August 18, 2023

COVID: It Didn’t Take A Summer Vacation!

If you aren’t in for an angry blog post with a hint of irrational, possibly magical thinking, then this post isn’t for you. I, as CEO, want to personally apologize for Cancer Sherpa’s lapse in blog posts recently, as we have been working on some really interesting and actionable content for everyone’s mental health as we gear up for Fall. However, the progress being made there was rudely interrupted by COVID-19. To say that I am infuriated by the fact that I not only contracted COVID-19 for the first time since January 2020 but gave it to my husband and exposed multiple friends and family members visiting on their summer vacations is putting it mildly.


Like so many of us, I let my guard down the last few months. I still carry multiple masks wherever I go, use hand sanitizer like I own my own factory, and generally pay attention to what is circulating in my corner of the world. Well, I flew too close to the sun, and now I am on day six of being symptomatic and caring for a husband who has suffered far more than I have. I also am crazed about my mother testing every twenty-four hours as I was around her the day before I was symptomatic and the day my symptoms started as I thought I was simply allergic to some of the 4H and FFA livestock we visited at the local Town and Country Fair.


My denial only lasted so long as I knew that petting prize-winning sheep, goats, and rabbits would not cause night sweats, a dry cough, and exhaustion after eight hours of sleep. Still, I did not have a fever or feel “that bad” and was mostly mad at myself for not being productive enough. Perhaps questioning my productivity on a Sunday should have been my first clue that I was not in my right mind. Anyway, my cough worsened quickly, I sweat any time I moved or slept, and sleeping was all I could do on days two and three. I never had a high fever, and by the time I tested positive and was eligible for treatment like Paxlovid, my body had already hit its peak temperature and started to fight the virus on its own. I was and still am angry at myself for letting my guard down, contracting the virus, exposing my loved ones, being in denial, and generally allowing myself to fall back into a pre-COVID-19 mindset.


Am I human? Yes. And, at times, unfortunately. Is my reaction normal, with an admitted hint of unnecessary martyrdom? Yes. Get over yourself, Clare. Do we all need to be reminded that COVID is here to stay and can cause severe illness and long-COVID? Absolutely. That said, here is what we all need to know about the latest COVID-19 variants, their current stats, symptoms, and an update on a vaccine booster.


Status of COVID-19 in the US

  • Hospitalizations have been on the rise in recent weeks and increased by over 14% in the first week of August, according to the CDC
  • EG.5/Eris
    • The top variant spreading in the US and will surpass the current dominant variant of the same strain in Western US, XBB.1.16/Arcturus
    • More transmissible and better able to evade immunity from vaccination, according to the WHO
    • Accounts for 17% of new infections
  • Current Reported Symptoms for EG.5/Eris and XBB.1.16/Arcturus
    • Sneezing
    • Sensitive sinuses
    • Stuffy/blocked/runny nose
    • Sore throat
    • Cough without phlegm
    • Cough with phlegm
    • Hoarse voice
    • Altered sense of smell
    • Loss of taste
    • Shortness of breath
    • Muscle aches and pain
    • Fever
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
  • Next Generation COVID-19 Vaccine Booster
    • Fall 2023
    • Include current circulating and emerging variants, just like the flu vaccine
    • Free to all Americans
    • You can get it at the same time as the flu vaccine
    • Consider which arm!
      • In Germany, a study found people who got all their shots in one arm had a more robust immune response than those who distributed shots between both arms, according to The Lancet Discovery Science!

CDC Guidelines on Exposure and Isolation

When to isolate:

  • Isolation Rules (You know these!)
    • Wear a high-quality mask if you must be around others at home and in public
    • Do not go places where you are unable to wear a mask
    • For travel guidance, see CDC’s Travel webpage
    • Do not travel
    • Stay home and separate from others as much as possible
    • Use a separate bathroom, if possible
    • Take steps to improve ventilation at home, if possible
    • Don’t share personal household items, like cups, towels, and utensils
    • Monitor your symptoms. If you have an emergency warning sign (like trouble breathing), seek emergency medical care immediately
  • Ending Isolation
    • Ending isolation is based on how severe your symptoms were
    • Use the CDC’s nifty Exposure and Isolation Calculator to determine when you can end your isolation
    • *Loss of smell and/or taste may persist for weeks or months and are not determinants for ending isolation

According to the Exposure and Isolation Calculator, I can leave home and be around others as long as I wear a high-quality mask until August 21st! PLEASE let me and those of us who already have Arcturus and Eris be your wake-up call. Americans are coming home from vacation, and kids are going back to school; the COVID-19 waves are already heading for all of us, so please do everything you can not to be swept up and have a happy and healthy end of summer!