We Now Have a New and Different COVID Problem
I am so sick and tired of COVID. Likely so are you, and so are lots and lots of other people, which may partly explain what is currently happening with the virus. I think a lot of people have let down their guard, possibly just from pure fatigue. With the risk dramatically greater than ever before, even if you keep doing the same safeguards (no COVID fatigue!), you are at increased risk. In this post, I want to explain the new risk and give you the information and tools you need to be safe (even in the current environment) while maximizing your freedom to live your life and earn a living.
COVID is the worst it’s been (by far) since this all began. Georgia is in the worst-hit five states right now. Look at the graph below. Remember the huge outbreak at the end of July? Compare July on the graph to where we are now.
To continue with all this “happy news,” there are new variants of the virus. Variants from the UK and Brazil are much more contagious. TAKE AWAY: If you don’t change your COVID response in light of this new reality, your risk will increase substantially. But if you try to do everything possible to stay safe, your mental and financial health may suffer.
IMPORTANCES: Taking ONLY the Most Effective Actions
The way to thrive despite COVID is to be smart. If you can identify the most effective ways to stay safe and the best ways to have the freedom to live your life without significantly increasing your risk, YOU WIN!
Dr. Billiot’s COVID Short List of Smart Actions
- Understand the way COVID spreads so that your precautions 1) WORK and 2) ARE NOT EXCESSIVE.
- Create a personal (and family) set of guidelines and policies, so you have already decided how to handle everyday situations. (Here is my list for you to use).
- Take all possible actions to boost your immune system and improve your health. If you have a “pre-existing condition” that puts you at high risk for a severe COVID case, this is absolutely the very best time to get this under control.
Below is more information on each of these three points.
1. Understanding COVID Spread
According to the CDC, WHO, and just about every researcher who has studied COVID, people mainly get sick from airborne particles. Initially, it was thought that the main risk was tiny liquid droplets expelled when talking, singing, coughing, or sneezing. This still seems correct, but now we also know that COVID is spread through “aerosols” or tiny particles that stay airborne and travel long distances. To get infected, you must be exposed to enough of these particles over enough time for them to build up to “critical mass” in your nasal cavities. Then, it moves down into your lower respiratory area and lungs.
2. Creating a Personal List of Guidelines and Policies to Stay Safe
Risk evaluation is my “silver bullet” to flourishing during the pandemic. Everything that I do, I evaluate the risk first and then take appropriate precautions. When you leave the great outdoors, your “risk antennae” need to go up.
- Inside a vast space with 20-foot ceilings (big box or grocery store): Get in and out quickly, and you are fine.
- Walk into a small restaurant to pick up your to-go order: 5-second assessment: Low ceilings, feels like stagnant air, can see five people in the space. “Excuse me; I will wait outside. Can you bring out my order? Thanks.” Total elapsed time in the restaurant: 15 seconds.
Number One Risk Factor: VENTILATION. How many virus particles are you exposed to per second, and are these particles diluted and blown away with adequate ventilation? Number Two Risk Factor: TIME. How many seconds are you exposed to virus particles? The particles build up in your nasal passages over time. Once “critical mass” is achieved, you can be infected. Number Three Risk Factor: EXPOSURE OF PEOPLE you will be close to for more than a couple of minutes. Are you getting your hair cut? Are you visiting with friends or family? Are you working in the same room with a co-worker? Be very aware, and be unafraid to ask personal questions. Do these people always wear masks? Do they live with people who have risky professions (EMT, Fireman, nurse, grocery store worker, etc.)? Do they eat inside at restaurants? Do they have high school students going to school in-person?
- If you can keep others far away in a well-ventilated space, there is less risk. But that risk increases with the time you spend with them.
- With a hair cut, you are very close to the person for 20 to 30 minutes. This is a high, high risk unless you are confident they are extremely careful. But even then, they are regularly exposed to people close-up for long periods. This is where you would want to wear a KN95 mask (see below).
Number Four Risk Factor: SURFACES. You are very unlikely to get COVID from touching surfaces on containers at the grocery or an Amazon package. However, door handles and grocery carts can be hazardous if someone else has touched them in the past couple of hours. Handwashing, hand sanitizer, and not touching your face are all part of your defenses.
- Avoid being in risky situations in the first place.
- Wear a mask. In higher-risk environments, wear a KN95 (see below) or double-up and wear two masks.
- Stay away from other people. Don’t get close, don’t let them get close to you, either. Avoid situations where this is impossible (airplanes). Uber? Sit in the back seat, passenger side, and keep your windows open. Wear a double mask.
- Avoid crowds. The problem here is in the math. The more people, the greater the chance that at least one of them is actively shedding viruses. Check out this tool from Georgia Tech to fully understand how this works.
- Keep it short! Either avoid going into public buildings entirely (curbside pickup, delivery, etc.) or make it as quick as possible. You are better off doing 15 minutes of grocery shopping one day and 15 minutes the next rather than spend 30 minutes in the store.
- Wash your hands or use sanitizer every time you get a chance.
Masks have been shown to provide “significant protection against the transmission of aerosol particles.” Virus particles are so tiny that it would seem they would go right through a cloth mask. But by having multiple layers in the mask, an electrostatic barrier is set up that filters even the tiny aerosols. Masks are not created equal. The N95 mask (also called a respirator) seals against your face and filters almost all particles. It can reduce your risk substantially should you encounter a cloud of virus particles. The CDC does not recommend this mask for the general public due to preserving supplies for health care workers. However, you may find supplies of the KN95 masks, which are similar. These are slightly less effective (they are made to Chinese, not US standards). Using a cloth or surgical mask for general use is sufficient and protects those around you should you have COVID and not realize it. Having a KN95 mask that you reserve for use in high-risk environments (going into stores or buildings with other people in them) is a great idea. Here’s a link to buy KN95 masks. If they’re out, here’s another source.
This was the first recommendation back in March of 2020 and continues to be effective. What has been less effective is decontaminating or wiping everything down. The virus is fragile and can’t live long outside the body. Concentrating on keeping your hands disinfected rather than wiping everything in sight is more effective. Keep that hand sanitizer bottle in your car cupholder!
In your life, you may have a relationship with high-risk category people. These are elderly or sick (cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, obese) people. Pregnant women, babies (under a year), and children with asthma are also at high risk. If you visit this category of people, I recommend that you ONLY meet with them outside, distances AND with a mask on both of you.
3. Boost Your Immune System
If you are not in a high-risk category for a severe COVID case (under 65, good physical condition, no chronic illness), then you may need to do a simple immune boost:
- Vitamin C 500 mg
- Zinc 30 mg
- Vitamin D 200 mg
- Eat fresh, whole foods and stop junk and fast foods.
- Severely reduce or eliminate sugar (Here’s a link to why this is imperative!)
If You Have a Chronic Illness
With COVID, everyone else is walking a balance beam that’s six inches off the ground. If they slip, it’s usually recoverable. With your health condition, you are walking a balance beam that’s 20 feet off the ground. Slipping will have dire consequences. There are solutions, however, to live without stress and worry.
“Last week, when I had COVID, I thought I was going to die. It was terrible, but I made it through. I am certain that if I had not been on a health program with Dr. Billiot for the past year, I would never have survived.” –Current Patient
The Evidence (If you have a chronic illness, this part is very applicable to you)
To date, the US has had about 25% of all COVID deaths worldwide, even though we have just 4% of the world’s population. Something is seriously amiss. A clue to this appeared in a Lancet article by three Johns Hopkins physicians linking overweight to more severe COVID cases. The CDC has published an entire chart of pre-existing conditions that worsen COVID cases, ranging from kidney disease to diabetes. It would seem that the disparity of deaths in the US is linked to the fact that we are less healthy than many other countries. You can’t fix the US lifestyle and health problems, BUT… You CAN do something about your health. You can do something even if your doctor has told you that you are a “diabetic” and will always be a diabetic. Even if you’ve been told you will be on (hypertension / thyroid / heart / antidepressants / etc.) drugs for the rest of your life. BUT there is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all solution. What you need to do is different from everyone else. But it CAN BE DONE, and you CAN BE MUCH HEALTHIER.
Here is where to get started:
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