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For weeks Omicron has been rapidly spreading across the U.S. causing infection cases and hospitalization rates to spike. While a few areas are seeing COVID cases level out, the majority of the country is still experiencing a surge. "There are parts of the country—New York, in particular, and other parts of the Northeast—where we are starting to see a plateau, and in some cases, an early decline in cases," US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN. "The challenge is that the entire country is not moving at the same pace," he said. "The Omicron wave started later in other parts of the country, so we shouldn't expect a national peak in the next coming days. The next few weeks will be tough." While everyone is at risk, the older community is especially vulnerable. Eat This, Not That! Health talked with LetsGetChecked's Executive Director of Epidemiology, Dr. Gwen Murphy, Ph.D., MPH who explained how to avoid COVID after 50 and what preventive measures to take. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Dr. Murphy reminds us to, "Get vaccinated! If you are vaccinated, get boosted! Getting vaccinated will protect you from the worst effects of COVID and it can help decrease the spread of infection too. Vaccination helps keep us and our communities safe."
Wear a Mask
"Even once we are vaccinated, wearing a mask in crowded spaces is a good idea," Dr. Murphy explains. "Community spread is high all over the US at the moment so in any crowded space there is a high chance that someone in that crowd is infectious and that person may be you! Masks are simple and effective at driving down virus transmission."
Meet Outside When Possible
Dr. Murphy says, "While community transmission of coronavirus is so high, it is a good idea for us to meet with friends, family and colleagues outside rather than inside. If you must meet inside, wear a mask, keep your distance and don't forget to wash your hands."
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Why People Over 50 at a Greater Risk for Getting COVID
Dr. Murphy states, "Omicron is an extremely infectious variant of coronavirus and represents a threat to people of all ages. People over 65 are particularly at risk of developing severe COVID and requiring hospitalization, this is particularly true for older people who are unvaccinated. The association between older age and more severe disease is partly because of age related changes in physiology, but also related to comorbidities like cardiovascular disease and diabetes."
RELATED: Key Symptoms of an Omicron Infection
What Should Someone Do if They've Been Exposed to COVID?
"If you think you have been exposed to COVID you should get tested for coronavirus, and isolate while you await results," Dr. Murphy says. "The CDC is constantly updating their advice around quarantine and isolation so you should check the CDC website for up to date information but be aware that it can take a few days for the infection to develop after you are exposed and you could spread the infection to other people during this time, so it is important to isolate."
How to Stay Safe Out There
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 mask, don'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.