Florida Medical Students On Preventing COVID-19

Ethan Wilkinson/Unsplash

Chase Mallory, Benjamin Schaumer, David Tyson/ Guest Columnists

For the past year we have been staying home, sacrificing and staying vigilant. While pandemic fatigue is at an all-time high, we cannot let complacency undermine our progress. As medical students and the future physicians of Florida, we ask you to look at the times we are living in through our lens. While we are medical students, we are also Floridians – diverse and proud of our Sunshine State. In times of struggle, peril and uncertainty we look to our medical experts for guidance. Data-driven policies are essential to reducing the spread of COVID.

Effective mitigation requires individual responsibility to combat transmission. Face coverings are one of the most effective weapons we have to slow the spread of the virus. Furthermore, policies mandating community usage of face masks are associated with a decline in the COVID-19 growth rate, as more than half of infections are spread by asymptomatic carriers. As cases begin to spike again, our medical leadership and research have a clear message: wear a mask.

The next thing we can all do is get tested. If we know who is infected, we can start to stop the spread. Currently, Florida has over 6,000 new cases and 52 deaths. Florida continued to fall short of meeting testing level targets, averaging 50,000 daily tests of the 500,000 daily test target from the Department of Health and Human Services. According to the WHO, the rate of positive cases should be at or below 5 percent for 14 days to safely open businesses. At the time of this writeup, Johns Hopkins University confirmed the positivity rate in Florida around 9 percent, suggesting we need to control the spread before further staged reopening of businesses. 

If you are showing symptoms, you should get tested. If you have been exposed to someone who is COVID positive, regardless of symptoms, you should get tested. And until you know your results, you should quarantine. Current CDC recommendations suggest waiting 5-6 days after exposure before getting tested. Please remember a test only captures one moment in time and is imperfect, with one in five tests incorrectly negative. When in doubt, get tested and then retested when needed.

More opportunities are becoming available for vaccination against COVID-19. Currently all Florida residents 18 years and older are now eligible to receive FDA approved vaccines, with Pfizer authorization for persons 16 years and older.  While Florida has already administered over twelve million doses, we rank 38th in vaccine distribution  at 72% of total allocated vaccines administered. The vaccines are available and the resources are in place for you to find and obtain your vaccine successfully.  

The top priority of the US Vaccine Safety System is to ensure, above all: safety. Rigorous clinical trials have proven vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to be remarkably safe and roughly 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infection. The most common side effects are pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain. These side effects are normal and do not mean the vaccine is unsafe, but rather indicate that your body is building protection. Of note, in an effort to promote safety the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has recently been paused  per CDC and FDA recommendations to explore rare blood-related side effects. 

Without being in good health, we cannot pursue life, liberty, and happiness and our economy cannot flourish. To protect yourself, your family, and the ones you care about most, please: wear a mask, get tested, get retested and get vaccinated. We can do this together.

Photo by Ethan Wilkinson on Unsplash

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