As the pandemic continues, changes to official recommendations keep coming. Every now and then, it is helpful to take a step back and get a full picture of everything we should be doing to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities safe. Here’s everything you need to know, all in one place.
#1: When it comes to COVID-19, Vermont is one of the most highly vaccinated areas in the world. That means we are in great shape, even in the face of the Delta variant. At the same time, the virus is out there. While vaccinated people are protected from most mild illness and highly protected from serious illness, hospitalizations, and deaths, they can still catch and spread the virus.
#2: Vaccinated people should mask in some situations. For instance, they should wear a mask if they are around a person who has a weakened immune system or someone who is unvaccinated or partially vaccinated. Vaccinated people should also mask if they travel to a place with higher transmission and lower vaccination rates. You can also wear a mask just because you feel more comfortable doing so. “Wearing a mask, even if you’re fully vaccinated, is completely reasonable,” said Dr. Mark Levine, Vermont’s commissioner of health, in a press conference on Tuesday.
#3: If you are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or immune compromised, you should wear a mask in indoor public settings. It helps protect you and others. The mask contains your respiratory droplets and keeps them from reaching others. It also prevents respiratory droplets from others from finding their way into your mouth or nose. As Dr. Levine noted, masks are a simple, effective barrier between where the virus is and where it can cause us trouble.
#4: Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated and should be treated like unvaccinated adults. Follow all of the recommendations above. In addition, those from outside the child’s household should mask when indoors with the child. As noted above, people who live with unvaccinated children should mask more than those who live with fully vaccinated people.
#5: Unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, and immune compromised people should get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible. It is the best defense against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID. Locally, you can schedule a vaccine here. For more information or to walk-in for a vaccine, visit https://svhealthcare.org/COVID-19/vaccine.
#6: Immune-compromised people who received either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine are eligible for a booster shot. Read more about that here. We have heard early news about booster shots for the general public. Stay tuned for more information. We will share what we know as soon as it is official.
#7: Masks are required of everyone when they are in healthcare and long-term care settings and when they are using public transportation.
#8: Everyone should wash their hands frequently, stay home if they feel sick, and get tested if you have symptoms. Getting tested locally is easy. Visit https://svhealthcare.org/COVID-19/testing for general information and https://svmcbookcovidtest.timetap.com/ to schedule a testing appointment.
#9: Surges in the virus, like the one that is happening now, don’t last forever. In fact, the rate of growth in cases is already beginning to decline. Hang in there. We will get through this together.
At this moment, here in Vermont, these are the things that you need to do and know to stay safe. The situation can change quickly. Luckily, you can count on me and the other clinical professionals at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and the Vermont Department of Health to provide information for any changes as they arise.
Donna Barron, RN, is the infection preventionist at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.