Covid-Filter: Prepping For Life with the Delta variant?
July 27, 2021 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I've been going batty reading the news about the Delta variant in the U.S. and I want to channel this surge of adrenaline into action. Are there things you've been doing to prepare for the next period of Delta variant limbo that are different from how you prepped for Covid shutdowns in 2020? Looking for both tangible and mental strategies -- could be planning more outdoor group activities, stocking up on X product due to future shortages, re-organizing your first-aid kit, let me have 'em!

P.S. I'm vaxxed and so is my spouse, but we have family members who are in various risk groups (vaxxed but senior citizens, too young to be vaxxed, anti-vaxxers) and we ALSO live in CA during fire season (wooo!) so I have a lot of potential scenarios to prepare for!
posted by rogerroger to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve bought a reserve of N95 masks that fit me properly for when it’s not possible to distance or limit time indoors with others, given my own health concerns. (Yes, even though I’m vaccinated. Because of delta.)

Very unfortunately, I’m also likely to cancel my participation in an upcoming conference as well, and no longer am entertaining thoughts of traveling to out of state family for the holidays, unless the delta peak burns its way through the population by November/December and cases are on the decline.
posted by blue suede stockings at 4:40 PM on July 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

Masks indoors, now and seemingly forever.

I made a will last spring. If you haven't done that yet and have any assets at all, please do so.
posted by basalganglia at 4:43 PM on July 27, 2021 [20 favorites]

I am a reasonably healthy adult in my thirties and my wife and everybody I interact with on a daily basis is either vaccinated or my very young daughter, who is at an incredibly low risk that to us is not worth altering her life for. So I am pretty much just acting the same as I was a month ago.

Not suggesting everyone should or must act that way, but I think it's important to present as a possible mental strategy. I took COVID very seriously, was in favor of masks by last February, and participated in a vaccine trial—I am not a "just the flu" shirker by any means. But I have always been wary of the way that temporarily justifiable shifts in the direction of "security" or "safety" tend to overstay their welcome, and I have to live in whatever world comes out of this, so I feel like I have a right and a duty to look closely at the inputs. My read of all the available data for the vaccine as it relates to people like me suggests I am basically well within the amount of risk I would have tolerated for myself in 2019, so I'm continuing to tolerate it. (If I spent a lot of time indoors with vaccinated relatives over ~75 and they allowed me to wear a mask [anyone with conservative older relatives presumably knows what this is like] I would probably do it.)
posted by Polycarp at 5:02 PM on July 27, 2021 [61 favorites]

Now that it seems like vaccinated people can carry the delta variant and likely transmit it, I'm definitely looking at candid masking conversations like safer sex conversations. If you invite us over for an indoor dinner, I'd like to know if you are vaccinated, if you wear masks when indoors in public, if you dine indoors at restaurants, etc. All those weigh in to whether your risk acceptance is like ours, and we'll use that to decide if we'll do something unmasked together. If our risk attitudes don't match, we'll shift to something that feels less risky, like outdoor socializing, or something inside with masks.

I've already been using kf-94 or n-95 masks, but if I were using cloth masks, I'd probably stock up on these more protective masks.
posted by advicepig at 5:14 PM on July 27, 2021 [15 favorites]

We are also in CA and while we're in a spot unlikely to actually evacuate (though two years ago the edge of the nearest evac area was 2 miles away), fires do cause us air quality and power disruption issues sometimes. So we are refreshing our fire go-bag and also including anything we might need in a medical emergency (insurance card info, HR contact info etc), adding some packages of fresh batteries and phone chargers/power banks. We also have a couple of larger battery generators now in case of longer power outages. We have N95 masks and the furnace filters for making emergency air scrubbers from a box fan if necessary. In the past, our Plan B was to go to a friend's house in some part of town that wasn't on fire, and that probably would still be an option if it was really pressing but we're less likely to leave until we have no choice. I do have a lot of anxiety about another fire season in a pandemic and everything else.

We've upgraded our errand masks to Cambridge masks with valve deactivators.

I had just started trying to work through some of the pandemic food hoard I made when I first feared it was inevitable one or both of us would get sick and need easy food. I started with the earliest-expiring stuff (this is mostly canned, jarred, or pouch food so much of it still has a year or two on the clock) and am going to replenish those things, out of the same concern even though we are vaccinated and don't have to work outside the home. As I said in Feb 2020, if we don't need it in an emergency it'll be great for camping when we can go do that again.

My car battery fared poorly during the pandemic, repeatedly turning up flat after just a few (then couple, then one) weeks unused. We got the electrical system and the battery checked (AAA had already checked the battery and said it was fine, mechanic said it wasn't so we replaced it), oil changes on both cars, tires on the one that needed them. I also bought one of those rechargeable jumpers (which is also a massive power bank with one AC outlet and three USBs, so additionally useful in a power outage or evac situation), so in the case of future issues I wouldn't have to deal with a stranger. So both cars are in good shape for a while.

We only loosened up our behavior a tiny bit for the two months we (almost accurately) assumed we had between vaccination and variants, so we had not really re-adjusted to any kind of worldly life that we're having to give up, so that helps. (We did go camping once and I would do that again, I think we were able to keep that really safe.) My partner and I both lost a parent in Jan-Feb 2020 and I burned out at work and broke my leg and changed jobs the week of the election and did not entirely think my mental health was going to make it, but I think I am a LOT more stable now and resigned but not as much despairing about the next year we're going to spend continuing to have to do this shit.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:17 PM on July 27, 2021 [8 favorites]

We're making sure we're well stocked on good masks. We'd been dithering on a necessary purchase that's going to require having people in our house, and decided to go ahead and do that now while local case numbers aren't terrible, windows can be open for ventilation, etc. I'm stepping up the pace on catching up on medical appointments for things I delayed in 2020 as well, in the hopes of getting those medical checks all squared away for another year.

My primary concern is about unknowingly transmitting delta to others, so I'll be revisiting my risk tolerance with that in mind as I go along. I don't want to risk long Covid for myself but being a vector to someone else is the nightmare scenario, so I'm trying to figure out how to position myself now to minimize chances of that as local case rates rise.

(But it's a college town where the biggest university isn't mandating vaccination so maybe the best risk reduction I can personally do is "get all my shit done before the students get here and then stay home while the city burns through whatever is going to happen when the students descend from everywhere.")
posted by Stacey at 5:25 PM on July 27, 2021 [7 favorites]

Some anecdata: My fully vaxxed father just contracted the Delta variant with symptoms that have not subsided after a month. He also gave it to his fully vaxxed friend who is now hospitalized. They are both in their 70s. It’s made me return to pre-vaccinated behavior: masks everywhere and no socializing.
posted by dianeF at 5:43 PM on July 27, 2021 [24 favorites]

I took a vacation with air travel recently, right as Hawaii allowed proof of vaccination to avoid proof of negative COVID test. We wore masks in the airport, in cars, on public transit. We avoided dining in restaurants unless all the windows were open. We ordered food delivery several times to stay out of the crowds. I share that as reflective of my current risk tolerance. If the airlines were not enforcing masks I would have cancelled the trip, due to concerns about Delta.

I'll probably continue my existing protocols. I'm regularly the only adult in my area masked indoors if running errands alone. I wore my mask inside the gym today. I'm hoping there won't be an actual lockdown but if there is, we will keep doing what we were doing already. I will also stock up on vitamin D since that is helpful for immune function and we are probably low even after a beach vacation. I bought a huge amount of KN95 masks the first time around so we have plenty of those left. I'll encourage family to go back to those as default vs the cloth ones.

I'm trying to live life more and strength connections in person, in case there is another lockdown. I am spending money on things to make my home feel nice/fun, like redoing the bathroom to fit a Zelda theme. I am stocking up on sanity savers like a new inflatable tandem kayak we can use altogether as a family, since outdoor recreation may be the only option for a bit.

Thanks for asking this question. I should go see the dentist while I still can.
posted by crunchy potato at 6:47 PM on July 27, 2021 [3 favorites]

I work in public health and until very recently, COVID-19 contact tracing for the past year.

Here’s what I view as advantages in approaching the delta variant (and this fall and winter).
- by now you’ve likely figured out some outdoor activities or adaptations. It’s not weird to suggest zoom cocktail hours and it’s also great to connect people who live farther away
- I have such a long list of outdoor activities that I enjoy. These are not down graded plans, they are not plan B’s, these are activities that I enjoy and can do in COVID. That’s a lot different than a year of back up plans. My primary activity of the last year has been visiting all the state parks in NC. While this does sometimes mean longer car trips and stops in gas stations, I wear a mask for those stops and it’s usually in and out pretty quickly.
- have your regular emergency kits ready, include extra masks as noted.
- be prepared with food in case you get sick (ginger ale, medicine etc) but I generally don’t stress about 14 days of groceries now that curbside pick up is so common
- COVID 19 test are so easy to get now. We might see this guidance change with variants but generally it’s pretty safe to do a Saturday activity and then get tested the next Friday morning and have test results going into a new Saturday activity (as someone who works from home and has few to no exposures during the week. . This is absolutely something I’ll be doing as my plan require in the fall. Also if your friends have insurance, this is a reasonable ask of them in many areas as well.
- clean your house and always have a set of clean sheets in the closet. There’s nothing nicer when you’ve been sick to take a shower and then slip into a clean bed right after.
- the biggest advantage, even as we consider new changes- you know what you’re up against. A respiratory disease that is spread by airborne. Yes, washing your hands but you don’t need to freak out after every door knob. Have a plan for how you’d handle isolation or quarantine for a family member. Know the good parks to bring a lawn chair and meet up with a friend.
posted by raccoon409 at 6:56 PM on July 27, 2021 [15 favorites]

I’ve outfitted my family with Happy Masks, which fit better than the McMaster-Carr N95s or Protectly KN95s I previously bought (plus my child is willing to wear them longer than the Etsy cloth masks we started with). I wear them to all indoor errands/appointments, they are the best and super easy to hand-wash. My kid’s cross-country ski club required masks last year, and I wish I had found these in time - the design of the beak makes it pretty impossible to suck into your mouth when skiing uphill.

Target curbside pickup forever, I am never ever going back inside for toilet paper as long as I live!

Basically we are still living the lockdown lifestyle but with more curbside pickup knowledge. We run errands separately and sparingly to reduce exposure risk, and I see individual friends outdoors for backyard happy hours or walks. I registered our high risk kid for another semester of distance learning (sad times) until he can get vaccinated. I reserve batches of library books and quickly pick them up rather than browse the shelves. I’m keeping my Imperfect Foods account active in case I want to hop back on the grocery delivery train (every delivery is an adventure, that’s for sure). We got a new furnace in June so we could keep our windows open and hang out in the backyard while it was being installed, and I asked all the workers to wear their masks. We’re holding off on all unnecessary non-DIY house projects for another year. I finally found the new location of my favorite taco truck so we can “dine out” again.

I’m not going to lie, it still sucks a lot.
posted by Maarika at 8:31 PM on July 27, 2021 [13 favorites]

Also, I’ve told my vaccinated senior citizen parents to start masking up again indoors (with real masks, too, not those flimsy pieces of paper purchased in bulk from Sam’s Club). My mom was NOT HAPPY, but I’m going to keep on it.
posted by Maarika at 8:38 PM on July 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

in the past 2 months, I have done the following. I wrote my will, talked with a financial planner and got my finances in order, and am looking for jobs that won't force me to be in-person (I'm still working from home now, but my job is agitating for me to go back in despite my disability accommodations). I also seriously dialed back my participation in voluntary work activities. The pandemic really sharpened my perspective on just how little I matter to my colleagues, and just how much I was giving to my job for absolutely no reason.

I replenished my go bag, got some LifeStraws in case something happens to the water supply at some point because God only knows what's coming next, and restocked my at-home cash supply. It's good to have bills of different denominations available, especially for tipping delivery people. I got my car serviced and had the brakes and tires replaced slightly ahead of schedule. I bought another brick of yeast, a family pack of toilet paper, and seeds for vegetables. I also stocked up on reading materials. I had someone come clean out my dryer vents and air vents and replace all the batteries in my smoke detectors because that was past due and I can't do it myself. I donated a bunch of gently-used things to Goodwill.

Finally, I went on a few masked and distanced dates with someone really lovely (and vaccinated!) in the park. Replenishing my social battery was pretty imperative for my mental health after 15 months of total isolation. I'm back to hermit crab mode now and it is awful. I have other health conditions that make covid very dangerous for me, so I'm just crossing my fingers that one day I will be able to be back out in the world. Relatedly, I removed everyone who was anti-vax or who treated me poorly from my life during the pandemic. My stint on Earth is too short to spend time with people who prioritize their ideology over my actual life, family or not.

Oh, and therapy. Lots and lots of therapy. I've started seeing my therapist twice a week as we move into this fourth wave, because what I am experiencing and witnessing is traumatic and I deserve care.
posted by twelve cent archie at 8:58 PM on July 27, 2021 [10 favorites]

I'm hearing that COVID fast antigen tests are selling out, so you might get a few of those.
posted by slidell at 10:37 PM on July 27, 2021

The only thing I am considering is getting a booster shot. I am Pfizer vaccinated. I am thinking of getting another shot of Pfizer before the CDC recommends it and there is a scarcity or wait.

Otherwise, for travel plans, where I would not have considered driving, I have eschewed flying if the drive would be 12 hours or less. Drove 10 hours each way for a 3 day weekend (plus the 2 days of driving). I have a 36 gallon gas tank on my truck and get 20 - 21 mpg, so unless I need a bathroom break, I can pretty much drive straight through. Although I have flown cross country 2x recently, I try to avoid airports at all costs. Too many people who may or may not be vaxxed, may or may not be carriers, and may or may not give a shit.
posted by AugustWest at 11:20 PM on July 27, 2021 [1 favorite]

1) Masks in public (I'm buying KF94s 100 at a time) and absolutely 100% of the time indoors in public places
2) I've reestablished my COVID pod and am limiting IRL visits with others again
3) Stocked up on BinaxNow OTC tests and use them before mask-off visits with people who aren't my immediate family
4) Mentally preparing for lockdown mode for the forseeable future
5) I keep a picnic blanket and foldy chairs in my car for outdoor visits
posted by quince at 11:27 PM on July 27, 2021

I would also like to chime in with "as little as requested by those around me."

The news cycle around covid is a hugely popular one, and the stories that are scary get a lot more clicks. While there are surprising articles around Delta, I have not seen convincing data yet that vaccinated people can spread it to each other. We just don't know that.

Because I don't interact indoors with unvaccinated or at risk people, I don't expect to change behaviors.
posted by bbqturtle at 3:51 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

Coming from someone in a country that has been fighting Delta for a couple of months, the above advice is good. Do not underestimate this variant, it's fast and sneaky.

One thing I would say is to familiarise yourself with the most common symptoms of Delta and make sure those around you know to look out for them as well, because they are very different from the "big three" we've come to know as COVID.

The highest reported symptoms for Delta are:
- headache
- sore throat
- sniffles/sneezing/running nose

Coughs, loss of smell/taste, body aches, fatigue and fever may also appear but the above symptoms have edged out the most common ones for previous variants in most people. This makes things even more difficult because it's very easy to confuse the symptoms for bad hayfever or just a common cold, and many people have no idea that Delta presents differently from "classic" COVID.
posted by fight or flight at 4:02 AM on July 28, 2021 [13 favorites]

I'm squeezing in several medical and dental appointments in the next two weeks while my state and town still have very low Covid rates. I'm getting my haircut today but going back to washing my hair ahead of time in order to minimize the amount of time I spend at the salon.
posted by Elsie at 4:33 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Revisiting to add:

One thing I really regret doing last spring was getting really stuck into the weeds on covid-related data. JHU Covid Tracker, World-O-Meter case rates, WHO briefings. In retrospect, I think I was trying to convince myself that if I just knew more I could evade the virus, but I sort of fell down a rabbit hole and it just fueled my anxiety.

One of my colleagues dropped off a care package to get me through quarantine (social workers! they think of things like this!) We did a "yell-down-the-driveway" visit before there was a name for such things, and she pointed out that data chaos is still just chaos, and maybe limiting myself to 15 minutes a day would get me that sense of "I need to know what's happening" without turning into "now let me regraph this data eight ways to Sunday."

That advice proved just as useful as hand-washing and masking. Don't fall down the rabbit hole!
posted by basalganglia at 4:59 AM on July 28, 2021 [12 favorites]

I live in STL. Mr. Meat is a doctor who is often the covid intubation guy. We are discussing our exposure budget now.

From an infectious disease specialist here:
Outdoors. Masked. Distanced. Pick two.

I have KN95s from maskc (link) - when I bought them, I checked out and they asked me if I wanted another pack for half off what I had just paid, too. I said yes.

I'm double-masking in stores now, whereas I've never stopped single masking.

Exposure budget: Mr. Meat has to go to work. I have to go to allergy shots and physical therapy. One of us has to get groceries somehow, so I prioritize the farmers market and the grocery store when it's not crowded. I avoid the people without masks in the grocery store (yes, we just reinstated the mask mandate, not everyone complies).

We had our last indoor social time with some recently graduated doctors last weekend. They are all vaccinated, but still.

I'm supposed to go see my family, including meeting my now 8-month old niece, at the end of August. I don't know if that's going to happen. I haven't told my sister yet (the one I visited right after becoming fully vaccinated) because I know she'll just be so sad.

I'll have more thoughts later; I think about this a lot.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:07 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]

More thoughts:

- I have to focus on small things that bring joy. Examples: the fruits at the farmers market are perfection right now. The dog has an adorable happy face after walks. The cat has finally figured out that I do have a lap that's for snuggling (she has been the junior cat for 8+ years and our late senior cat always took my lap). The americano I got last week was delicious.

- We are making outdoors better for us. That has meant getting a second hammock so we don't have to take turns, getting allergy shots for me so that maybe I can sit outside in the spring, getting physical therapy for me so that hiking is safer and more enjoyable, and getting more seating for outdoors so that outdoor fire pits with friends are an option.

- We're not eating outdoors at restaurants any more. We did a month ago.

- We got life insurance for Mr. Meat.

- Unpopular thoughts: We have continued to travel. We put on N95s as soon as we get to the airport, and we don't take them off. This means you get hungry and thirsty, that's ok. We travel to places where we are outdoors, hiking and camping. Our logic is that this is roughly the same exposure we'd get at home, and we need to get away because otherwise Mr. Meat doesn't get a break from the hospital.

I don't want covid. I am at low risk, but I don't want it because long covid looks to be a nasty thing, and I've seen my mom deal with after effects of polio her entire life.

This has been kind of like watching the weather for a hurricane coming, it's just taking forever.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:47 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]

Polycarp's answer pretty much covers where I'm at mentally; I mention it just as another data point on the more risk-tolerant side. Vaccine and a high-quality mask in indoor public settings, but otherwise going about my business, is a level of risk that I'm currently comfortable with at the moment. In terms of practical preparations, if you haven't stocked up on N/KN95 masks recently, it's gotten much much easier to get them from vetted manufacturers than in the thick of things last year so I've worked to dispense with my scarcity mindset around the "good" masks.
posted by superfluousm at 5:54 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

This thread is kind of stress-inducing. Are people really panic-buying yeast again and worrying about the water supply? Seriously?

I'm just reverting to how we were conducting business in April:
  • Avoid large gatherings of people, outdoors or indoors
  • Avoid being indoors for extended amounts of time with others
  • Wear a mask whenever you're indoors with other people whose vaccination status you don't know.
  • Small get-togethers with family are OK, as long as everyone is fully-vaccinated and not exhibiting any symptoms. We try to have these get-togethers outdoors, if possible.
We have a small child who can't be vaccinated yet, so we have been taking extra precautions based on that. We haven't been doing indoor activities with strangers: no traveling as a family, no indoor dining, etc. Play dates are with one or two other households, and held outdoors.

She may go to preschool this year, but it depends on transmission rates in our community, and we will not send her to a school that doesn't require masks.

Delta is a setback in our path towards a post-pandemic world. But it's a bump in the road. Pandemics end eventually, and we've learned a lot on how (and how not) to manage this one. We are not back to square one. There is simply no need for the anxieties of March 2020 if you're vaccinated.

Do not panic.
posted by vitout at 6:20 AM on July 28, 2021 [21 favorites]

Maybe stop driving yourself batty reading so much news about the Delta variant? It's kind of curious reading this thread from the UK, where we've had Delta for what feels like a long time now, and I don't really remember its arrival making a drastic difference for anyone in terms of behaviour. We've obviously had a huge spike in raw case numbers, but vaccination levels mean hospitalisation levels have been much slower to rise than in previous peaks.

From what we've been through, I'd say local infection rates and personal vaccination status are the main things governing whether people feel like they're at risk, rather than a general "Argh, here comes Delta!" panic. I'm not aware of anyone who restocked their emergency stores or rearranged their diaries specifically as a result of Delta.

But then we did have thousands of people gathering at Wembley for the Euros, and England (not the rest of the UK) awarded itself the ludicrous 'Freedom Day' recently when legal restrictions were largely lifted. So we may not be the best arbiters of risk. But we do seem to be seeing a significant downturn in cases now, so who knows.
posted by penguin pie at 7:13 AM on July 28, 2021 [14 favorites]

(Which is not to say you shouldn't take sensible precautions - but base those precautions on the things you always did - local infection rates in the places you go, and the vaccination status of yourself and the people you're meeting, not on a general blanket "preparing for the Deltapocalypse" panic).
posted by penguin pie at 7:15 AM on July 28, 2021 [5 favorites]

I think the answer is... make no change

What little numbers we have suggests little change between a pre/post Delta world

the early data says that when people who are vaccinated come into the hospital with Delta, they are unlikely to die. That's some reassurance.

It may be that a vaccinated person is a more likely to catch Delta than the previous variant - we don't know how much but still in a better position that people without vaccines.

For me, I'm not feeling any need to modify my precautions based on a newer variant.
posted by jander03 at 11:32 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

Reach out to your friends who are enthusiastically pro-vaccine, but have kids under 12.

Do you have any other sub-12 year olds in your life? Maybe send them a little gift, offer to read a book to them over zoom even if its awkward. Things are grim for adults, but kiddos are dealing with this in a way that is unique, weird way. They need as much or more tending to than adults do right now.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:34 PM on July 28, 2021 [7 favorites]

Get better masks if you are not using N95 or KN95. Recommendations on Wirecutter (I've coincidentally been using the Kimberly-Clark (Kimtech) N95 mask since much earlier than this review and can confirm it looks funny but is very comfortable and fits well).
posted by Dansaman at 11:23 PM on July 29, 2021 [1 favorite]

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