COVID-19 Update: The Last Few Miles of the Marathon

Dear Campus Community,

We’ve had such good news in the past week, with the authorization and administration of the first COVID-19 vaccines. It’s certainly a moment to celebrate. And with it comes hope … the perfect gift this holiday season and the perfect start to a new year with new promise for the long-awaited end of the pandemic.

By the time you read this, thousands of health care workers and high-risk long term-care residents will have been vaccinated. New therapies are showing promise and survival among hospitalized patients is better than ever.

We are so close.

Yet as with any marathon, the last few miles are always the hardest. The COVID-19 pandemic is no different, and we can’t lose sight of what we need to do to make it across the finish line.

We are closely monitoring case rates at the county, state and national levels, as numbers have begun to rise in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday and as colder weather drives people indoors.

All of this stands in stark contrast to the backdrop of the holiday season, a time most associated with joy, celebration and reflection.

So what should we do?

Like everything else, there is much we can do to take action while still enjoying many of our holiday traditions. In fact, we can do almost everything we normally do, just with the precautions we have been taking.

If you plan to be with family, friends or loved ones, be thoughtful about it. Limit the number to small groups, wear masks if you are with people who are not in your typical “bubble,” try to share meals outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, and limit any unnecessary travel.

What you do makes a difference in protecting loved ones — and those we don’t even know — who are at risk. Without these steps, we risk exposing those who are most vulnerable, some of whom could suffer serious complications or even die.

Get tested, but remember a negative test is only one of many steps to help protect others, and no one step in and of itself is perfect. A negative result is not a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. Getting a test is part of a series of actions we should take, as each reinforces the other. 

Stay home, isolate and get tested if you have symptoms. Wear a mask, physically distance, wash your hands frequently, share meals outside when possible and again, limit gatherings.

Normal is not far away, but it gets here more quickly, and for more of us, if we get through the next few weeks working together to do the simple things that we know work to protect others around us.

As always, please visit the Screen, Test & Protect website for more information and don’t hesitate to reach out to us if we can be of any help at all.

Thank you for doing your part, and here’s wishing all of you a joyous and peaceful holiday season from all of us here at UF Health Screen, Test & Protect.

Michael Lauzardo, MD, MSc
Director, UF Health Screen, Test & Protect
Deputy Director, Emerging Pathogens Institute
Associate Professor, Division of Infectious Diseases and Global Medicine
UF College of Medicine