TEXAS VIEW: Virus isn’t gone, get your booster

THE POINT: The COVID-19 vaccine is our most powerful tool against the deadly virus.

COVID-19 cases are plummeting and Americans are letting their guard down. It’s common to see crowds with no masks in sight.

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidelines Friday, loosening pandemic precautions, such as masking indoors, for some 70% of Americans. States led by both Republicans and Democrats are easing mask and vaccine requirements.

The seven-day average new cases in Bexar County has dropped dramatically over the past few weeks.

But Bexar County residents shouldn’t be throwing out their masks quite so fast. There were still 283 patients in local hospitals with COVID-19 as of Tuesday, Mar. 1, including 76 in intensive care units and 41 on ventilators.

We’d be hard pressed to find anyone who isn’t exhausted with the pandemic. We hear you. But we must consider the facts and heed advice from medical experts.

The CDC’s new guidelines recommend using county COVID-19 community levels to help determine which COVID-19 prevention measures to use for individuals and communities. Bexar County was marked “high” for its COVID-19 community level as of Friday, Feb. 25, according to the CDC’s website. The city of San Antonio rates the risk level as “moderate.”

Hopefully, you aren’t one of the people San Antonio Metropolitan Metro Health District described as having omicron parties to intentionally get the virus. We all know better.

Have you gotten your COVID-19 vaccine and booster?

In a Feb. 22 tweet, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg acknowledged COVID-19 hospitalizations and cases are on a steady decline in San Antonio. But he added: “If you have been fortunate enough to avoid this surge, but have delayed keeping current on your vaccinations, now would be a great time to protect yourself. Vaccines work.”

Yet in Bexar County, less than 35% of eligible people are boosted, according to a recent city of San Antonio news release.

We know vaccines work. Scientific data shows that people who are up to date on vaccines have a much lower risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated people.

Vaccines are one measure included in the mitigation efforts from the CDC that we all should all know by now:

  • Wear a mask indoors in public.
  • Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Get tested if you have symptoms.
  • Take additional precautions if you’re at high risk for severe illness.

Local residents are still getting infected and there are still deaths. San Antonio has suffered 5,913 COVID-19 fatalities in this pandemic as of Tuesday, Mar. 1, according to Texas Health and Human Services data.

It’s not too late to get your COVID-19 booster — our most powerful tool against the deadly virus. The city of San Antonio continues to offer vaccine clinics, listing them on its website, and pharmacies offer them.

When describing the new set of guidelines as a framework for adapting precautions as virus levels change in counties, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, told reporters recently that Americans should adjust as needed within our communities and prepare for future surges of the virus.

“We want to give people a break from things like masking when our levels are low, and then have the ability to reach for them again should things get worse in the future,” she said. “We need to be prepared and we need to be ready for whatever comes next.”

It’s not too late to adjust our approach to staying healthy during this pandemic.

San Antonio Express-News