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 A graphic featuring the number 2021 written with face masks and COVID-19 vaccines.

What We Know about COVID-19 in 2021

Jan 20, 2021

Nearly a year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 to be a global pandemic, we have been hearing more hopeful news as governments have begun distributing vaccines to certain priority groups, including healthcare providers, first responders and at-risk individuals,including those over the age of 65 or under 65 with certain underlying conditions.

Amazing progress has been made so far. Texas became the first state to administer 1 million doses of the vaccine, and the vaccine has been administered to residents of all 254 counties. With two vaccines -- from Pfizer and Moderna -- currently authorized for emergency use, there are also vaccines from AstraZeneca, Janssen, and Novavax in stage 3 clinical trials.

Vaccine supply remains limited, so it is important to be patient and continue to follow the CDC guidelines and healthy behaviors that we have become accustomed to in the past few months. Check out everything we know about COVID-19 a year after it burst onto the world stage.

Current Treatments for COVID-19

There have been several breakthroughs this past year in how doctors treat COVID-19. Remdesivir, for example, is an antiviral given by intravenous infusion in the hospital and was the first drug the FDA approved to treat COVID-19. It has been shown to shorten the time to recovery in several patients with severe COVID-19.

The FDA has also granted an emergency-use authorization for the rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib to treat some cases of the virus by reducing inflammation.

Emergency-use authorization was also granted for convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19. Convalescent plasma is blood donated by people who've recovered from COVID-19, and doctors use it as a type of immune-based therapy.

Another form of treatment that has been proven to benefit patients with respiratory symptoms is proning. Proning is the process of turning a patient with respiratory issues from their back onto their stomach to help them breathe better. This is generally reserved for sedated patients who need ventilators, but it has also been known to benefit other patients with COVID-19 as well. Benefits of proning include a reduced risk of ventilator-induced lung injury, less lung compression, improved heart function, and better drainage of secretions produced in diseased lungs.

Research into other treatments for COVID-19 continues, with some areas including other antiviral and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Common Symptoms of COVID-19

There has been a lot of discourse about all the symptoms associated with COVID-19. Over the last year, the CDC has compiled a list of the most common ones people reported, including:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If you or a loved one start to experience any of these symptoms 2-14 days after potential exposure to the virus, it’s vital to take a test and begin self-isolating immediately.

What to Do If You Are Sick With COVID-19

If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms and are awaiting test results, the best thing to do is stay home and take care of yourself. It’s also important to notify everyone with whom you have been in close contact. An infected person can spread the virus up to 48 hours before they start showing symptoms.

While you are isolating at home, be sure to stay rested and hydrated. Additionally, clean and disinfect surfaces every day and avoid sharing personal household items, such as dishes, towels, and linens.

It’s also highly important to monitor your health. Call 911 if you or a loved one experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

When to End or Reduce Quarantine

Whether you tested positive without experiencing any symptoms or you no longer feel sick, there are several situations in which you may be wondering if it’s safe to leave your home after self-isolation. Here are the CDC’s updated guidelines:

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By ending your self-isolation correctly and safely, you protect not only yourself from reinfection but also those around you from the spread of the virus.

Staying Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s important to remember that by staying safe, you’re not only protecting yourself but your community as well. Whether you have to report to work, buy groceries, or exercise, leaving your home is not always avoidable. A great first step in protecting yourself and your community when you go out in public is to wear a mask.

Masks are critical to stopping the spread of COVID-19, as is staying six feet away from other people every time you are in public. According to the CDC, multi-layer cloth masks can block 50-70% of droplets and particles that carry COVID-19.

To use a mask correctly, you must:

  • Wear it over both your nose and mouth
  • Wear it under a scarf or warm face covering during winter
  • Keep a spare one in case yours becomes wet or moist from your breath or the weather
  • Store reusable ones in plastic bags until you can wash them
  • Avoid touching the mask unless you can wash or sanitize your hands beforehand
  • Avoid touching your face while removing your mask

With companies now sending shipments of the vaccines across the country, we can expect to see them available to the public later this year. Until then, let’s all do our part to use what we have learned this past year to keep ourselves and each other safe.

Visit our COVID-19 vaccine information page to learn more about the vaccine and its availability.

Sources:
CDC | COVID-19
AJMC | A Timeline of COVID-19 Developments in 2020
CDC | Community Use of Cloth Masks to Control the Spread of SARS-CoV-2
CDC | Therapeutic Options