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Keeping Safe During COVID-19

Photo: Courtesy of Thomas de Luze

Amidst everything happening in the world right now, it’s important to remember the CDC’s guidelines against COVID-19. Here’s how you can keep safe during the pandemic.

When it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19 and preventing infection, the American Thoracic Society stands behind the scientific evidence, which shows that wearing a face mask, washing your hands, and social distancing are the most effective ways to stay healthy and safe. If you suffer from a serious lung disease like asthma or COPD, it is even more critical that you protect your lung health.

Mask up

Scientific research clearly shows the benefits of wearing a mask. In countries that were early adopters of face coverings, the rate of infection was lower compared to those where masks were not mandated. In fact, in a June 2020 study from the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers noted how public interest in face masks may have affected the severity of COVID-19 epidemics and potentially contained the outbreak in 42 countries on six continents.

“Despite [Hong Kong’s] proximity to mainland China, its infection rate for COVID-19 is generally modest with only 1,110 cases to date. This correlates with an almost ubiquitous use of face masks in the city (up to 98.8 percent by respondents in a survey),” wrote the study’s authors.

Wearing a face mask costs little, if anything, and could save countless lives.

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Wash your hands

If you’re bemoaning the end of the handshake, don’t. It is a major contributor to the spreading of germs. But if you do shake hands, we encourage you to wash yours. The science supporting the value of washing hands in preventing infections is indisputable. This is a common practice to protect ourselves and our families, particularly during flu season. In general, continue to follow the CDC guidance issued early in the pandemic, which includes avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Remember, you don’t have to be sick or have symptoms to transmit the virus. One of the greatest risks to health is mistaking a lack of symptoms as an indication of being infection-free. In fact, it is possible that many people became infected because they thought only symptomatic individuals could spread COVID-19.

Keep your distance

Remember to maintain social distancing, even when you’re outdoors. Of course, for health professionals, first responders, grocery store employees, and other front-liners, it is nearly impossible to avoid close contact with others. However, if you’re a civilian, stay at least six feet apart from others when you can. If you have trouble determining what six feet looks like, general guidance suggests the length of a regular bicycle between you and others. As many states continue to relax shutdown measures, it is imperative that we proceed with caution.

Avoid large crowds when possible. Many are moved to protest racial intolerance in our society. If you are among those protesting, it may be difficult to social distance. Still, it is crucial that you wear a mask to protect yourself and others from infection.

As of November 9, there are more than 10 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States. Already, nearly 240,000 people have died. Do what you can to stay healthy. In addition to CDC guidelines, read the American Thoracic Society’s Patient Fact Sheets for more information on how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

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