While watching movies, Renata Garza-Silva often wonders if the people around her are wearing COVID-19 masks.
For Hillary Liber, returning to the gym is a goal worth pursuing. Her physical training lessons are sorely missed, but for the time being, a makeshift home gym in the middle of her living room will have to suffice.
Despite being entirely protected against the COVID-19 infection, millions of Californians, including the immunocompromised and diabetic Garza-Silva and Liber, face an increased risk of consequences from the virus.
There are fears among both women that the state-level measures that had given them some peace of mind during the pandemic are now lessening, increasing their vulnerability, and restricting where, when, and how they can go and what they can do.
Health issues like heart disease, autoimmune illnesses, and diabetes urge Californians to reassess their own risk factors. Buying groceries, going to work, eating out, or mailing a letter all come with the possibility of getting a virus, which might land them in the hospital or worse.
When it comes to high-risk individuals, the pandemic has been a two-year roller coaster. Liber confessed, “I’m always torn between the dread of missing out and the anxiety of venturing out.”
Vaccinated adults can now roam mask-free in indoor public locations other than health care facilities, schools, and jails after state requirements were modified last week. Adding to her anxiety, Garza-Silva expressed her disappointment that state health officials have largely overlooked persons like her when developing recommendations for returning to “normal.”
Children and the elderly are “simply overlooked” when it comes to those in my position. As a 48-year-old middle school teacher in La Crescenta, Garza-Silva has a reduced immune system due to the medicine she takes following a kidney transplant.
“We don’t count at all,” she added. In my opinion, “I don’t think people realize how many of us there really are.”
As many as ten million Californians are at risk of significant problems from COVID-19, according to 2020 research from the Kaiser Family Foundation. People over 65, as well as those with diseases like heart disease and diabetes, are included. (Seniors in nursing homes and children were not included in the data.)
“Moderate or severely immunocompromised” individuals include organ transplant patients, cancer patients, and those receiving anti-inflammatory medications to treat autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
About 3% of adults in the United States are using immunosuppressive medicine, according to current estimates.
Experts recommend that people with long-term health conditions remain cautious as well. One in five Americans has one or more of the conditions listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a high risk for serious illness from COVID-19.
Diabetes affects an estimated 2.5 million Californians, but many more may be unaware they have the disease or be in the early stages of it. 7 percent of Californian adults have been diagnosed with heart disease, which affects around 2.1 million people.
There is some protection from vaccines
Experts suggest that many patients with preexisting health issues benefit greatly from immunizations, while others are less protected.
Immunosuppressive medicines are given to transplant patients like Garza-Silva in order to keep their immune systems from attacking their new organs, making them more susceptible to infections.
Federal health officials have allowed persons with compromised immune systems to receive a fourth dose of the vaccination since the initial two doses of the vaccine do not provide significant protection for some people, and in rare situations, even a third dose has not been sufficient.
There have been three dosages given to Garza-Silva, and she is discussing the fourth with her doctor.
Dr. Mark Henderson, an internal medicine physician at UC Davis Health, says that even if you have a chronic disease, getting fully immunized offers significant protection.
Even yet, the danger they confront is considerable. About 20% of patients at Henderson’s hospital are vaccinated against COVID-19, and most of them have a medical condition that makes them vulnerable.
Henderson cited diabetes as an example of a condition that might impair the immune system. There is a difference between diabetics and non-diabetics when it comes to white blood cells.
One-fifth of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States had diabetes classified as a contributing factor.
According to Henderson, as the state and country work to move past the epidemic, patients and the elderly must be extra cautious about getting booster shots and wearing masks.
It has always been about the weak and defenseless that the pandemic has targeted. “The elderly, the medically vulnerable, and now those who haven’t been vaccinated have been the victims of this,” Henderson added.
According to Disability Rights California’s director, Andy Imparato, the state’s SMARTER plan, a blueprint issued last week that would lay out the next phase of the pandemic, was not discussed with disability advocates.
To help the state respond rapidly and adapt to changing situations, including new varieties, the plan sets readiness goals. Those with underlying medical disorders are only mentioned in passing in the 30-page document, which emphasizes the importance of wearing masks and keeping up with routine vaccinations.
Vaccinated people are permitted to go without a face mask in most public locations, according to the state’s current guidelines.
Non-vaccinated individuals are still required to wear masks in all public places, although enforcement of these laws has been patchy throughout the pandemic, with most establishments opting not to verify vaccination status. However, vaccinated individuals can still spread the infection.
Individuals at high risk of harm can’t exist in a bubble. People with medical issues or disabilities, for example, frequently rely on others for help. Many patients with diabetes or heart disease are forced to work outside their homes.
“We want the state to recognize people at high risk even if they have been vaccinated,” Imparato stated. It’s understandable that the state is trying to balance competing priorities, such as keeping businesses afloat and helping individuals get back on their feet, but we don’t want it to happen too soon.”
In addition, the state is anticipated to announce a date for allowing students to remove their masks inside schools in the near future.