By Dr. Elan Levy
As New York City weathers another spike in COVID-19 cases, it’s important to remember a few key lessons we’ve learned over the past two years—and the things people in our Greenwich Village community can do to remain safe.
The simple fact remains that COVID-19 isn’t going away anytime soon. That means we cannot let our guard down just yet, but it shouldn’t stop our progress in returning to normalcy, either.
The best action we can all take right now to protect us from this disease is to get vaccinated and boosted, if you’re eligible. As a doctor, and a leading physician at Lenox Health Greenwich Village (LHGV) for the better part of the last decade, I cannot stress enough how getting the vaccine will lessen your chances of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 if you do get infected.
Fortunately, the new variants are proving to be less severe overall. More than half of COVID-positive patients in our hospitals are categorized as incidental cases, meaning they came for treatment for another illness or an injury and tested positive when they were admitted. Thus, despite another dramatic rise in cases overall, hospitalization rates are still more manageable than in previous waves. Getting a shot will only help to keep up this trend.
The next best tool we have is testing. With more supply now than we saw during a surge of new cases over the holidays, it is much easier to find at-home antigen testing kits at your local pharmacy—and there is much more availability for lab testing as well. Be sure to test before gathering in crowds. If you test positive and have minimal to no symptoms, remember to isolate for five days and then wear a mask for five days after quarantine. Be sure to check with your doctor for more information. Most doctors, like those of us at Northwell Health, have availability for telehealth visits, so that you don’t need to leave your home if you are experiencing symptoms.
And that, of course, leads us to the value of masking. As of this writing, the city is urging people to wear a mask in indoor public settings as it approaches the CDC High Alert level orange, meaning there is greater risk of infection. Wearing a mask—especially a well-fitted model like the KN95—will minimize the risk of spreading the disease, the variants of which have become more infectious.
Last but not least, don’t underestimate the importance of frequently and thoroughly washing your hands. If that’s not an option, hand sanitizer also works in a pinch.
These are very important steps to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and keep our community healthy. But if you do get sick, don’t panic—speak to your doctor, as I mentioned before, or go to your nearest emergency department, like the one available at LHGV.
For more information, you can visit Northwell’s Coronavirus Digital Resource Center (northwell.edu/coronavirus-covid-19) or the city’s COVID-19 information portal (www1.nyc.gov/site/coronavirus/index.page).
Elan Levy, MD, MBA, is the medical director for Lenox Hill Hospital, Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital and Lenox Health Greenwich Village. He was previously the chair of emergency medicine at LHGV.