By Siafa Lewis

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Flags flew at half-staff Thursday at the White House to mark a grim milestone. One million lives have been lost to COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins.

Pennsylvania has been one of the hardest-hit states with more than 44,000 people who have died. Another 33,000 people in New Jersey have died in the pandemic. And in Delaware, the death toll has reached almost 3,000 people.

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While we acknowledge and remember the lives of those lost to COVID-19, as well as those they’ve left behind, here in May of 2022, most mask mandates have been lifted, restaurants are packed, as are stadiums-both indoor and outdoor for sporting events and concerts, convention centers are packed again and life largely feels like it did before the pandemic.

Not so fast.

CBS3 caught up with a southeast Pennsylvania emergency medicine doctor to get a sense of where we stand now and what you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.

How are COVID cases trending with most of us ditching our masks?

“You are seeing a correlation between the laxity of wearing a mask and feeling like you’re safe and an uptick in COVID numbers,” Dr. Meaghan Reid, co-state lead for Committee to Protect Medicine, said.

It’s likely you know people who have contracted COVID in the last few months, but there are two main factors in determining how you fare if you get it.

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“Everyone is still at risk. The people that are having very symptomatic infections and are requiring hospitalizations are still, unfortunately, the unvaccinated patients,” Reid said.

The other factor? Not often discussed is your overall health.

“More comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, lung disease, heart disease. You’re already having so many things to overcome and so the healthier you are, the more likely that you will have easier course with COVID,” Reid said.

Here’s the doctor’s overarching advice as we try to defeat this virus once and for all.

“To continue to be careful, continue to be mindful. You don’t have to live in fear but I would say that you should be safe, wear the mask when you’re in crowded places because it’s gonna help you, it’s gonna help other people and it’s going to help stop continue to spread,” Reid said.

We are in an infinitely better place today than we were even a year ago but we can all still fall ill, we can still infect others, and people can and will still die.

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As of Thursday evening, 272 Americans lost their lives to the virus in the last 24 hours.