Increasing COVID-19 cases across the country requires swift action. Sure, you and your family are exhausted by estrangement, miss your loved ones, and want to go back to your support groups or church.
But the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, does not stop just because we are tired. In the absence of clear and consistent instructions from the federal government, it is more important than ever that people pay attention to medical and public health facts.
“The next two weeks will be critical to our ability to address those waves that we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona and other states,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, told Congress. 23. Fauci and other public health experts testified before the Chamber’s Energy and Commerce Committee. Fauci told Congress that he sees a “disturbing increase” in many parts of the country.
As an infectious disease epidemiologist in Arizona, one of America’s current hot spots. Here are five things I urge you to do now:
Wear a mask. The World Health Organization recommends medical-grade masks for those 60 years of age and older, or those with health problems, and triple-layer cloth masks for all others over the age of two. If you can’t find those triple layer masks, you can use a simple cotton or silk cloth face covering to reduce the amount of viral particles it emits or is exposed to. Make sure it covers your mouth and nose. I have seen too many people with masks on their chins. And look at hand-to-face contact: You can get it by adjusting the mask too much and repeatedly touching the face.
Physically distance. Avoid crowded spaces. If you want to visit friends or family, you should still wear a mask and stay six feet away. If possible, make these visits outdoors. Indoor activities are most commonly associated with SARS-CoV-2 transmission groups. Outdoor streaming is less likely, and if it’s in locations other than Arizona (where the temperature is 106F as I write this), it’s probably the ideal summer weather to be outdoors.
Wash your dirty hands. And yes, they can be very dirty, even if they don’t look like it. Bacteria and viruses can lurk in them, spreading the infection from surface to surface and from person to person. And then wash them again. Washing your hands is vitally important. I wash every time I enter the house. Immediately. The benefits of regular hand washing may seem obvious, but many forget it. According to studies, washing for about 15 seconds reduces the bacteria count in approximately 90% of the germs on the hands. Washing by an additional 15 reduces the count to approximately 99% percent. And yes, handwashing is better than disinfectant because soap and water mechanically remove hands from germs. With that said, I keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my car and wipes for after shopping.
Plan ahead in case you or someone in your home gets sick. The reality is that many more of us will get sick before this pandemic ends. Planning ahead can give you the peace of mind of being prepared. This includes doing things such as identifying people or services to transport essential items to your home and developing an emergency contact list. Also, regularly clean high-contact surfaces such as light fixtures, faucets, and countertops. Learn the symptoms and emergency warning signs for COVID-19. Also, if you live alone, find a friend to check on you regularly in case you get sick. Prepare a kit for yourself that you can keep next to your bed.
Maintain awareness of the situation in your community. I know, the data is hard to solve right now, but one thing to look for in your community is a decrease in local cases. State and local health departments continue to provide updated case numbers. You can also follow an independent source that assesses local situations.
This is a time of uncertainty and anxiety for all of us. We desperately want to return to normal, but it is not yet possible. So find time each day to take care of your mental health. Take a walk, talk to a friend, read a book, snuggle up with a pet, meditate, communicate with others who may need your help, while still distancing themselves socially, and advocate for our most vulnerable populations. Your life and that of your loved ones depends on following public health guidelines.[_The Conversation’s most important coronavirus headlines, weekly in a new science newsletter.]