Coronavirus didn’t go away with the new year. Instead, it mutated into a handful of new strains. Learn about the shifting state of the pandemic and find out how you can keep your family safe.
All About the New Coronavirus Strains
Viruses mutate constantly, and different versions of COVID-19 have been circulating since the beginning of the pandemic. However, the CDC has noted that at least 3 particularly potent new strains have managed to set themselves apart from the minor mutations that appear in local populations.
The most widespread of these strains is B.1.1.7, which appeared in Britain during the fall of 2020 and is currently present in both Europe and North America. The other two strains include 1.351, which originated in Africa, and P.1, which originated in Brazil. Neither of these two strains have made their way to the United States as of January 2021.
All 3 of these strains spread more quickly than other types of COVID-19. Luckily, at this stage of research, the CDC has found no evidence that any of these strains are likely to cause more severe symptoms or significantly increase the chance of death. At this point, it looks like catching any form of COVID-19 will make you equally ill, so it’s best to try and avoid contracting the disease in the first place.
Masks: The Best Prevention Strategy
COVID-19 is an airborne virus, which means that the best way to keep yourself safe is to wear a mask. By now, everyone knows that they need to cover their face – but they might not actually know how to maintain a proper mask regimen. Using a mask incorrectly is almost as dangerous as not wearing a mask at all; if you want to stay extra safe, make sure to follow these suggestions.
- Own multiple masks. Whether you prefer disposable or reusable masks, owning as many as possible will increase your chances of success. Keep a box of disposable masks in your car. You should also have between 3-7 different reusable masks that you can switch out as the workweek continues.
- Change masks between stops. Once a mask has been worn into and out of an environment, it should be considered to be contaminated. For perfect safety, change your mask every time you visit a different building or social situation. Disposable masks are a great choice for quick stops at the grocery store or gas station.
- Wear masks indoors. Plan on wearing a mask whenever you’re in an indoor environment with people who are not part of your immediate family or social circle. Masks are especially necessary for business settings and retail establishments.
- Unmask when you get home. Contaminated masks should be removed in the entryway of your house. Consider having a bin to drop masks into until you’re ready to wash them. Don’t keep wearing a mask longer than you have to; breathing through a dirty mask increases your risk of exposure.
- Wash masks regularly. Reusable masks need to be washed between every use. Use hot water and a strong soap to achieve the best results. If possible, wash masks separately from your other laundry. Remember to dry the mask completely before you wear it out.
Shopping Strategy During the Pandemic
Grocery stores and retail establishments are the places where you’re most likely to catch one of the new strains of COVId-19. However, as much as most people would like to start shopping entirely online, the truth is that some items are needed long before the courier can deliver them. If you’re forced to go out to the store, you should take steps to limit your risk of exposure.
The first thing you can do is reduce the amount of time you spend shopping. Longer shopping trips have a higher risk of exposure. Walk into the store with a plan, grab the items you need, and check out while limiting your contact with other customers. Although there’s no need to rush, you should avoid wandering through the aisles like you may have done before the pandemic.
Next, try using a fresh mask when you enter the store, and remember to take it off as soon as you leave. This will make sure that you don’t keep breathing through a contaminated mask once you’ve left the dangerous environment.
As a final trick, remember to use hand sanitizer when you’re handling money at the checkout stand. Credit card terminals are touched by hundreds of customers throughout the day, but a squirt of sanitizer both before and after can greatly reduce your risk.
Social Bubbles and Safe Engagements
As the pandemic wears on, more and more people are admitting that extended isolation is bad for their psychology. Although it’s not safe to resume gathering as normal, most pandemic survivors are looking for a way to reconnect with close family and friends.
The safest way to resume socializing is through a method called “bubbling.” Essentially, a social bubble is a group of people who tend to interact with one another. If one person in the group catches COVID-19, everyone else is at risk, which is why social bubbles are trusted with each other’s well-being. Small social bubbles make contact tracing easier and limit overall exposure. Don’t let your social bubble get bigger than 10 people; larger groups are almost impossible to contain.
Aside from hanging out with the people in your bubble, you should try to reach out to your extended social circle through online engagement. Start group chats, invite people to weekly Zoom calls, and generally make a habit of getting in touch with people that you don’t want to lose contact with. There’s no telling how long this pandemic will continue; if a relationship is important to you, you’ll need to work to maintain it.
Overall, not much has changed since the new coronavirus strains have been discovered. As the world accepts that the pandemic isn’t going to end anytime soon, the new definition of normal has stretched to include safe procedures that allow people to live their daily lives.