For many Californians, June 15 has been a date clearly marked on the calendar. It’s the day when many COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted, and with that, comes a significant change of lifestyle. While it doesn’t mean the end of COVID precautions altogether, it does see a shift in social distancing rules and mask usage requirements.
While the easing of these restrictions is welcomed by some, with many individuals suffering from mask and social distancing exhaustion, experts advise that this abrupt change in lifestyle can bring with it some trepidation and anxiety, and that it’s not a change that needs to be taken quickly or aggressively.
Dr Michael Daignault is an ER doctor in Los Angeles and chief medical advisor for Reliant Health Services, and has worked through the pandemic on the front line at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center. He’s served as the medical expert for ABC7 and CBS9, and says that the reopening of California represents a remarkable achievement - both a solemn remembrance of all those we lost as well as a hopeful final lap towards victory. These are his 8 recommendations when it comes to staying healthy during California’s reopening.
1. Get Vaccinated
Dr Daignault argues that California reached its reopening phase due to the widespread uptake of vaccinations across the state. While 72% of adult Californians have received at least one dose of a vaccine, Daignault has concerns for those who are not yet vaccinated. “Unfortunately there are still counties in California with rates in the 20s% and 30s% and I worry about them,” he says. The delta variant is quickly becoming the predominant strain in the US - 10% of new cases are now delta. Its more contagious than the alpha variant which had been the dominant strain. If we look at the UK, even with 3/4 adults vaccinated, they are experiencing a surge in delta cases, mostly among unvaccinated young adults. So basically even with high rates of vaccination, the delta variant will exploit that small unvaccinated segment and quickly cause an outbreak due its contagious nature.” He also reminds us that protection against the delta variant with only one dose is just 34%, and that you need two doses to get the maximum protection.
2. Ditch The Mask Outside
You don’t need a mask to walk around or exercise outside, and when it comes to indoors and businesses, I look at it on a case-by-case basis.
While it might take a little bit to get used to, Daignault recommends ditching the mask outside, and breathing in that fresh California air. “Studies show it's extremely unlikely to catch Covid outside even if not vaccinated,” he says. “You don’t need a mask to walk around or exercise outside, and when it comes to indoors and businesses, I look at it on a case-by-case basis.” So how does he decide whether or not to wear a mask inside? For restaurants, Daignault says he looks at if eating outside is an option. “I still opt for that vs indoors just because it’s California, and we have great weather all the time. And, it’s less noisy and stuffy anyways.” An avid fitness enthusiast, when it comes to working out at a gym, he’s a little more cautious. “It depends,” he says. “It it’s not crowded I feel very comfortable not wearing a mask. If it gets crowded, I might elect to keep it on because its not a big deal for me to wear it.”
3. Be Kind And Patient With Yourself
Daignault explains that everyone is at a different pace when it comes to processing these lifestyle changes, and that there’s no right or wrong speed when it comes to making these adjustments. “If you still want to wear a mask indoors at grocery store or gym, please do so. It’s been a rough scary year. Take your time. Don't be shamed to mask/unmask. Do what feels best for you. There is no risk-free activity when it comes to covid, or life in general.”
4. Now Is A Great Time To Restart A Gym Routine Or Start Working Out
Many people have been using the reopening as a way of kickstarting a fitness program, or getting back into regular routine. But Daignault warns that it’s important to start slowly if you haven’t worked out in a while. He also suggests that keeping fit and healthy will help your body protect itself against COVID, along with getting vaccinated. “Just as I wouldn’t tell someone who is obese and has lots of chronic medical problems that the vaccine will 100% protect them, I also wouldn't advise a young healthy person that their exercise regimen and diet will 100% protect them against covid.”
5. Ask Businesses What Their Vaccine Policy Is
“People will likely choose a business based on the vaccine status of its employees,” says Daignault. He believes in doing your research, and finding out if staff are vaccinated ahead of time, if it’s a concern. “If you're heading out to the barber shop or stylist for the first time, ask them if their employees are vaccinated. You'll feel much more comfortable!”
6. Check In With Your Primary Doctor Or Sign Up With One
With the closure of some non urgent medical centers and specialist offices, many people didn’t follow up with their regularly scheduled medical appointments, like colonoscopies and mammograms. “We see a lot of patients in the ER now with acute exacerbations of chronic medical problems because they werent able to or were too scared to see their doctor,” says Daignault. “Now is a good time to check back in, and get on top of appointments that you may have put off.”
7. Testing Is Still Important
Not all tests are created equal, explains Daignault. With testing still encouraged by medical professionals, and required in some instances for work and travel, Daignault encourages us to speak to a medical professional about which test is the best for our particular circumstance. “If you've been exposed and worry you contracted covid but have no symptoms, a PCR test is appropriate. But if you have symptoms, a rapid antigen test might be more suitable.”
8. Get Out And Travel
Every week, countries are changing their entry restrictions for international travel, and welcoming tourists. While the idea of jetting off overseas after a long hiatus is appealing for many suffering from wanderlust, it’s important to make sure you’re aware of the travel requirements, specifically when it comes to testing. Daignault, who also acts as medial advisor for Reliant Health Services, advises bringing multiple testing kits with you while traveling, to avoid getting stuck scrounging for tests overseas. “Companies like Reliant Health Services offer point-of-care tests that you can do yourself in your room with a medical professional watching you over video, and you then get an emailed certificate sent to you, that you’re able to use for your travel purposes. In our case, it’s the most accurate rapid antigen test on the market.”
COVID-19 has changed our daily lifestyle as we know it, and for many, the adjustment back to the new normal is a challenging and long process. But it’s important to recognize that we can make this transition at our own pace, and that tips like the ones discussed above, can help us lead a healthy and happy life in this new world.