COVID: Now is the New Normal.

“Now more than ever,” we’ve been told that “these uncertain times” are now “the new normal,” and to “navigate the uncertain times” you should buy from our brand because “we’re all in this together.”

Nauseating cliches that don’t reflect reality, amirite?

First, your brand sucks, and Pop-Tarts won’t really get us through this. Second, we’re definitely not all in this together, lots of us are in la-la land, denying reality and standing in opposition to our progress.

“New normal? No way. I’m vaxxed, waxxed and having hot girl summer.” So you thought.

It’s time to come to grips with reality, folks. We definitely have arrived at the day where a cliche becomes true. We are in the new normal.

Today, this Supplement Strategy guy will become, once again, the COVID Strategy guy and give you the guide to maintaining both safety and sanity.

Why is THIS the New Normal?

If only people acted like there was a pandemic going on…

They aren’t, and so here we are. COVID’s been with us for too damn long and I think we’re not going to be able to shake it, based on the behaviors of everyone around us.

If we take a step back, there were always three distinct paths out of COVID-19:

  1. Everyone gets vaccinated quickly, squashing any mutations from spreading. Even if there was global disparity, a delta-like variant wouldn’t cause a surge, having no one to feed on
  2. COVID mutates to a more dangerous form, killing millions quickly, then burns out. This is the “fastest” way out, but it comes at great cost (obviously)
  3. COVID stays in the general zone we’ve experienced thus far. It mutates enough to spread in unvaccinated and vaccinated alike, creating wave after wave of anxiety and uncertainty until, years from now, it fades out

Well, we screwed the pooch on 1. I really hope 2 doesn’t happen. It could, but that would stink.

I believe, based on virologist, immunologist, and public health officials’ comments, that COVID-19 will probably mutate on and on and on.

We are destined to live our lives—for the foreseeable future—navigating surges and dips.

Crap. Standing in line for vaccines and boosters. Getting into fistfights on planes about masking. Staying cautious. Staying home. Coping with chocolate. Less fun.

NOPE.

I don’t believe, nor have I ever that we have to hide in our closets for this to go away.

“Quarantine in place” was only really necessary in April 2020 when we didn’t know which way was up. Staying home and isolating is one strategy, but it is not a viable long-term strategy since we dropped the ball, globally.

This is clearly the new normal, so we must redefine (or get on the same page with) what I mean by “act like a pandemic is going on.”

To navigate the new normal, we must implement a system. A strategy. A model for care, much like we use the Wellness Pyramid as a model for true holistic care.

The New Normal Management Toolbox

We have a number of tools at our disposal for managing the pandemic while living much more active lives than we did when this first thing started. We know much more about the virus, and we have more options than we ever have.

Here are the tools:

  1. Mental Strength
  2. Media navigation (and early alert)
  3. Mitigation strategies
  4. Understanding the Risk Calculations
  5. Vaccination & Boosters
  6. Public Policies
  7. General Wellness

Let’s explore each one briefly, using examples from my own life and how we tackled important decisions like, “Should we go to Aruba with the kids?” or “Should we go to Brooklyn to see the Black Pumas?”

Mental Strength: Coping with COVID Part 4 (or 5. or 6.)

If it is true that COVID will be with us for the next 3 years, many of us have to do some mental work first and foremost.

We HAVE to let go.

We’re all attached to the notion that “it will be over soon” or that we’ll go right back to our old ways. We’re attached to the idea that people will actually come around and stop opposing mitigation strategies or vaccination.

We have the story we tell ourselves, and we have what’s real.

Whether you meditate or implement suggestions from our three-part Coping with COVID series, or whatever system works for you, the first and biggest step is acceptance.

Acceptance doesn’t require you to be happy about what’s going on. All we are trying to do with acceptance is close the gap between what we wish were true and what’s real.

In the wellness world, people are overwhelmed with choices, confused with all the chaos, and fatigued from mixed messages.

To build that lifelong wellness plan that sticks, we need to take pause, take survey, and accept reality for what it is (“I’m actually not doing the healthiest things even though I tell myself I am”)

Acceptance is easier once we take a full account of all of these tools and make a plan. The same will be true of our New Normal Strategy.

Media Navigation (Early Alert)

In the beginning, I was praised for being a source of good, filtered information around COVID.

There was no secret to it. I just read stuff.

We need to stop with the doom scrolling and soaking up all the bad energy the media and our social circles are putting out there.

Just as some of us are quick to criticize one team’s media for downplaying the pandemic or spreading anti-vaxx rhetoric, “our team’s media” is plucking every chord of fear, telling us we’ll die if we step upside or don’t get our boosters right now stat.

It’s all BS.

What is real are the reports of case numbers increasing, hospitalizations that lag about 3 weeks, and then deaths 3 weeks following that. The accounts of the medical professionals and the stories of hospitals becoming overwhelmed—all that is real.

Here’s the pattern, understanding that we now live in a series of alternating surges and dips:

  1. Surges are regional
  2. We have plenty of warning (save for that initial outbreak in 2020)
  3. Europe seems to suffer the wrath first

Watch for early warning signs in Europe or Asia for surges. Within 3 weeks, cases will start to appear in our major population centers in the US. Then, within 3 weeks, it will have spread to a region close to you (if not right on top of you) and the wave of hospitalizations and deaths will start.

Turn off the media, but be mindful of early signs that things are getting bad in other countries. If we’re currently in “dip mode” where we are a little bit looser with our restrictions, it may be time for you to tighten it down and brace for the next surge.

Mitigation Strategies

We can deal with this new normal by relying on the mitigation strategies we’ve come to know and love.

The trinity of masks, handwashing, and distancing will always give you an advantage in navigating life safely.

On the masking side, make sure you’re not using some of the weaker masks like single-ply cloth or poorly fitted N95s. Three-layer cloth or a quality surgical.

If you’re vulnerable or in a high-risk situation, a double mask of quality cloth over surgical is a must.

Wear that mask in public places, mandate or not.

Remember, swiss cheese:

Understand the Risk Calculation

We gave folks a system for calculating risk for various people and situations.

What this has always come down to is avoiding high-risk people and high-risk environments with your vulnerability in mind.

For example: both myself and an aging hippie could sit outside in a spread-out field listening to music. I’d have the aging hippie mask up, regardless of the distance

The factors that go into this thought process:

  • If you venture out to do a thing, how many situations will you be in close contact with groups of people?
  • How likely will 100% mask compliance be?
  • What’s the vaccination rate of where you’re going?
  • What do the cases look like in the area?
  • What does the hospital/care capacity look like?
  • How likely am I to get severely ill? Am I older? Am I vaccinated? Am I boosted?

How does that translate to reality? Go on vacation. Just don’t go to Florida. Go listen to music. Just don’t go to a club in Houston. Go out to dinner. Just don’t go inside to a NYC-size restaurant (though in NYC they are probably one of the safest!)

Vaccinations and Boosters

Vaccines and boosters are mitigation strategies that deserve their own space. Getting vaccinated is your best bet in navigating the new normal successfully.

Booster shots are necessary because variants are spreading among the large pool of unvaccinated people. The delta variant is a PITA that spreads via huge viral load and the timing stinks; our immunity wanes over time and we vaccinated folk are unable to squash it down quickly enough to not spread it.

Getting a booster will re-up our ability to do so. Boosters will, hopefully, reduce the reservoir of the virus back down to just unvaccinated people.

Once boosters are indicated, please go get one.

Public Policies

We have to push our leaders to implement indoor mask mandates as soon as the signs are pointing to a risk of spread.

Our elected officials implement public policy, but often they’ve not acted as leaders. They delay decision-making to the last moment, which is often weeks too late to stop the spread.

We must be those leaders. Business owners, community members, group organizers.

We must pick up the power, and as soon as the whistles are blown, start requiring masks and other public-facing policies to help mitigate the spread.

General Wellness

I’ve screamed until red in the face that no supplement helps prevent or treat COVID, save one: Vitamin D.

Just as a little toldyaso, let’s just reflect on all of the misinformation in the beginning about zinc, Vitamin C, and all that other stuff and how it all amounted to nothing. Didn’t even move the needle.

We absolutely should eat well, exercise, and take Vital supplements. Vitamin D *NEEDS* to be a part of your regimen, and I’m recommending 2000 IU a day to achieve an optimal range of 75nmol/L (30 ng/ml) as defined by the US Endocrine Society.

BUT, we must remember that many uber healthy people have gotten severely ill, died, or received long-haul COVID symptoms.

Navigating the Real New Normal

“Neal, should I go on vacation/go out/visit my family/etc etc etc.”

My answer will always be yes. With a caveat.

This is the new normal. We will live our lives more restricted and cautiously during surge times. We will be a little more laid back during dip times. We can’t restrict 24/7 any longer. We have to get good at navigating this reality.

It comes down to risk management. If you’re a vulnerable person, you need to be uber cautious. If you are not vulnerable, then you can be just regular cautious.

Avoid high-risk situations all around. Gyms, bars, restaurants, clubs, concerts. If you’re not vulnerable, vaccinated, double-masked up, try your best to keep your distance, the caseload in your area is OK, and the people sharing those environments with you are masked, vaxxed, and cautious, then you can probably get it away with those higher risk spots.

There is a path forward that may require more energy. You can quickly become exhausted and overwhelmed trying to do the math, and that’s why you need a system.

Follow the items we’ve laid out here today, get real comfortable with them all, and life will be darn near close to normal.

Just trying to keep it real…

Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth

Dr. Neal Smoller, Holistic Pharmacist

About Neal Smoller

Dr. Neal Smoller, PharmD, is a licensed pharmacist: and owner of Village Apothecary, an independent pharmacy in the most famous small town in America—Woodstock, NY. He’s also the host of the popular wellness podcast, The Big Mouth Pharmacist.”

FEATURED RESOURCE

The Vital 5

Nutrients you shouldn’t live without
The Vital 5 Nutrients You Shouldn't Live Without

This site is still under construction. Lots of links don't work and it's ugly at times. I'll have it fixed soon, I swear!