Should I Still Take Precautions Against COVID-19 When Cases Decline?

Aug 9, 2022

After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is starting to see some relief with lower case levels. The delta and omicron variants of the virus brought dangerous spikes in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, but cases dropped off significantly after the omicron wave.

As cases begin to come down, some may wonder whether they should continue taking precautions to prevent transmission of the virus. As you decide the best course of action for your health, here are some factors to consider.

Community Risk

An important factor for individuals to consider is the risk within the community where they live. COVID-19 cases have spiked and fallen over the course of the pandemic. As new variants emerge, cases can increase dramatically. There have also been significant drops in cases at times.

However, even when cases are declining, it is possible that cases will still be high in select areas. When determining what precautions to take against COVID-19, people should be aware of case levels in their community and how much the virus is spreading among their neighbors or fellow citizens.

“COVID-19 cases can fluctuate during the year, and different cities and states may have higher or lower numbers,” says Sarah Hilton, a registered nurse. “It is important for individuals to understand the risk in their area and their own personal health situation in order to take appropriate precautions.”

Individual Risk Factors

Some people have a higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Elderly individuals have a weaker immune system and a higher chance of getting seriously sick and needing to be hospitalized due to COVID-19. Other people with a weakened immune system and those with certain conditions like lung disease, heart disease, or diabetes also have an increased risk.

Taking Precautions

When community transmission levels are high, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking precautions against COVID-19. These precautions include wearing a mask indoors, social distancing, avoiding crowds, washing hands frequently, and other steps. People with higher individual risk factors may need to take these precautions even at lower transmission rates.

Get Vaccinated

The most important precaution for any age group, and especially for elderly individuals, is to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC has recommended COVID-19 vaccines and a booster dose for individuals ages five and older. A second booster dose is also recommended for immunocompromised individuals and people over age 50.

Data has shown that people who had a booster dose were seven times less likely to be hospitalized during the omicron variant surge and 21 times less likely to die. What’s more, a later study found that elderly people who received a second booster were less likely to die than people with only one booster dose. Regardless of how many COVID-19 cases are active in your area, getting vaccinated and boosted is a precaution every eligible person should take.

COVID-19 transmission is still possible, even as levels decline sharply around the country. As people make decisions about what precautions to take against the virus, it is important to take individual risk into account and consult with a doctor to determine what is best for them.