Don’t FLiRT with the latest COVID-19 variants; learn and stay safe

A recent apartment move brought challenges as well as forgotten treasures. One of the latter was a high school yearbook […]

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A recent apartment move brought challenges as well as forgotten treasures. One of the latter was a high school yearbook from my mother’s hometown of Alexander, Iowa. The 1950 Bulldogs Bark detailed the antics of a tiny rural high school. 

Those were the days of teasing yearbook writeups about fellow students. One high school boys was described as a “flirt.” 

As someone who lives with long COVID and had another bout of COVID-19 during my move, I had to remind myself that there are flirts and there are FLiRTs. 

The latest set of COVID-19 variants and sub-variants making their way across the United States are called “FLiRTs.” And yes, the “i” is lowercase. As our June issue went to press, more than one in four COVID-19 cases in the United States could be linked to FLiRT. 

Cases and hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are down as a whole. But the virus that causes COVID-19 continues to mutate and change, with an endless parade of new variants and sub-variants. Does it feel as COVID-19 is a shape-shifting, permanent part of our lives? 

It’s disheartening to learn that new variants and sub-variants may be more easily transmitted. That has sparked questions about a potential summer wave of illnesses. 
So why use the name FLiRT? We’ve seen various names attached to the virus strains, with letters and numbers, and with unofficial names such as Kraken and Pirola.  A recent Today show story tells us that scientists came up with the name FLiRT this spring. 

FLiRT isn’t a reference to a friendly high school student, but is based on the technical names for the variants’ spike protein mutations. That’s where the FL and RT come from. It was easy enough to add an i and coin the name FLiRT. 

This is our second special section of stories from our disability community members. Access Press has worked with Minnesota Department of Health for the past several months to raise awareness of COVID-19 and to emphasize the need for vaccines and safe practices. My hope as editor is that the information has been helpful. The back page of this special section includes what we hope are ongoing resources for readers to use. 

Those of us who live with disabilities are all too aware of what COVID-19 has done to our lives. Some have sustained permanent health conditions. Others have lost loved ones. 

One more note about Alexander. Years ago my sisters and I had our polio vaccines in the old school gym there. Back then we didn’t question vaccines and the science behind them. It’s very disheartening to realize that vaccine rates are still all too low and that misinformation is still being spread. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of May 4, 22.5 percent of adults received an updated COVID-19 vaccine since September 14, 2023. I’m one of those adults who put off her vaccines due to busyness of work and getting ready to move, and I paid for that with several days of illness. 

We people with disabilities are a much more susceptible population when it comes to illnesses. We need to take threats to our health seriously. Those who live and work with us and who care about us need to do the same. 

Access Press thanks those who shared their COVID-19 stories with us. As we did with the April special section, we’re not using real names and changing a few other details to protect identities. 

Not using real names isn’t typical journalistic practice. It’s a step we don’t take lightly. We need to balance our practices with the need for our community members to have privacy. 

It is not easy to share what are deeply personal stories. We at Access Press very much appreciate those who agreed to speak to me and share how COVID-19 affected them and their families. 

We also appreciate the many health care professionals and organizations we are able to gather information from. We especially appreciate the Minnesota Department of Health for making this coverage possible. 

Stay healthy and stay safe. 

  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself, & others from the COVID-19 virus."
  • "Stay safe, Minnesota. Take steps to protect yourself & others from the COVID-19 virus."

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