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This past week became the first true vacation I had since the start of the pandemic, which was almost three years ago. 

It was amazing to finally be able to get away—re-experience traveling, visit my favorite places and restaurants, and reunite with so many old friends. 

However, so much has changed because of COVID-19. Mixed with a deep desire to move forward to resume normal activities is a lingering anxiety because nothing is quite the same and the future remains uncertain. 

As I compared notes with friends, I realized that there still exists a shared trauma within the group, brought about by the pandemic. As we coped with our own tragic loss, we honored the memory of those who are no longer with us. 

While work and living continue, we are all dealing with unfamiliar patterns and frequent changes that we need to adapt to. We demonstrate our resilience by living with the “new normal”—virtually interacting through Zoom calls whilst trying to ward off the fatigue that comes with too much screen time. Unfortunately, the impact of COVID-19 infections (whether long COVID or recurrent) is still a reality for many. 

Despite that, I am still thankful for the sheer joy brought about by renewed friendships and wonderful reunions, for being engaged with and encouraged by others to reconnect again soon as we collectively fight a still ongoing battle with COVID-19, and for the thrill of being able to appreciate the beauty of nature around us. Great food, great company definitely helped smooth the way forward! 

COVID-19 Status Update

Meanwhile, COVID-19 variants continue to evolve. While community levels of COVID-19 infections have significantly dropped, lingering infections, hospitalizations, and deaths have not yet ceased. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci made note of a suspicious new subvariant, which might start to evolve and become “troublesome.” He is referring to BA.2.75.2, which has increasingly become more prevalent and was recently noted in Los Angeles County, as reported by L.A. Times.

According to Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer, the BA.2.75.2 subvariant may be “potentially worrisome” as “it may both evade prior protections [of immunity] and not respond to some of our currently available treatments,” said L.A. Times in its report, while noting that “three specimens of BA.2.75.2 have been detected in L.A. County.”

Will this subvariant truly emerge in the coming winter months? Dr. Fauci strongly advises the public to stay alert and remain diligent. 

Taking prompt action to curtail a new surge of infections is necessary but nonetheless challenging. The broad use of masks may be strongly recommended again. The antiviral Paxlovid may become a lifesaver, if accepted more broadly. 

A recent article by David Leonhardt in The Morning newsletter of the N.Y. Times summarizes the huge variation in adopting this important antiviral treatment from state to state—unfortunately, in a rather political fashion. 

As a counterpoint, CNN more recently reported on how Paxlovid “can interact with common heart medications” as warned by doctors. 

Because of mental fatigue and our collective desire to move on, it is understandable to find it difficult to exercise due diligence. However, we still need to pay attention, stay focused, and take advantage of all the tools at our disposal (as I’ve previously reiterated countless times before).

Taking the antibody treatment Evusheld, getting vaccinated with new variant-specific vaccine boosters, and wearing high-quality masks, especially in situations of risk and potential exposure are still strongly advised. 

The Bottom Line

Even a brief getaway can be reinvigorating. After all, unwinding is an important part of treatment and should be done whenever feasible. Socializing and being able to hug your COVID-negative family members and friends really make a difference and can be lifesaving. 

This is how we’ve been for most of our lives and striving to get back to that kind of “normal” is key. This is my heartfelt message while I’m on vacation. 
 

Translations:

Spanish


Image of Dr. Brian G.M. DurieProfessor of Medicine, Hematologist/Oncologist, and Honoree MD at the University of Brussels, Dr. Brian G.M. Durie is the Chairman of the Board and Chief Scientific Officer of the IMF. Dr. Durie is also the Chairman of the International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG)—a consortium of more than 250 myeloma experts from around the world—and leads the IMF’s Black Swan Research Initiative® (BSRI). 

 

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