By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, is a pandemic that has disrupted lives around the world.
President Joe Biden signed legislation last week to end on May 11 the U.S. public health emergency—which had been declared by President Donald Trump in March 2020 to free up federal funds and resources to combat the pandemic.
Still, the virus continues to spread, causing hospitalizations and deaths.
In Washington state, there have been over 1.8 million cases, over 75,000 hospitalizations, and over 14,000 deaths. However, the World Health Organization has noted that the pandemic may soon be at an “inflection point,” and cases may drop below Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) levels, which were declared in January 2020.
One way to prevent severe illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Booster vaccines offer better protection against the Omicron variant of the virus. All COVID-19 vaccines authorized or approved in the United States are safe.
You can visit vaccinelocator.doh.wa.gov or call 1-800-525-0127 to find a place to get a COVID-19 vaccination or booster.
Masks are also important in reducing the spread of the virus, and people with COVID-19 symptoms, a positive test, or close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should wear a high-quality mask or respirator, such as an N95 mask, for 10 days when around others. Masks are also required in hospitals and recommended on trains, buses, planes, and in stations and airports. Even though the mask order in Washington ended, the Department of Health (DOH) still recommends wearing masks in specific indoor settings, such as public transportation, healthcare, and crowded work settings.
Testing is another tool to limit the spread of COVID-19. At-home COVID-19 tests are accessible and simple, and you can take them immediately if you have COVID-19 symptoms or were exposed to someone who tested positive.
Health officials also recommend that you take a test if you are going to or coming from an indoor or large outdoor gathering, or when traveling. Tests are available at no cost in many Washington zip codes, and the Say Yes! Program ships free, rapid, at-home COVID-19 test kits to residents of eligible communities. If you have health insurance, you can get home-test costs covered at the point of purchase or through reimbursement by your health plan until May 11. After that, you need to check with your insurance company on your coverage policy.
Long term effects
Another aspect of COVID-19 is long COVID. This is a variety of health conditions that begin or continue at least four weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Long COVID symptoms can include feeling tired, fever, difficulty breathing, coughing, chest pain, changes in smell and/or taste, difficulty thinking or focusing, headache, stomach pain, and changes in menstrual cycles.
Long COVID is more common in people who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine, had a severe case of COVID-19, got COVID-19 multiple times, or have underlying health conditions. However, anyone infected with COVID-19 can develop long COVID. There is no specific test or imaging study to diagnose long COVID, and symptoms can vary from person to person. If you have long COVID, work with your healthcare provider to create a personal medical management plan to improve symptoms and quality of life.
COVID-19 continues to be a serious, disruptive disease affecting large populations worldwide. While the pandemic may be at an inflection point, it is important to stay informed about prevention measures such as vaccinations, masks, and testing. Additionally, be aware of the potential for long COVID and work with your healthcare provider to manage symptoms. By staying vigilant and taking action to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we can help protect ourselves and our communities.
Made possible in part by the Washington State Department of Health through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This information does not necessarily reflect the official policies of the Washington State Department of Health or the Department of Health and Human Services.