Facing a Post-COVID World as a Bronchiectasis/NTM Patient

Posted on June 02, 2021   |   
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This blog post was written by Katie Keating, RN, MS, patient advocate.

The COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be 94-95% effective in preventing coronavirus infection.1,2 This is good news, but it’s important to keep in mind that there is still a chance that you could become infected with COVID-19 or one of the variants. Positive results regarding the vaccine’s effectiveness are allowing for decreased restrictions throughout the United States. As people begin to engage again, adhering to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines is of utmost importance, as we are still awaiting herd immunity within our communities. Be on the lookout that these guidelines are constantly changing.

I want to help to interpret the guidelines relevant to you. What you do or do not do is your personal decision. Take precautions so that you feel safe and reduce any anxiety about contracting COVID-19.

New guidelines for wearing masks

As of May 13, 2021, CDC guidelines now state “fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in any setting, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.”3 Given the low risk of outdoor transmission, even unvaccinated people can go mask-less if they’re walking or exercising outdoors with people from their own household. However, they still need to wear masks outdoors with friends from multiple households, while those of us who are fully vaccinated no longer need to do so. Visit the CDC for Guidelines for Safe Activities for those who are vaccinated and unvaccinated.

Anxiety and anticipation

It is normal to feel anxious before going out, however, we must make a gradual shift to a post-pandemic world. Don’t follow the crowd; follow your gut. We are not the crowd. We are vulnerable, the ones with a rare disease. Following recommended precautions as well as social distancing and wearing a face mask in public may reduce anxiety.4

Among the many lessons of the coronavirus pandemic is recognition that our relationships are important to us. We need to get out, put on real clothes, fix our hair and makeup, and be with others. Building up contact slowly is advisable, following CDC guidelines.

Have a systematic set of questions that you ask yourself: “Do I feel safe? Am I assuming the worst? Is there another way to look at this situation?”

Summer travel

We all want to get away and enjoy the summer months ahead, but it is so important to still be mindful of your choices. The CDC recommends that you delay travel until you are fully vaccinated.5

Certain destinations and travel providers may require proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or accept proof of vaccination as an alternative to strict testing and quarantine requirements.

Just as you cannot judge a book by its cover, we can’t discern who is an asymptomatic non-vaccinated person. Even if you are fully vaccinated, remember to use your judgment as it relates to mask wearing, social distancing, and avoiding crowds while traveling.5

Positive changes in health care

Over the past year, we have seen remarkable changes in both policies and practice in hospitals driven by the unprecedented teachings of this pandemic. Established best practices — delivering the tools and systems needed by infection-control teams (such as frequent surface sanitation) and rigorous isolation practices in acute care settings — must be maintained in the post-pandemic era to continually minimize patient infection.

With systems in place to screen, surveil, and track COVID-19 infections, hospital staff can contain the spread of the virus, minimize its impact, and identify trends and recommendations to avoid future outbreaks.6

Going forward regarding Clinic and Physician appointments

You should maintain strict infection control on an ongoing basis. I plan on continuing with virtual appointments in the winter and flu season even if I am feeling ok. There is no need to possibly expose myself to others who are sick.

If you do visit medical offices:

  • Use antibacterial wipes before and after the clinic visit.
  • Use paper towels to push elevator buttons, open doors, get soap from a dispenser, turn off water faucets, etc.
  • Wear masks in the waiting room. Antibiotics can take a great toll on our microbiome and we want to avoid ongoing antibiotics when possible. Preventative measures are so much better than the time and energy it takes to treat illness.
  • Call the doctor’s office before you go to make sure they are following CDC guidelines. Not all offices follow the recommended practice guidelines.

Author’s Note

I recently ventured to an outdoor antique flea market to walk about and get some fresh air. One person, who was 6 feet away sneezed; one person walked by smoking. Fortunately, I had my mask on, others did not. My plans for enjoying walking around were immediately cut short. Although that day didn’t go as I had planned or expected, I will keep trying to get out and do activities that I enjoy.

I plan to try outdoor dining soon but will choose a time other than a busy one on the weekend when the restaurant isn’t crowded. I will go to stores, the supermarket, at the quietest times to lessen the probability of exposure. I will carry paper towels and wipes with me at the time.

I recently got my hair cut. I chose the quietest day and time in the hair salon. I want to enjoy the experience and not be in fear that someone who is unvaccinated might sneeze or cough near me.

Stay safe. Follow the beat of your own personal safety drummer. We have endured a lot over the past year. We made it to this point and owe it to ourselves to enjoy our old “normal” lives. However, we must continue to err on the side of caution until herd immunity is in place and more research is published on safety for patients with underlying respiratory conditions. Herd immunity will give us more peace of mind and greater personal freedoms. Research will answer our questions on who and what is safe and who and what is not.

We can continue to educate and empower one another via this BronchandNTM360social site to improve the quality of our lives each and every day.

Please comment and share any new practices you plan to implement within the health care system.

Below are links to review CDC and infection-control guidelines:



  1. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Pfizer-BioNTech.html
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/different-vaccines/Moderna.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated-guidance.html
  4. https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20210428/anxiety-and-anticipation-rejoining-a-post-covid-world
  5. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html
  6. https://hospitalnews.com/key-learnings-on-infection-control-a-year-into-the-covid-19-pandemic/