As the omicron surge recedes in Mesa County, people are starting to gather in large crowds for indoor events again, like meetings, concerts and parties. But is it safe?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggests you take into account the type of gathering you’re considering attending: Is it a small gathering of just people you know, or will there be people there from multiple households or with whom you are unfamiliar? Large gatherings with more people from other places pose a higher danger of infection with Covid-19.
Take into account your risk level, and that of others near you: Do you have children under 5 years old at home who are unvaccinated? Or do you live with, visit or work with older people who have weaker immune systems or other health conditions? If you are around people who are vulnerable to the virus, your behavior, specifically carelessly exposing yourself to large crowds and failing to test for infection before spending time with them, can raise their risk of getting Covid-19, and even kill them, as it killed my dad last Friday.
Also consider the proportion of people in your area who remain unvaccinated. Since vaccines lower the risk of getting and spreading the virus, a high vaccination rate in the community will help prevent the virus from spreading, but a low vaccination rate in a community, like we have here in Mesa County, increases the potential for the disease to spread, and keep spreading.
Remember that some people can be infected with the virus but not show any symptoms. Consider how physically close you may be to others while you’re at any meeting or gathering, and whether people there will be taking any precautions, like masking. Will you be in a room packed with people, and then go home, or visit vulnerable people? COVID-19 spreads when someone carrying the virus — with or without symptoms — coughs, sneezes, sings or talks when close to others. And it spreads very, very easily.
Look at the area’s positivity rate. Check it like you check the weather report.
The positivity rate is the percentage of people who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 out of all the tests done in a specific period of time. A 26% average weekly positivity rate for a community means 26 out of every 100 people who have been tested in the last week have the virus. Recently Mesa County had a 23% positivity rate, but fortunately that has been receding for the last several weeks.
The higher a community’s positivity rate, the more likely it is that you will catch and spread the virus and the better it would be to avoid gatherings. A lower positivity rate doesn’t mean the virus is gone. It just means it’s spreading less quickly.
You can find Mesa County’s positivity rate at the Mesa County Public Health Department’s Covid Dashboard.
As of this writing, Mesa County’s positivity rate is 7.6%, but is that good?
It’s better, but not really good yet. Mesa County is still significantly over the positivity rate that public health authorities recommend for safe gatherings. Also, our community’s overall vaccination rate remains very low, and most children in our area remain unvaccinated, making them especially vulnerable to infection.
The World Health Organization recommends the positivity rate remain below 5% for at least two consecutive weeks before precautions are lessened and indoor gatherings occur.
The Harvard Global Health Institute argues that the positivity rate should be 3% or lower for two weeks before precautions are relaxed. This is an even safer guideline.
Please be thoughtful of infecting others and try hard to behave safely. If we ever want to get past the pandemic, we all have to look out for each other. The person whose life you save by being careful could be someone — or many people — you love very much.