Welcome to the new normal phase of the COVID-19 pandemic which made its way into Michigan two years ago.
“The new normal is learning how to live with the situation we’re in. At this point it appears that COVID isn’t going anywhere, and hopefully it becomes more like a seasonal flu and a lot less severe now that we have the vaccinations and more information,’’ said Dr. Jennifer Burgess, a family physician in Commerce Township who is affiliated with Henry Ford Health.
The doctor said this new normal is figuring out how to live your best life and enjoy being with people while also being safe.
COVID is still in pandemic mode because it is widespread around the world. It has not reached endemic status yet.
“I think we’re heading in the right direction, but I don’t think we’re there yet,’’ Burgess said.
It appears that COVID will be around in some form indefinitely.
Burgess said the top way to protect yourself and others is to be vaccinated and keep up with boosters.
“From there if you’re unable to get the vaccine or you’re at especially high risk for complications from COVID, be aware of what the numbers currently are,’’ Burgess said. “How high is the risk of you personally getting COVID will be important to risk-stratify and be able to make the correct choices as far as living a normal life. When to mask, where to go, all of those things we’re trying to work out right now.’’
And if anyone has any doubts or questions, Burgess recommends talking to their physician.
“It’s kind of a risk-benefit situation. What is my personal risk of complications? What is the risk of me getting it? Right now in metro Detroit things are looking fairly good as far as COVID numbers, it’s a lower risk situation right now, in a few months that could change,’’ Burgess said. “As of today it’s a lower chance of actually catching COVID because the numbers are so low.
“Also knowing what I need to do to keep my mental health good, to be in touch with family and those kinds of risk-benefit things,’’ Burgess added.
When assessing risks for yourself, mental health should factor into the equation.
“Early on, two years ago, there was so much we didn’t know, like what would happen if you got COVID. Now two years later the strain of being away from family on holidays, the strain of children not being in school and not being able to interact with their peers or be in sports,’’ Burgess said.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of higher mental health concerns related to isolation and things like that. It’s really important to consider that when considering your risks for COVID.’’
She mentioned the increase of obesity in children and adults from being more sedentary and the lack of interaction with other people as reasons to be aware of mental health issues.
“I think it’s imperative to weigh those risks and benefits of the illness of COVID versus the internal emotional complications that can come from being isolated,’’ Burgess said.
It’s also important to factor in those who are younger than 5 who can’t be vaccinated or maybe an older parent or grandparent who is at high risk.
A healthy lifestyle is always important but the benefits of it became more clear during the pandemic when people with comorbidities like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, often suffered the worst outcomes.
Because COVID numbers can fluctuate it’s important to keep knowledgeable.
“It’s good to keep an awareness of what’s going on, but not overwhelm yourself with that kind of information because it’s easy to get sucked into the worry and fear and maybe of complacency of constantly reading things on social media, constantly trying to google things about COVID,’’ Burgess said. “I think it’s keeping an ear open without obsessing to help protect mental health. I’ve seen patients get so fearful of COVID that they won’t go out at all. There’s a mixture of not becoming completely obsessed but also being aware.’’
She suggests always thinking with a critical mind. If you read something on social media or hear something from a friend, fact check the information.
“The other challenging thing over the past two years is things have been constantly changing and we’re learning new information constantly because we’re watching science in real time,’’ Burgess said. “Usually science happens in the background, but we’ve been seeing it in real time.’’