With hundreds of thousands of vaccines being administered per day, the end of COVID-19 feels near. But it is further away than we think, and it’s never been more critical to prevent unnecessary illness. We talked to Primary Care Physician Jenny Chen, MD, about what we can all do to stay physically and mentally healthy during this winter season.

What are the main things Dr. Chen recommends for staying physically healthy? “Wash your hands. Though the main mode of transmission for COVID-19 is respiratory droplets, washing your hands especially after being in public is vital.” If you do need to go out in public, stay away from large crowds and stay six feet away from others. Dr. Chen says, “Wear a mask when you go outside. And stay up to date on your vaccinations, including your flu shot. And when it is available to you, get the COVID-19 vaccine.” Following these tips will keep you healthy and protect the health of your loved ones and society as a whole.

Why are wearing masks so important, in any case? Dr. Chen responds, “Masks may be cumbersome for some of us to wear, but they give us protection from getting COVID-19 by blocking some of the spread of respiratory droplets. More importantly, if a sick person who has a cough is wearing a mask, then the mask decreases the chance the sick person will spread the virus to you.”

As vaccinations start to be circulated, it may feel unnecessary to get one for yourself when everyone around you has one. Dr. Chen disagrees, “The vaccines currently available are over 90% effective, but not 100% effective. Although less likely, it is still possible for a person who is vaccinated to catch the virus and spread it to you. Also, it is not possible to know in public that everyone around you is vaccinated. If you go to the grocery store, there might be other people there who are not vaccinated. You can help stop the spread by greatly reducing the chances you will be a carrier yourself if you get vaccinated.”

Not being able to do all the things people want to do has been tough on many people. Any tips for how to mentally stay fit during this period? Dr. Chen advises, “Exercise gives you a boost of endorphins and can help you stay mentally healthy. Also, any form of social contact can help. Make a point to talk to your loved ones regularly, even if it’s only through the phone or Zoom.” She adds, “Consider starting a gratitude journal. Every day making a list of things you are thankful for. Doing this simple task has been shown to lessen symptoms of depression for some people. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your depression or anxiety, if it is interfering with your daily life, it is important to seek professional help.”

Lastly, Dr. Chen adds, “This is hard to predict, but some experts believe that if we all do our part and enough people get vaccinated, we can get back to some normalcy by the end of 2021. Pandemics have happened throughout human history, and they did not stay forever. The virus may be around for a while beyond 2021, but daily new cases may drop to a very low level by that time. There is a light at the end of the tunnel once we get through this winter.”

Click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Chen.