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The pandemic isn’t over yet! Here’s how to stay healthy and informed

Tufts Health Plan
The pandemic isn’t over yet! Here’s how to stay healthy and informed

After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, things are still uncertain. More and more people are getting the vaccine, restrictions are being lifted and businesses are re-opening.

But the pandemic isn’t over yet. Now more than ever, it’s important to stay informed, stay in touch with your doctor and other health care providers and take good care of yourself and your loved ones.

Here are three things you can do to stay both healthy and informed as you navigate this new phase.

1. Get the vaccine if you haven’t already.

Getting the vaccine is the most important way you can protect yourself and the people you love from COVID-19. The vaccines have been carefully researched and are proven to be safe and effective. Millions of people in Massachusetts and throughout New England are fully vaccinated. Although the numbers of hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 have dropped since the peak in early 2021, they are on the rise again. However, most people getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 now are people who did not get the vaccine.

Though we’ve come a long way, we haven’t yet reached herd immunity. This is the point when enough people have been vaccinated or have already been infected that COVID-19 can’t easily spread. There are also new, more contagious variants of COVID-19, like the Delta variant, that put unvaccinated people at even greater risk.

The good news is that state and local governments, health care providers, and pharmacies are making it easier than ever to get the COVID-19 vaccine—and it’s free, whether you have insurance or not. Currently, anyone over age 12 is eligible. Talk with your doctor if you have any questions about COVID-19 or the vaccine. The state’s website, Mass.gov, and community websites are other good sources of trustworthy information.

2. Make your health a priority.

You wore a mask, you washed your hands, you monitored for COVID-19 symptoms. But if you’re like many people, you also canceled or delayed regular doctor visits and other types of health care, either because you had to or because you didn’t want to risk getting exposed to COVID-19 at the doctor’s office.

Now, it’s time to get back to your regular preventive health care and screenings. Your doctor is your best ally in helping you and your family stay healthy. Here are some reminders about care you might need to catch up on:

If you canceled or delayed important preventive screenings like a mammogram, colonoscopy, or blood tests, contact your primary care provider and find out how you can get back on track. Many preventive screenings are covered by insurance with no co-payment.

Make sure you and all other family members get a yearly checkup and any follow-up care you need.

If you have a chronic health condition like diabetes, heart disease or COPD, be sure to keep up with your routine appointments and screenings, especially if you missed them during the pandemic. Tufts Health Plan members can get support from care managers, who help members manage their symptoms, get the care they need and make healthy lifestyle choices.

If your children missed any of their recommended childhood vaccines or haven’t had them yet, call their pediatrician and find out how to get back on schedule. Children enrolled in Tufts Health Plan’s MassHealth plans can earn a $25 supermarket gift card if they get recommended childhood vaccines and screenings by age two. Adolescent members who get recommended vaccines by age 13 can get a $10 movie theater gift card.

3. Be kind to yourself and your loved ones.

The pandemic has taken an emotional toll on all of us. It upended almost every part of normal life, from work to school to socializing to daily routines. Even ordinary tasks like shopping for groceries became more complicated and stressful, even dangerous.

If you’re still feeling the impact of the pandemic in your life, you’re not alone. Many people are experiencing grief as a result of losing friends and loved ones to the COVID-19 virus. People are still picking up the pieces of a lost business or career and trying to figure out what’s next. Parents are concerned about the impact that remote schooling and canceled activities may have had on their children’s learning and emotional wellbeing.

Others—especially those who are immunocompromised or who have children too young to be vaccinated—may still be anxious about the virus and the uptick in new cases. It’s not surprising that 40 percent of adults said they had symptoms of depression and anxiety during the pandemic, up from 11 percent in 2019, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

There’s no easy fix for these worries. That’s why it’s important to go easy on yourself and the people you love. You can ask your doctor or other health care providers for advice about the best ways to handle some of the lingering effects from the pandemic—even if they are things you don’t typically talk with your doctors about, like what you should do if your family needs food or if your child is behind in learning. Your doctors may be able to direct you to helpful services and resources in the community.

Remember also that professional help is available if you or someone you love feels overwhelmed, anxious or depressed or is having problems with drugs or alcohol. If you or a family member needs help, ask your doctor about behavioral health options, including telehealth, which lets you talk with a therapist or other behavioral health professional from the privacy and convenience of your own home.

Again, one of the most crucial ways to protect your health right now is to get the COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t already. If you’re not vaccinated yet, or have only had one dose of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines, help keep yourself and others safe by wearing a mask and social distancing when you’re around other people—even people who are vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public if they live in an area with a substantial or high rate of COVID-19 transmission.

Coping during the pandemic hasn’t been easy. The key to your family’s health now is to take care of yourself and your loved ones, keep in touch with your health care providers and stay informed. At Tufts Health Plan, we’re here to help however we can.

Tufts Health Plan is one of the few health plans in Massachusetts to offer coverage across the life span regardless of age or circumstance. This coverage includes Medicaid/subsidized, commercial and Medicare health plans. To learn more, visit tuftshealthplan.com.

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