Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of new variants have caused surges in infections around the world. Now subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 are driving up cases in South Africa, and could lead to a spike in the US. “The BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants were identified because South Africa is still doing the vital genetic sequencing that many other countries have stopped doing,” says Director General of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “In many countries we’re essentially blind to how the virus is mutating. We don’t know what’s coming next.” Here are five proven ways to avoid COVID during the next surge, experts say. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Wearing a mask is still one of the most effective ways to protect against infection, experts advise. “It’s true that masks are most effective when everyone around you is wearing them. If someone is infected with COVID-19 and doesn’t know it, their mask is like putting a thumb over the end of a hose, preventing the virus from spewing ,” says Jaimie Meyer, an infectious disease physician at Yale Medicine.
Studies show that social distancing still makes a significant difference in getting infected with COVID-19—especially in areas with low vaccination rates. “Personal mitigation behaviors related to social distancing appear to influence risk of COVID-19 even in the presence of social factors related to infection risk,” says Theresa Andrasfay, postdoctoral scholar at the USC Leonard Davis School. “Our findings emphasize the importance of individual behaviors for preventing COVID-19, which may be relevant in contexts with low vaccination.”
“A healthy immune system can help your body ward off illnesses like colds, flu and COVID-19. And during these challenging times, who doesn’t want the strongest immune system possible?” says Janelle Glick, MA, RD, LDN. “Vaccines are the single best way to strengthen your immune system and help prevent the flu and COVID-19 and the potentially life-threatening complications these viruses can cause. Good nutrition—including adequate hydration—is also a great way to give your immune system a boost and help you stay well.”
Traveling, especially by air, can force you into close contact with people. “As a general rule, travel can increase your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19, especially if you are not vaccinated,” says Harvard Health. “Requirements for vaccination and COVID-19 testing may vary by carrier, geographic location, and your vaccination status.
In addition to wearing a well-fitting mask, all travelers should maintain a physical distance of six feet from others, avoid crowds, and wash hands often. Anyone who is sick or who has tested positive for COVID-19 should not travel by public transportation if at all possible.”
Vaccinations and boosters are by far the most effective way to avoid getting infected with COVID-19 suring a surge. “For those who are immune-compromised, those who are older adults, over the age of 50 or at least 65, we want to strongly recommend and encourage [a fourth shot]the same way we do with flu vaccines,” says Moderna President Stephen Hoge. “For those who have cancer, COVID can actually be a life-threatening disease, even post-vaccination. I don’t think you want to mess around with that.”
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face maskdon’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’ t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.