounted for 29 percent of new coronavirus infections as of mid-April this year.
While the more recent omicron variants have been causing less severe illness (especially among the vaccinated and boosted), the rising number of hospitalizations brought about by BA.2.12.1 is fast becoming a cause for concern.
The rise of new variants and the possibility of a “sixth wave”
Adding to this already worrisome situation is the possibility of what experts refer to as a “sixth wave,” caused by the BA.4 and BA.5 variants which originated from South Africa. New infections have been occurring among those who have been fully vaccinated and have had prior infections. It is highly likely that a “sixth wave” may occur in the U.S. in the coming months.
We need to PAY ATTENTION to these things, because the pandemic is obviously NOT over yet. “Knowledge is power” has never been truer, especially for myeloma patients who consider it as their mantra. Staying up to date on COVID-19 information and keeping track of COVID-19 community levels are more important than ever for myeloma patients.
How to stay safe during surges and waves
The following is a list of some key suggestions to stay as safe as possible.
While wearing a mask these days is more of a personal choice, mask-wearing is VERY IMPORTANT for the safety of myeloma patients. Masks have been proven effective when it comes to protecting against COVID-19 infection.
The new variants are very contagious. It may take a while before symptoms emerge and sometimes, one may already be infected before testing positive in a COVID-19 PCR test.
To achieve the best results, use an N95 or a mask of similar high-quality. Wear a mask in all situations of concern, especially in indoor spaces including public transportation (such as planes, buses, and trains), which the CDC still highly recommends.
With the current level of positive COVID-19 tests at 3.6 percent in California, Dr. Robert Wachter Chair of UC San Francisco’s Department of Medicine calculates that at a 50-person gathering, there is at least an 82 percent chance of encountering an asymptomatic infected person.
Proper ventilation always helps reduce risks. Avoid small, enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. If you can, staying outdoors is still the best choice — for example, an outside patio area.
To reduce the risk of severe illness from COVID-19, being fully vaccinated with boosters is really important for all myeloma patients.
Evusheld™, the COVID-19 antibody shot medication, is recommended as a preventative if low antibody levels are a concern.
It seems that enough supplies of Evusheld are currently available for the now recommended double-dose treatment. Patients may, however, need to work with their doctor or provider to determine which pharmacies have supplies available.
There is a similar story about Paxlovid™ antiviral treatment. If a patient tests positive for COVID-19, early use of Paxlovid by mouth is recommended. Again, supplies are available but may be difficult to find.
Remdesivir is also available as an intravenous back up.
3. Strengthening resilience
A new book, Stolen Focus by Jonathan Hari, explores why it is so difficult these days to focus and stay up to date with the information we need.
Jonathan discusses the 12 causes of stolen focus—ranging from the surge in stress to deteriorating diets, as well as pervasive disruptions caused by technology.
Chapter two, I think, is especially helpful in considering flow states when you are able to focus and get tasks completed. A key point is to perform tasks which are really important or meaningful to you, at one time and with no interruptions or distractions.
If you can, check this book out!
Another book, The Loop by Jacob Ward, continues the same theme by exploring the destructive effects of all technology we use, including the emerging impact of artificial intelligence.
Fortunately, there are some tips on to how to fight back! Stepping away from some of that forest bathing, which I have mentioned in the past, can be an option to recover focus.
The bottom line
During these difficult times, we need to stay connected, get proper support and guidance to stay safe, and achieve the best myeloma care.
The IMF’s InfoLine is always available to help and give you expert advice and support you need. Call 1-800-452-2873 and leave a message (phone lines are open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST) or email [email protected] ( please do not send email attachments or copies of lab reports).
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