People should still be prioritizing avoiding COVID-19 infections altogether, says expert

As the BA.2 variant spreads, it seems as if more and more people are testing positive. In the wake of the recent ruling to do away with masking on public transit, some are unsure what are the best ways to stay safe from getting the virus.

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If someone has a close relationship with a person who has tested positive, they should refresh themselves on safety protocols.

"So just like every family comes up with a fire escape plan, every family should come up with a COVID-19 ready plan," said Dr. Panagis Galiatsatos, the director of the Tobacco Treatment Clinic and an assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on KCBS Radio's "Ask an Expert" with Holly Quan and Jason Brooks on Tuesday.

This plan should include appropriate quarantining and isolation, as well as connecting with their primary care physician to see if they may be eligible for certain treatments or medication, he said.

If there are multiple family members or people in the same house and one person tested positive, it is still best for that person to isolate themselves in one room.

"The challenge is that everyone's home is a little bit different," said Galiatsatos. So this leads to conversations about options.

If keeping one person in a single room the entire quarantine is not an option, there are alternatives.

"One of the key areas to isolate is where you sleep at night," he said, because if people sleep within close proximity to one another, they'll be breathing in the air the other person exhales. If daytime isolation isn't possible, it's more important to try nocturnal isolation.

As the new variant spreads, it can be tricky to guage just how widespread it is as the tally of some case numbers lag in certain places.

"Just pretend the whole world has COVID-19 again, and do your best to not catch it," said Galiatsatos. "That strategy has not left."

Although there are less and less cases of serious illness caused by the virus, the best strategy still, as the pandemic continues to unfold, is to not catch it, he said.

This means still wearing a face mask out in public, staying home when feeling symptomatic, and being discerning about inviting people into the home.

And this extends to indoor public spaces as well, such as considering masking requirements of the establishment, whether or not social distancing is being encouraged.

Going forward in this pandemic, people need to adopt more of an infectious control mindset, said Galiatsatos.

Some people, like those suffering from cancer or lung disease, already live like this. "Now it's for the rest of the world to kind of catch up," he said.

Even if the public health requirements don't take this into account, individuals should.

"We are at a phase in the pandemic where we can learn to have inconveniences without massive disruptions," said Galiatsatos.

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