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The COVID Mask Mandate has ended in most of the U.S. and most of the states. And, unfortunately, and most likely due to political pressures, the CDC has changed its guidelines for measuring risk and keeping communities and individuals safe. But the pandemic is not over, and two new variants are circulating, and more are sure to come – and not all variants will be “mild”. Even so-called “mild” variants have still managed to sicken and kills thousands of people, and produce “long COVID” cases.
Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) urges you to still continue to practice safety measures to keep yourself, your loved ones, and our community safe from COVID. Also, we want to let you know of resources that can help keep you safe.
Mask mandates are over – but we at CCHCC are continuing to mask up. Although the mask mandates are over, the virus is still circulating, and we are still in a pandemic. The pandemic is world-wide, and as long the virus continues to circulate (due to inadequate vaccination rates, reduction of precautions, travel, etc.), there will be new variants, and new cycles of increases in infections.
Remember that the singular purpose of the virus is to replicate itself – this is literally its reason for being – and it can only do that by infecting people. It is a very determined virus, and we are not yet out of the woods with it.
The bottom line is that you can still get infected and sick from the virus, because it is still circulating. People who are at high-risk due to age, pre-existing conditions, autoimmune and autoinflammatory conditions, or unknown genetic conditions, can get very sick and die from this virus. Also, you might be at risk for severe illness and not even know it – not everyone is aware of whether or not they have an underlying condition. But whether you get sick from COVID or not, you can still infect others, and they can get sick.
The perils of COVID go beyond the initial illness and a person’s ability to survive that illness. Long COVID is estimated to affect up to 30% of those who had COVID. It is estimated that approximately 23.44 million Americans have long COVID and many are now disabled by this illness. No one knows how long this can last, but we do know that all organ systems in the body can be affected. Epidemiologists predict that the health “footprint” of COVID will be vast and long-lasting.
Asymptomatic or “mild” cases of COVID are not benign. The medical and scientific communities are learning that even asymptomatic or “mild” infections can cause long-term lasting damage to the brain and cardiovascular system in a significant proportion of people who ever had the virus. The long-term impacts are no joke, and can be devastating. In addition, people with asymptomatic and “mild” cases can also spread COVID.
The virus, in numbers – not a pretty picture. As of the writing of this letter, the unofficial U.S. COVID toll is over 79.4 million cases, and over 966,000 deaths (we are nearing 1 million deaths!).
CCHCC recommends continued precautions.
• Keep masking up! Wear a mask when you are indoors with other people – especially around people who are not part of your “bubble”. This includes when you go to the grocery store, etc. Wear an N95 or KN95 mask if possible.
• Wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Wash for 20 seconds with soap and water, rubbing the soap and water all over your hand, including between your fingers and thumbs and up to your wrist. Make sure to fully dry your hands. Viruses thrive in damp environments.
• Continue to socially distance when you are around others who are not in your “bubble”. Keep 6 feet from other people AND wear your mask!
• Ventilate indoor environments when people gather (this can be as simple as opening windows and doors to create a cross-breeze).
Resources are available! There are many tools available to fight this virus, including vaccines and boosters, as well as free masks and testing kits.
To find where you can go to get vaccinated or boosted and where to get tested, please visit the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District website at: https://www.c-uphd.org/
Our work is much harder and more time-consuming during the pandemic. CCHCC’s work to provide free services to consumers, including health insurance enrollment, is much harder during the pandemic while we work remotely and practice social-distancing. We have many more people in need of our services, and providing direct services to consumers is more complicated and time-consuming, but we continue to work with individuals and families, using all the tools available, including phone, email, zoom, text, U.S. mail, and working with people “in the field”. We continue to work “remotely” in order to keep our staff, clients, and our community safe. If you need help with any of these resources, or help applying for health insurance, please contact CCHCC by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 217-352-6533.
No Annual Awards Dinner. For the third year in a row, CCHCC is foregoing our favorite event, our Annual Awards Dinner. It is simply not safe to hold large, indoor gatherings featuring food and drink. We miss seeing everyone, and look forward to a time when we can gather again!
Thank you for your support! We appreciate your financial support for our services, and your help getting the word out to others about CCHCC. Together, we are working to help our community survive the pandemic, and building a stronger, healthier community. Together, we are giving the gift of health!