A new year is here. And COVID is still here too.

I know, I know ... everybody is tired of hearing about it, talking about it and thinking out it. But unfortunately, it hasn’t gone away; in fact, it has ramped up in Deep East Texas in the last couple of months.

So we still need to hear about it, talk about it and think about it. And what we all need to focus on is how to protect ourselves and the ones we love. For the purpose of this article, I’m taking my cue from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Wear a mask over

your nose and mouth

■ You could spread COVID-19 to others even if you do not feel sick.

■ Everyone should wear a mask in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household.

■ Continue to keep about 6 feet between yourself and others. The mask is not a substitute for social distancing.

Stay 6 feet away from others

■ Put 6 feet of distance between yourself and people who don’t live in your household.

■ Avoid indoor spaces that do not offer fresh air from the outdoors as much as possible. If indoors, bring in fresh air by opening windows and doors, if possible.

■ Inside your home, avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Wash your hands often

■ Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

■ If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

■ Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.

Cover coughs and sneezes

■ Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit.

Clean and disinfect

■ Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily ... tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets and sinks.

Monitor your health daily

■ Be alert for symptoms. Watch for fever, cough, shortness of breath, or other COVID symptoms (found at CDC.gov).

■ Follow care instructions from your health care provider and local health department.

While these seem like basic things, a reminder never hurts and these simple steps could keep you and your loved ones well and out of the hospital.

Additionally, the COVID vaccine (from Moderna) has begun distribution in our area. Most of our local physicians and many of our health care workers have received the vaccine.

When you get the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, I encourage you to take it. While you may still have questions about it, I also encourage you to ask those questions and educate yourself.

The CDC has information on the available vaccines, benefits, reactions and more at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html.

Drew Emery is the CEO at Woodland Heights Medical Center. His email address is andrew.emery@woodlandheights.net.