You could safely merge social bubbles.
Dr. Syra Madad is an infectious diseases epidemiologist in NYC. She’s senior director of NYC Health + Hospitals System-wide Special Pathogens Program and fellow for the Harvard Kennedy School, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. The COVID-19 epidemic is making a turn for the worse in the US — and cold weather is on the horizon. Madad recommends forming small social bubbles now, and getting an emergency kit prepared. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The United States COVID-19 epidemic is taking a turn for the worse yet again.
We don’t have just one pandemic, we have 50 epidemics playing out differently in each of the 50 US states. Key benchmarks to gauge the epidemic’s footing in a given state are all trending towards alarming levels of viral spread — including growing daily new COVID-19 infections in 48 states, with increasing positivity rate in over 30 states, increased hospitalizations in 39 states, and expanding epidemics with an Rt value of over 1.0 in 40 states. Needless to say, this may be the most challenging and dangerous peak in US COVID-19 history.
This insidious rise in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is occurring amid a precarious mix of factors that will further increase the risk of viral spread.
Colder temperatures are affecting both the virus itself, in addition to driving more people indoors — thus increasing the potential for transmission. Holiday season is making more people want to travel, mingle, and gather. There’s pandemic fatigue – the rising sense of apathy, exhaustion, and impatience from the daily preventative measures. And, to top it all off, a forthcoming flu season.
Here are five things I’m doing to ride the wave:
1. Staying connected with family, friends, and loved ones
Let’s face it, we all need human interaction. Now is the time to begin thinking who you want in your social bubble. A social bubble is non-household contact(s) that can freely interact with one another indoors without social distancing or wearing a mask. I discuss in my recent article “How to celebrate Halloween with your kids while staying safe during COVID-19, according to an epidemiologist” how to safely merge social bubbles. Other ways to interact with people not in your social bubble is to keep the get-together outdoors, spaced out, and masks on.
2. Getting a home emergency kit ready
It’s always a good idea to keep essentials readily available in an at-home emergency kit. This is for all hazards – be it a hurricane, power outage, or an infectious disease outbreak which may necessitate you and your family hunkering down and limiting any out-of-the-home trips. Make a list of all household members and what their needs are, from a 30 day supply of medications, to diapers (I have a 9 month old and she requires more essential items than adults!) to non-perishable food and other supplies (please don’t buy all the toilet paper).
3. Staying informed
Staying informed about current events — including the rate of COVID-19 spread in your area and local public health guidance — will help you and your loved ones make informed decisions. If there’s high levels of community transmission occurring in your area, it’s best t-o limit contact with non-household members and choose activities with a lower risk of COVID19 transmission. There’s a lot of false information circulating; in my article “5 ways to determine if you’ve gotten accurate coronavirus information,” I cover how to evaluate your sources of information to ensure you’re receiving reliable, credible and science-based facts.
4. Keeping healthy
Our social, emotional, physical, and emotional well-being is very important. The COVID-19 health crisis is stressful, and is taking an enormous toll on our lives in more ways than one. Staying healthy is not only important for your general well-being, it can also help lower your risk of a severe outcome if you contract SARS-CoV-2.
But it’s also important to note that the risk of a severe outcome from COVID-19 is not uniform, and while older adults and those with underlying health conditions are at increased risk for developing more serious complications, illness and hospitalization, no one is immune. If you have uncontrolled hypertension or diabetes, there has never been athe better time to get it under control. Eat a healthy, nutritious diet, sleep well, exercise, and keep in touch with loved ones.
5. Not letting your COVID-19 guard down
You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again (because that’s one of the tenets of good risk communication – repeating vital pieces of information that can lower risk and save lives). To prevent getting COVID-19 and spreading it to others, following the 4 W’s: wear a mask, watch your distance, wash your hands, and windows for ventilation. Prevention is our best approach — especially when the risk is a highly transmissible, and virulent disease.
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