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It’s me, Pam Marino, now approaching my two-year anniversary of covering Covid-19. This virus has touched every portion of our personal lives and seeped into the crevices of all public life. On Tuesday night, I watched the Carmel City Council meeting discussion on whether to continue parklets, in which Councilmember Carrie Theis opened her comments with: “Here we are again, folks, and unfortunately Covid has not gotten any better.”

We all know it to be true. Theis said she personally knows five people who tested positive for Covid in the last week. I’m guessing most of us now know someone who recently tested positive.

That’s thanks to the omicron variant hitting the population just as people began gathering for the holidays, while many of us simultaneously said “enough” to denying ourselves those gatherings after nearly two years.

Omicron is now surpassing the delta variant in the region. Monterey County Health Officer Edward Moreno told reporters in a briefing yesterday that most samples genetically sampled by the county’s Public Health Laboratory are showing the omicron variant, while delta is decreasing.

As a result, cases are on the rise again: Monterey County went from a seven-day case rate of 17.3 cases per 100,000 residents on Dec. 27, to 26.1 cases per 100,000 on Jan. 5, according to the California Department of Public Health. Hospitalized patients went from 29 people on Jan. 1 to 57 as of Jan. 5, with 11 of them in the ICU.

If the research out of South Africa is correct, omicron is less deadly than delta—good news for many (not all) individuals who become infected, meaning we are less likely to wind up in a hospital or die—but it still has the power to disrupt society, as we’re seeing in the Northeast and other sections of the country. 

With increasing numbers of people testing positive requiring a minimum of five days of isolation (followed by five days of wearing a mask around everyone, per the CDC), that means less employees coming into work, including fewer health care workers, first responders, teachers, truck drivers and others critical to keeping the community running. No government official needs to shut things down, they’re going to shut down themselves.

I have not lost hope, however, and I encourage the same to you. There are still things we can do to continue the fight against Covid. First, let’s adjust our thinking from ending Covid to managing it, as Editor Sara Rubin wote in last week’s Spin column. 

Second, if you or your children age 5 and up are not vaccinated against Covid, or if you are 12 and older and have not received a booster shot, do it now. The vaccines are proving themselves to be safe. Anyone who says they are not is tragically misinformed. Go to montereycountyvaccines.com for vaccination sites.

And if you haven’t already, get a flu shot. The first case of flurona, a confluence of influenza and the coronavirus, was detected in Los Angeles yesterday. Like the Covid vaccine, it’s not just for you personally, it’s for the community, to protect those who cannot protect themselves. You can find information on where to get flu vaccines here.

Third, if you have symptoms, get a test and then stay home and away from others until you get a result. If you were exposed to someone who has Covid, wear a mask and get tested three to five days after exposure. If you’ve been traveling or attended a large event, get tested three to fives days after returning. You do not have to pay for a test, either rapid or PCR. Go to montereycountyvaccines.com for up-to-date information of where to go throughout the county. 

Fourth, get prepared to isolate or quarantine, should you or anyone in your household test positive or be exposed to the virus. Make sure you’ve got a supply of food and other essentials for at least five days on hand. Read up on how to isolate and quarantine correctly so you don't infect others. You can find updated CDC instructions here

Last, but certainly not least, keep wearing masks out in public. Double-layered, tight fitting above the nose, on the sides and under the chin. The CDPH yesterday extended California’s temporary mask mandate from Jan. 15 to Feb. 15.

It will get better. How fast it gets better is up to all of us.

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