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Health

If you feel like giving up on COVID precautions, don't. An expert explains why

coronavirus mask
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The advice for New Year's Eve celebrations from Hamilton County's health commissioner hasn't changed: wear a mask, get vaccinated, and if you're sick, stay home. Greg Kesterman says there are "significant levels" of COVID-19 in the community, and hospitals are overwhelmed.

"They are seeing a significant increase in patients day after day - very much in line with how we are seeing our cases," he says. "Our cases are rising exponentially and there's no end in sight right now for COVID in our community."

Kesterman says a lot of the difficulties in the health system is due to staffing shortages. "Their employees are getting sick just like the general population is right now. That's putting a stress on the systems."

That stress is another pandemic. "We know we are in this for the long haul. We are going to have to learn how to live with COVID moving into the future," Kesterman says. "So we are really continuing the message of the need for each individual to do their part to help keep our community safe."

Proof precautions work

Kesterman says if people are overwhelmed and feel like giving up on disease precautions, he says the number of flu hospitalizations should provide some reassurance. "When you look at last year where our community worked together as a team, where people did keep sick at home and wore masks, we had almost zero flu hospitalizations in 2020. We do have the power as a community to work together and slow the curve of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases."

This year, Kesterman says the number of hospitalizations from influenza is close to the five-year average. "We're seeing definitely more flu than we did last year as a result of people not masking and not being quite as careful as we would like them to be."

Hope is propelling health care workers and officials forward, Kesterman says.

"We have one mission and that is to help try to keep our community safe. In the hospital systems we have health care heroes who are working tirelessly and I think it's just the hope that we are making a difference, and are really hopeful we are getting ourselves closer to the end of this pandemic," he says.

On going out for New Year's Eve celebrations, Kesterman also suggests thinking about when the night is over. "Who are you going home to after going to the bars? Are you going home to a family member who has underlying health conditions? If so, you might want to think twice this year."