Local Sugar Hill doctor Colette Bullock, D.O., spoke with the North Gwinnett Voice to offer advice on how to stay COVID-safe as we gather for the holidays.
Bullock is a board certified internal medicine physician and a doctor of osteopathic medicine, an approach that focuses on treating the patient as a whole rather than just symptoms of any given disease.
In regard to the risk of COVID-19 and the emerging Omicron variant going into the holidays, Bullock said, “I don’t think the risk has changed that much … and with the variant, there’s still a degree, even for those of us who are vaccinated, of contracting and/or passing along the virus to those who are immunocompromised, who are unvaccinated, who therefore are at higher risk. There’s still a fairly impressive risk associated with us gathering for the holidays.”
She does not, however, think it’s necessary for families, friends and loved ones to refrain from gathering at all. In fact, she stated that self-isolation could also have a detrimental effect on individuals.
“Our socialization is still very important,” she said. “We’re having a lot of, as a result of isolation and separation during COVID, a lot more psychological issues that are stemming.”
Bullock stressed it’s still important to gather, but to do so using wisdom. She touched on a number of ways to minimize the risk of spreading or contracting COVID-19, particularly for those who are unvaccinated or immunocompromised.
The first method she mentioned was simple awareness and the importance of understanding the implications of attending a gathering even if you don’t feel well.
“If people notice that they have had any kind of cold or flu-like symptoms, then although it may be hard, (they should not gather) with those people that they were planning on gathering with,” she said.
Bullock also recommended meeting in outdoor spaces when possible so the risk of transmission is lower. Even where that’s impossible, she said smaller crowds are safer than large gatherings in enclosed spaces. She also stressed the importance of airflow, and advised that, even if gatherings are to be held indoors, creating good air circulation by opening windows or turning on fans can lower the risk of transmission more given that COVID-19 is an airborne illness.
Bullock went on to say face masks are another important tool in preventing the spread of the virus.
“You’re going to limit the transmission especially when you wear face masks properly covering the nose and mouth, protecting any of the other mucus membranes like the eyes,” she said. “That’s going to minimize the spread and transmission.”
Addressing the misconception that masks are solely for the protection of the wearer, she said, “If you have … small children who have not been vaccinated yet, or immunocompromised people who may have been vaccinated but are still at high risk, things like wearing face masks if you’re going to gather … the goal is to minimize the risk and minimize the transmission, especially to those who are at higher risk.”
Bullock stressed the importance of making these sort of small sacrifices in the interest of protecting loved ones.
On the subject of the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Bullock emphasized the importance of using wisdom.
“Just looking at the medical literature, looking at those clinical trials that were done early last year before the vaccine was approved, and then even after it was under emergency use authorization, the efficacy and the safety of the vaccine has been shown time and time again,” she said. “If you just look at the numbers and the information, the risk of transmission and the evidence of protection is there, I think from an evidence-based, medicine standpoint, I think it’s important to get the vaccine.”
Bullock again mentioned the importance of taking such preventative measures, not just for the individual, but for the protection of anyone they might encounter who could be at higher risk.
“There are some people who might have conditions that might not allow them to (get the vaccine). So that’s why it’s so important for those of us who can safely receive the vaccine to get it, because then we lower their risk,” she said. “I think civically, being responsible not just for ourselves, but for our neighbors, that it’s important for us to take that step.”