More than 11 million people in the United States have now been infected with the coronavirus and more than 248,000 have died as case numbers reaching alarming new records across the country.
Many of us are tired of following the coronavirus safety guidelines, but now is not the time to let our guard down. In the past week, there has been an average of 158,265 cases per day, an increase of 79 percent from just two weeks earlier.
As we enter flu season, public health officials say it’s critical to get your flu vaccine and follow COVID-19 safety guidelines to avoid overwhelming the country’s hospital system. The American Red Cross offers steps you can take, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance. Be sure to follow guidelines from your state and local public health officials.
- Stay home if you are sick. Call your health care provider before you get medical care.
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, especially after you have been in a public place or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water aren’t available. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Wear cloth face coverings in public, especially if you are at high risk for serious illness from COVID-19 (over age 65 or any age with underlying medical conditions).
- Practice social distancing by staying 6 feet away from others. Limit contact when running errands. If possible, use drive-through, curbside pick-up or delivery services to limit face-to-face contact with others. Maintain a physical distance between yourself and delivery service providers during exchanges.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. Use the inside of your elbow if a tissue isn’t available.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks. If surfaces are dirty, use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection. Then, use a household disinfectant.
- Stay connected with phone calls, video chats or social media.
- If attending a small gathering of family or friends, stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
- Avoid crowded places and gatherings. If you are in a crowded space, wear a cloth face covering, especially if social distancing will be difficult.
- Know the symptoms of COVID-19, which can appear two to 14 days after exposure. They include, but are not limited to, fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea.
GETTING TESTED If you have symptoms of COVID-19 and want to get tested, call your health care provider first. Decisions about testing are made by state and local health departments or health care providers. You can visit your state or local health department’s website to look for the latest local information on testing. Who should get tested?
- People who have symptoms of COVID-19
- People who have had close contact (within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more) with someone with confirmed COVID-19
- People who have been asked or referred to get testing by their healthcare provider, local or state health department
Not everyone needs to be tested. If you do get tested, you should self-quarantine/isolate at home pending test results and follow the advice of your health care provider or a public health professional.
HOLIDAY SAFETY The holidays are just ahead when families gather to celebrate, some traveling long distances to join the festivities. Travel increases the chance of getting and spreading the virus that causes COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others. If you must travel, be informed of the risks involved.
The CDC recommends avoiding large indoor gatherings with people from outside your households. Instead, have a small dinner with family and perhaps a virtual dinner with friends and family who live outside the home. Planning your holiday shopping? Avoid the crowded stores and shop online instead.
For more information, review CDC guidance.