Is it seasonal allergies or a COVID-19 infection?
In the United States, as many as 60 million people per year experience allergic rhinitis, also referred to as hay fever. Reactions occur when the immune system incorrectly identifies allergens like pollen as a threat and mounts an immune response. This can cause sneezing, nasal congestion, a runny nose, and itchy eyes. Allergy experts have noted since mask wearing became commonplace across the United States, many people have reported changes to their allergy symptoms related to pollen.

A standard surgical mask can filter particles larger than 3 micrometers. Pollen is typically between 10 and 100 micrometers in size. Fungal spores are usually between 2 and 50 micrometers. If you’re reusing your masks without washing them, pollen will build up on the mask and you’ll be putting more pollen on your face, so masks should be washed after each use.

Trees are responsible for most springtime seasonal allergies. Summertime seasonal allergies are grasses such as ryegrass and timothy grass, as well as certain weeds. Autumn is ragweed season and by winter, most outdoor allergens lie dormant.

Here are 10 tips to help prevent allergy symptoms:

  1. Start your allergy medications 30 days before your allergies would start even though you have no symptoms yet (nose sprays and antihistamines)
  2. Stay indoors on dry, windy days. The best time to go outside is after a good rain, which helps clear pollen from the air.
  3. Wear hats outdoors to avoid pollen in your hair and sunglasses to avoid pollen in your eyes
  4. Remove the clothes you’ve worn outside and shower to rinse pollen from your skin and hair.
  5. Close doors and windows at night or any other time when pollen counts are high.
  6. Avoid outdoor activity in the early morning when pollen counts are highest.
  7. Use the air conditioning in your house and car.
  8. Use a portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter in your bedroom.
  9. Clean floors often with a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter or a wet mop. Sweeping spreads the pollen
  10. Shower before bed so pollen doesn’t get on your sheets

COVID Updates

  • The number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States continues to decline steadily, with increases reported in only nine states.
  1. New COVID-19 cases in the past week fell 26% nationwide.
  2. This was the sixth straight week of decline.
  3. This week’s 180,000 cases were the lowest weekly total in nearly a year.
  4.  COVID-19 deaths fell 5% and are the lowest since March 2020.
  5. Hospitalizations now stand at 22,689, about 3,000 fewer than a week ago.
  6. The US has confirmed more than 33 million COVID-19 cases
  7. The United States have now surpassed 590,000 COVID-19 deaths
  • The CDC reports there have been more than 359 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered across the country.
  1. More than 164 million people have received at least one dose. That’s well more than half of the adult population in the country.
  2. More than 131 million people are fully vaccinated, over a third of the total population.
  3. Half of the adult population in 50 percent of our states has been fully vaccinated.
  4. California has administered the most doses at more than 37 million.
  5. That’s followed by Texas with more than 22 million.
  6. New York has administered more than 19 million doses
  7. Florida has done more than 18 million.
  8. Pennsylvania is fifth with more than 12 million
  9. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine started to be administered to children 12 to 15 years old. Greater than 600,000 children in this age group received the COVID-19 vaccine so far in the United States.
  • Philadelphia lifted mask requirements for fully vaccinated people in outdoor settings on Friday, May 21. But indoor mask requirements will remain in place until at least June 11. The city says it will decide then how to proceed, depending on COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations. Restaurants still must operate at 50% capacity – or 75% if they meet ventilation requirements – but the distance between chairs will be reduced from six feet to three feet. Phillies fans no longer have to wear masks in outdoor areas at Citizens Bank Park.
  • Pennsylvania has lifted its indoor and outdoor mask mandates for fully vaccinated people. Retail stores, museums and libraries will no longer have capacity limits. Indoor catered events can operate at 25% capacity and food and alcohol can be served. Outdoor catered events can operate at 50% capacity.
  • Delaware lifted its mask mandate on Friday, May 21, but it is strongly encouraging unvaccinated people to continue wearing masks. The state will continue to require mask-wearing in state buildings, on public transit, on planes, in schools, and in health care facilities and congregate settings such as prisons and homeless shelters.
  • New Jersey will lift its indoor mask mandate for people vaccinated against COVID-19 beginning on Friday. Govt buildings, health care settings, schools, jails and transportation will still use masks.
  •  A patchwork system of mask policies has emerged at large retail chains in the United States in the wake of CDC guidance last week that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks indoors or outdoors, except in health care settings, on public transportation, or in other areas where governments mandate masks. Confusion about masking amongst shoppers and retailers are at an all-time high:
  1. Vaccinated shoppers and workers can ditch their masks at Walmart, Target and Home Depot, except where local laws require masks in stores.
  2. At Starbucks, CVS, Walgreens and Macy’s, vaccinated customers no longer need to wear masks unless there are local mandates. But all employees will still need to mask up.
  3. Gap, Ulta and others, though, have not loosened their policies and are still requiring all of their customers and workers to wear masks.
  • FEMA, the operator of two COVID-19 vaccination centers in Philadelphia, is reaching the end of its service in the city. Clinics at the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Esperanza Community Center will cease operations this Tuesday. The organization says they’ve inoculated 25,000 Philadelphians in under-vaccinated communities through eight weeks and 350,000 overall. FEMA claims 25% of the doses administered through Philadelphia have come at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. There are currently more than 280 other places in the city to receive the vaccine if you haven’t already.
  • Newly confirmed coronavirus infections are falling rapidly in Pennsylvania — down almost 50% in two weeks — as the weather warms and more people get vaccinated. Hospitalizations are down, too. Gov. Tom Wolf plans to lift nearly all remaining pandemic restrictions on Memorial Day.


  • The University of Pennsylvania Health System is mandating employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 by September 1. Penn Medicine’s decision makes it the largest health system to issue a vaccine mandate, according to the release. It is the largest private employer in Philadelphia. Almost 70% of their roughly 44,000 employees are already fully vaccinated. Starting July 1, new hires must be vaccinated or get vaccinated 2 weeks before beginning work there. Jefferson Health in Philadelphia is also considering a vaccine mandate
  • Moderna said on Tuesday that its coronavirus vaccine, authorized only for use in adults, was powerfully effective in 12- to 17-year-olds, and that it planned to apply to the Food and Drug Administration in June for authorization to use the vaccine in adolescents. If approved, its vaccine would become the second Covid-19 vaccine available to U.S. adolescents. Federal regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this month for 12- to 15-year-olds.
  • Harvard students will return to the classroom full time for the fall semester and campus housing will go back to its usual density after more than a year of remote learning. The university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is expecting the largest entering class in its history, Harvard said Tuesday in a statement on its website. All enrolled students, who must be vaccinated to attend, can expect full campus access, which includes libraries, archives, museums and research facilities.
  • Due to the pandemic, the International Olympic Committee postponed the Tokyo Olympics last year and rescheduled the Games for this summer — starting on July 23. US public health experts are calling for “urgent action” to assess the Covid-19 risks associated with the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo and the additional measures that could be put in place to mitigate those risks. The experts — including Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota and other researchers — wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday that they recommend the World Health Organization “immediately convene an emergency committee” to advise on a risk-management approach for the Tokyo Olympic Games.
  • The Axios-Ipsos poll data finds that 44% of Americans social distanced last week, down 12 percentage points from two weeks ago. This is happening at the same time as 45% of Americans are wearing masks whenever they leave their home, down from 58% two weeks ago. The change in mask wearing is driven by the decreasing numbers of vaccinated Americans masking at all times; the percent has dropped “dramatically,” Ipsos said, going from 65% two weeks ago to 47% now.
  1. Americans are also doing more outside the home: 63% visited friends or family in the last week and 58% have gone out to eat.
  2. Returning to the office is one thing that hasn’t changed. One in three employed respondents said they worked from home or remotely, a number which has remained relatively constant this year
  3. The percent of Americans who view their pre-coronavirus lifestyle as risky continues to drop; 38% saying it’s a large or moderate risk, down from 43% two weeks ago and 52% last month.
  4. The large majority of respondents – 96% — said that they had at least heard of updated guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around masking and social distancing, and 82% said they were very or somewhat familiar with it.
  • At Kline & Specter, with all but seven employees vaccinated, the firm is plunging fully back into office work. “We are not offering remote working,” Specter said. Vaccinated employees have to prove their status by showing their COVID-19 vaccination record card with the CDC logo. Specter is convinced the medical malpractice and personal injury firm will be more productive when it returns to working together in the office. He also cited a benefit to the Center City economy as a bonus, especially if more businesses follow Kline & Specter’s lead in returning to the office. “There are a lot of small businesses who are dependent on our law firm and other employers in the neighborhood for their economic survival,” Specter said. “We’re going to have our people back to work, and that means something good for Schlesinger’s Deli, two doors away, for the clothing store across the street, for the pizza place across the street.”

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Please stay safe and be smart,
Dr Bralow