Mary Ann Salinas holds up two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, Dec. 21, 2020. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)
Mary Ann Salinas holds up two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, Dec. 21, 2020. (Photo/Gabriel Greschler)

You need to make a 5-year-plan for Covid

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Covid infection rates are up. Covid infection rates are down. Now they are plateauing, but at a higher level than in the spring.

Vaccines protect us. But not really. We still need a booster. Or do we need to vaccinate everyone first, before anyone gets boosters?

Wear masks inside. Except where you don’t have to. Or should you anyway? Should you get on a plane? What about a bus or train?

Each time we think we have this Covid thing beat, or at least under control, something new pops up: the delta variant, other variants, new hot spots. Meanwhile, we struggle to get back to normal life, whatever that means.

Now it means life with Covid. We are no longer in crisis mode, trying to fend off the deadly virus with sword and shield. Now we have to learn how to live with it, maybe for a few years, maybe forever.

The Bay Area is in relatively good shape, experts say. But in California as a whole, new cases are on the increase, from a low of 5,000 per day to this past week’s rate of 6,000 a day. With winter’s colder weather approaching, more activities are moving indoors. The upcoming holiday season poses an even greater danger than last year, when many people canceled travel plans and large family dinners. This year, people are eager to be together after so much time apart.

RELATED: Herd immunity? ‘Not going to happen,’ says UCSF doctor

There will be infections. People will get sick. Some will die. Others will suffer the debilitating symptoms associated with long Covid, notably persistent fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath, weakness and the cognitive dysfunction that has come to be called “brain fog.” This thing is not going away.

Last week we interviewed Dr. Bob Wachter, head of medicine at UCSF. When we spoke with him a year ago, he urged a very cautious approach to keeping ourselves and others safe, erring on the side of strictness. Stay away from others, he advised, as much as you can.

Now it has become increasingly clear that we will be dealing with Covid for the long haul. Kids are back in school, offices are reopening, people are flocking to restaurants, concert halls and movie theaters again. The challenge for all of us is to decide what level of caution we want to adopt, not just for this month, but for the foreseeable future, so that we live our lives while remaining cognizant of the ever-present danger of infection.

Wachter calls it a “five-year plan,” and he suggests we all draw one up for ourselves.

His key piece of advice mirrors that of every responsible medical authority: Get vaccinated. Get your loved ones vaccinated. And get your booster, because “fully vaccinated” people are still getting breakthrough infections, and while symptoms may be milder and deaths more rare, it’s no fun getting Covid. Not at all.

Certainly, wear a mask when you are in a crowd, or all the time if you feel more comfortable with that; but the vaccine is the single most important step you can take, for yourself and your loved ones.

If you don’t have your own five-year plan, make one now.

J. Editorial Board

The J. Editorial Board pens editorials as the voice of J.