The latest COVID-19 variant that is spreading across our country is known as Omicron. The first outbreak of the Omicron variant was diagnosed a few months ago in people living in a South African province. This variant of the original COVID-19 virus is able to spread quickly which makes it very contagious to the population at large. In a relatively short period of time, Omicron has infected people around the globe.

While the medical and scientific communities are still gathering data from patients with Omicron, the initial impression is that this variant is not as severe as the initial COVID-19 or its Delta variant. So far patients with Omicron are experiencing fewer symptoms affecting their lungs, which gives us hope that this variant is less fatal than the initial virus and the Delta variant. More research is still needed before we will know how Omicron spreads, what its typical symptoms are, how to medically treat the variant, how long a person remains infected before recovery, and if a new vaccine needs to be created to treat this variant.

Without more precise information about Omicron is transmitted, we need to follow the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how to practice healthy precautions. Even though Omicron is currently thought to be less severe than other versions of the COVID-19 viruses, seniors and others with immunocompromised health issues can still experience a stronger case of Omicron.

Ways to Stay Safe from the Omicron Variant

1. Seniors and their caregivers are urged to get both the COVID-19 vaccines and the booster. While these shots cannot fully protect you from getting Omicron, being vaccinated increases the chances that your infection will be less severe than someone without vaccinations.

2. Practice good hygiene by:
— Maintaining social distancing from others when outside of your home.
–Wearing a mask when going into a store, when attending a crowded outdoor event, when seeing a doctor or laboratory facility, and when someone comes into your home who is not vaccinated.
–Using disinfections to wipe down commonly used surfaces.
–Using hand sanitizers frequently throughout the day to eliminate bacteria.

3. Medical telehealth visits with healthcare providers are one of the ways how Medicare can help you stay safe. Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage plans cover the costs of telehealth. If you do not have a smartphone or a laptop, telephonic visits with medical providers are covered by Medicare Part B and Medicare Advantage plans.

4. Use the free at-home rapid COVID test kits from the Federal Government if you suspect you have contracted any of the COVID-19 variants. You can order 4 free kits on the website and they will be delivered by the US Postal System. At the current time, Medicare does not pay for over-the-counter at-home rapid COVID test kits while some Medicare Advantage plans do cover at-home test kits. You can check your Medicare Advantage policy plan or talk with your insurance provider to know if the home test kits are covered. Medicare will pay for a home COVID test that is sent to a laboratory for diagnosis if your health care provider orders you to have the test.

5. Carry a package of hand wipes and disposable latex gloves in your vehicle, purse, or backpack to use when shopping or filling up your vehicle at the gasoline station. Wiping down shopping cart handles or gas pump nozzles and buttons will reduce your risk for infection. Use another hand wipe to clean your hands before getting back into your vehicle and remember not to touch your face until you have used a hand sanitizer.

6. Wear a mask and disposable latex gloves when visiting a recreation center or a gym. Also, practice social distancing when using the equipment. You might want to exercise at home if there are a lot of people using the facility and you cannot maintain a reasonable distance from other people.

7. Until we know that the COVID-19 Omicron variant is lessening in the transmission you may want to limit any travel away from your local area. Try to stay in an area where you know you will be safe.

Bottom Line
There are many ways that you can help yourself and your loved ones by following the tips provided above. This is a situation where an ounce of prevention is well worth a pound of care. Your good health is worth the effort.

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