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At home for the holidays, help block COVID-19

No over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s condo. No flying to a beach gathering with the family you choose.

Americans are celebrating the first Thanksgiving in the time of the coronavirus, with many observing public safety guidelines but too many  ignoring a stark warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Don’t travel.

More than a quarter of a million people in the U.S. have already died from COVID-19.

Ultimately, lowering the staggering numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths lies squarely with us. Governments can mandate actions; but we’re the ones responsible for adhering to them.

Exhausted hospitals and health care workers across the U.S. are becoming overwhelmed, if not already there. Those with other health conditions need medical intervention and hospitalization, too. People who take a lax attitude about COVID-19 endanger themselves and others.

Restrictions based on solid information aren’t an attempt to take away our civil liberties. Instead, we should think of them as liberating, a way to keep us away from the virus.

Here are a dozen things to do:

  1. Always mask up when indoors and around people who don’t live in your own household.
  2. Always mask up when outdoors and unable to maintain physical distancing.
  3. Use either disposable masks or a multi-layer tightly woven cotton mask. Single-layer kerchiefs don’t do the job.
  4. Be sure the mask fits your face and covers both nose and mouth. Wash or sanitize your hands after touching or removing the mask.
  5. Remember that masks are not a substitute for physical distancing.
  6. Maintain at least six feet of distance between you and others outside of your household.
  7. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
  8. Avoid motions that transfer organisms from your hands to your face. Your mouth, nose and eyes have mucous membranes that are potentially receptive to these organisms.
  9. Clean frequently touched surfaces.
  10. Do as much as possible outside and keep interactions with others short.
  11. Fortify ventilation systems for more frequent air exchanges.
  12. Curtail in-person holiday celebrations with those not in your household.

Celebrations are particularly challenging because it’s difficult for everyone to self-quarantine for the 14 days prior to the event. Also, events are typically inside rather than out; spacing of six feet may not be an option; ventilation systems in our energy-efficient homes are unlikely to be able to handle COVID-19; and masks have to be taken off while eating.

For this Thanksgiving, virtual gathering are the safest. Some people are cooking the same menu in different houses to promote a sense of sharing. E-cards are carrying personal notes and wishes. Zoom calls let everyone speak and express thankfulness for the ability to still be able to connect this year.

It is not unusual for COVID-19 patients to rage when they discover that those around them dismissed or downplayed the wisdom and experience of scientists and doctors about the realities of the pandemic.

We have the power, and the responsibility, to help block the flood of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

This article by Pamela M. Aaltonen of Purdue University is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. 

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