By Dr. Bora Shin
Pediatrician, KCS Health Center & Children’s Health of Orange County
Picnics, camping, beach trips, pool parties – these are all part of summer fun in California. To make sure your vacations, family gatherings and summer celebrations stay COVID free, I’m sharing a few tips and precautions to keep you and your family safer.
I know we may be tired of pandemic restrictions and we are ready to celebrate and have fun, but these tips are especially important this summer. As of early July, 38 of California’s 58 counties were experiencing high case rates and hospitalizations and a recent study found that the COVID-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy of Californians by about three years.
A few precautions now can save you or your loved ones from serious illness, a hospital stay, or worse.
- GET VACCINATED AND BOOSTED WHEN ELIGIBLE – Vaccination remains the best protection against the worst outcomes of COVID-19, namely hospitalization and death. Vaccines are now available and recommended for everyone six months of age and up, and boosters are available for everyone five years of age and up. If you need a COVID vaccine or a booster, go to MyTurn.ca.gov to schedule your appointment.
- WHEN INDOORS, MASK UP – While requirements have loosened nationwide, it is still recommended that people wear a well-fitting mask in crowded indoor settings, including busy airports and crowded airplanes, especially when you are not sure of the vaccine status of everyone around you.
- SICK? STAY HOME – If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, stay home and get tested. It is better to be safe than sorry. While it might be a bummer to miss the party, you are helping to keep people of all ages in your family and wider community safe from COVID and other illnesses.
- KNOW YOUR RISK LEVEL – As we begin to socialize and gather more after years of masking and social distancing, it is important to know your personal risk level. If you work in a high-risk job, or if you have unvaccinated infants, elderly relatives or people who are immunocompromised in your household, you may want to incorporate more masking and social distancing into your socializing, especially if transmission is surging in your county. Check local conditions by visiting your county’s public health website.
- GATHER OUTSIDE – Socializing outdoors remains a best practice for all people while COVID is still circulating. With California’s beautiful weather, it is a perfect time to enjoy parties and meals al fresco. If you will be in a large crowd, such as at an outdoor concert or festival, consider wearing a mask for more protection.
- TEST. TEST. TEST. – It is easier than ever to get tested for COVID-19 by finding a test site near you by visiting covid19.ca.gov/get-tested or requesting free tests from the federal government at covidtests.gov. There are no out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing at testing sites operated by the state or your local public health department: an insured person can get a COVID-19 test at these sites at no cost and if you’re uninsured, the government pays for your test.
- ACTIVATE CA NOTIFY and ask your guests to do the same. CA Notify anonymously notifies individuals of a possible exposure.
By taking these extra steps of care, you can give yourself and your family the best chance for a COVID-free summer. Even if those around you aren’t being as careful as you and your family are, just take solace in knowing that you are doing your very best to keep yourselves safe from COVID-19 infection as well as the lasting effects of Long COVID.
Bottom line: Get vaccinated and boosted. Wear your mask in crowded settings. And stay home if you have any symptoms. Enjoy a safe and healthy summer.
Bora Shin, MD earned her medical degree at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine in 2014. She completed the residency program in pediatrics at the Medical College of Georgia in 2017. Dr. Shin is currently practicing pediatrics at KCS in Buena Park, California.