Although there have been improvements in combating the spread of COVID-19, we still need to take precautions to ensure our health and the health of our loved ones.
We’re going on about one year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and although we’re still masking up, social distancing, and sanitizing our hands, we’ve seen great tragedy happen in real time and great hope emerge. Over 28 million cases of COVID-19 have led to over 500,000 deaths so far, according to the CDC. There has been progress towards stopping the spread of COVID-19, however. Vaccines for the deadly respiratory virus are now available to select individuals, with more to come down the line.
As we reflect on the past year and the changes to our public health protocols, we offer this updated overview of what to know about COVID-19 as of March 2021.
It’s Still Important to Wear a Mask
Despite the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine, we still highly recommend that you and your loved ones mask up if you need to leave the home for work or a supply run. As of the time of this writing, vaccines are still being rolled out. Even many high-risk individuals are still waiting for their inoculations. In addition, new strains of the virus have emerged in South Africa, the UK, and Brazil, some of which have spread to the Houston area. The world isn’t out of the woods yet, and until we’re all protected, we’re going to need to continue wearing face masks in the presence of others outside of our homes. Here, we’ll answer the most common questions you may have about masking up in 2021.
When should I wear a mask?
The standards for wearing a mask remain the same one year later. This means wearing a properly-fitting mask in the following situations:
- When interacting with someone in-person who does not live in your household
- When entering a private home where you do not reside
- While in public or community spaces, even outdoors
- While in the car between public spaces
- While on public transportation or airplanes
Remember, even while masked it’s still best practice to put six feet of social distancing between yourself and others outside of your household whenever possible. Keeping at least a six-foot distance reduces your chances of contracting COVID-19 and its variants even more.
What are the best masks of 2021?
Wearing a mask is still one of the top ways to stop the spread of coronavirus, but there are specifics when it comes to selecting and fitting them to ensure maximum efficacy. First, you should make sure your mask meets one of the following criteria to function properly:
- N-95 masks
- Disposable face masks, like the kind used in hospitals
- Cloth face masks with at least two layers
- A double-layered gaiter
- A scarf or balaclava worn over a mask (scarves and balaclavas should not be worn in lieu of a mask)
- A knit or crochet mask with a layer of more solid cloth as a liner (knit and crochet masks are not effective without the liner)
Please note that, at this time, the efficacy of wearing face shields is not yet fully known. If you wish to wear a face shield, please do so along with a mask rather than by itself.
The following factors indicate a proper mask fit:
- It covers your nose and mouth
- There are no side gaps
- The straps do not hang loose around your ears
- You are able to talk in it without it shifting positions on your face
In addition to wearing a proper-fitting mask, it is highly advisable to wash your hands before you put on your mask and refrain from touching your mask while out in public. If you end up touching it, sanitize your hands immediately after. We also highly recommend washing your reusable masks after every use.
Masks are not to be worn by children under the age of two.
We highly recommend reading the CDC’s guide to face masks for further information about fitting, washing, and the myths and facts behind wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Should I double mask?
As COVID-19 variants emerged, so did talk of whether or not doubling up on masks would be necessary to reduce transmission.
Short answer? Wearing two masks is more effective than wearing a single mask provided that both masks are properly fitted. But if you have only one mask available, there’s no need to panic. Even tight-knit fabrics have a tiny degree of porousness to them, and double masking doubles the protection against microscopic droplets. However, this advice only works when masks are worn and fitted properly. Poorly-fitted or poorly-worn masks offer reduced protection, if any protection at all.
COVID-19 vaccines are available now, but at the time of this writing, are limited to the most physically vulnerable, their caretakers and housemates, and frontline workers such as doctors, nurses, and teachers. Information regarding vaccines may change at any time, so we encourage you to consult the resources listed below for the latest news on the COVID-19 vaccine in Baytown and Houston.
When can I expect my vaccine?
Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to schedule your vaccine now. Refer to the chart below for details about when you may expect to receive your COVID-19 inoculation.
|Group Identification||Who is Included||When to Expect Availability|
For a full list of everyone covered under group 1a, please click here.
For a full list of everyone covered under group 1b, please click here.
|Available now in areas where enough people in 1a have received inoculations.|
|Group 2||Everyone who doesn’t fall under group 1a or 1b||Estimated spring 2021, according to Texas Health and Human Services|
Please note that the data regarding the COVID-19 vaccine is always in flux due to the nature of public health and the relevant procedures. These are only estimates as a result, and the expected availability may change on a day-to-day basis owing to a variety of factors. Below, we list some links to help you stay on top of vaccine availability in Baytown and surrounding areas.
How do I schedule a COVID-19 vaccine?
Both Chambers County and Harris County provide alerts and resources on where citizens may schedule their COVID-19 vaccine when they become available for their respective risk groups. We advise you bookmark the following links when searching for the next available appointments in your area:
Information is always subject to change based on vaccine availability, the opening or closing of new inoculation sites, and developments in COVID-19 case numbers. We recommend checking these sites daily for the most up-to-date news on what to know about the vaccine.
Your Baytown COVID-19 Resource
The Patients ER staff has carefully monitored public safety developments since the pandemic began. We have families of our own, and we understand the need to protect them from COVID-19 with as many precautions as possible. We’re here for you because we know we’re all in this together. Please feel free to contact us by phone at 281-576-0555 or online with your questions or concerns about COVID-19, face masks, and vaccinations.