8 Inspiring Questions for Dr. Nirav Shah

No matter what side of the vaccination issue people are on, pandemic fatigue has most certainly set in. What good news or hope can we look forward to once the weather gets better this spring and people want to spend more time outside, and in social settings?

Throughout the pandemic, it’s been safer to be outside than indoors, especially when air flow is not great. The COVID-19 virus need not interfere with plans to enjoy all the great outdoor activities available in Maine. We must acknowledge that COVID is not going away and we are continuing to make progress in protecting ourselves from the virus. The widespread availability of vaccines and the increasing availability of highly effective therapeutic treatments mean that we have more tools at our disposal to prevent death or hospitalization with COVID-19.

As people are returning to fitness studios, gyms and in-person running/cycling events, are there any updated guidelines or precaution participants can take for staying safe in these settings?

The best precaution we all can take, regardless of whether we are doing curls in a weight room or curling up with a good book, is to be up to date on COVID vaccinations. Get your shots and boosters. Exercise outdoors if you can. Gyms and studios vary in layout and ventilation options, so please respect the wishes and concerns of the facilities’ management and others working out there. 

With mental health such an important topic in the news, what resources does the CDC have to help support teens and adults dealing with mental health issues?

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services created the Strengthen ME (http://strengthenme.com) program to offer support for those struggling with the emotional toll of living through a pandemic. Strengthen ME builds on existing partnerships and support systems to provide a starting point for individuals who may be struggling during these stressful times and they are available every day by calling 207-221-8198.

What are some positive lessons we have learned from this pandemic that we can use in our daily lives moving forward?

It’s less a matter of learning new lessons than reaffirming what we already knew. Among the past lessons that have been reaffirmed are:

1. Maine people go out of their way to take care of each other.
2. Community matters. Spending time apart from others has reinforced the values we share as residents of this great state.
3. Science matters. Maine’s high vaccination rate and consistent adherence to public health best practices during the pandemic limited the impact of the virus on a state with the highest median age in the nation.
4. We can do more than one hard thing at a time. Maine people are resourceful and innovative in ways that made it possible for us to adapt quickly every time COVID threw us a curve.

What mindful or mental activity do you rely on to keep from being over stressed and stay focused and balanced? 

I love to cook, especially for others. COVID has made it more difficult to share meals indoors, so our neighborhood has upped its outdoor food-sharing game. 

What outdoor recreational activity do you enjoy most in spring and summer to stay active and find fun? 

Maine has so many great places to hike. We plan to continue exploring the state’s hiking trails this spring and summer.

What is one surprising thing most people might not know about you?

Frankly, after more than 220 live media briefings during the past two years, I don’t think I have any surprises left.

What is your favorite place to visit in Maine and why? 

That’s like asking me to identify my favorite can of Diet Coke. They are all great. I plan to keep exploring the state to find new favorite places. 

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