6 Ways to Guard Against Coronavirus Variants in 2021

Certain actions could offer additional protection from SARS-CoV-2 variants.

Posted Jan 22, 2021

As our country just passed 410,000 deaths from COVID-19 and several coronavirus variants are appearing—some seeming to be more contagious and/or able to reinfect people who had previously been infected by another variant—I recommend these 6 actions to my family and friends:

1. Get a better face mask.

If you are in a closed environment with other people (in stores, places of worship, airplanes, or other public transportation, etc.), upgrade your face mask. Instead of using a homemade cloth mask, use a surgical mask. They are easy to order over the internet. 

Better yet, order N95 masks, which offer the best protection against COVID-19 in a closed environment. N95 masks are more expensive, but they are worth the investment because they could save your life. KN95 masks are more affordable, but studies show that N95 masks offer better protection when they are worn the right way.  

When you wear an N95 mask, make sure the elastic around your head seals the mask at the bottom of your chin, on the side of your cheeks, and on top of your nose. Make sure you place the little thin metallic part of the mask over the top of your nose and pinch it so that it fits tightly around the upper part of your nose, making it a tight seal.

And please, do cover your nose as well as your mouth. I still see too many people leaving their noses out of their face masks.

For additional protection, you can use an additional transparent face shield.

2. Physical distancing. 

Please continue practicing physical distancing of at least six feet from other people—in addition to wearing face masks—and continue using hand sanitizers after touching foreign objects or surfaces. I still see too many people with face masks not practicing physical distancing. Both are needed. 

Make sure you wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before eating and before touching your nose or mouth.

A recent study (January 2021) published in The Lancet shows that places where people report wearing masks and practicing social distancing have better control of the pandemic than places where people don’t wear masks and don’t practice social distancing. 

3. Get a COVID vaccine, if possible.

Make an appointment as soon as you can for a COVID-19 vaccine shot. Take whatever shot is offered to you. You might not have a choice of which vaccine to get. The sooner you are vaccinated, the sooner you will be protected. Clinical trials show that you will be less likely to get COVID-19 after you are vaccinated and if you get the disease, you will likely get a milder case than without vaccination.

4. Do not attend big gatherings of family or friends without masks.

For your protection and that of others, please do not attend large gatherings without wearing a mask and social distancing.

Right now, there is a race between how fast we can vaccinate people versus how fast the virus infects people. As an extra 100,000 people are expected to die every month at the beginning of 2021, it would break my heart to see you, dear family member or friend, having to fight for your life alone in an ICU, being short of breath despite being on oxygen when one month later you could be vaccinated and protected. 

The vaccine will protect you, but it might not be able to protect your unvaccinated loved ones as you still may be contagious if you get in contact with an infected individual.

5. Isolate if you are sick.

If you are sick with fever, cough, and loss of smell or taste, you potentially have COVID-19.  

Per the CDC guidelines, please, isolate yourself from your family and friends as soon as possible for 10 days if your symptoms are mild to moderate and for 20 days if your symptoms are severe or if you are immunosuppressed because you are probably very contagious. Do not go shopping (even with a mask on) if you have active COVID or if you have just been in contact with somebody with COVID.

6. Do not make a health problem a political one.

In the future, don’t make a medical problem a political one. A medical problem should remain medical because time is of the essence and political battles slow things down.

A pandemic due to a new virus needs to be addressed as quickly as possible by the world, by countries united within each country and with each other in their new fight to save lives. Actions need to be coordinated and science needs to lead.  

Why is this important for the future?

Because what we have been going through with COVID-19 since March 2020, might happen all over again in the future whether it is with a completely new virus or with a variant of this coronavirus against which the current vaccines might not protect.

A loss of 410,000 American people, and probably soon, half a million people due to a new virus should never happen again. 

Hopefully, we can learn from our mistakes.