COMMON SENSE & COMPASSION
Best practices, from a public health standpoint, will insist that staying home and not visiting family and loved ones outside of your household during the holidays is the best way to go. However, people are going to travel, so let’s make it as safe as possible. There is a lot of information on the CDC website now, but please take time to familiarize yourself with it: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/your-health/index.html
A second (personal) note: As healthcare workers, we are obligated to support and promote best practices in every instance. However, we recognize that these best practices are not always feasible – some people simply can’t swing it based on financial struggles and other necessary life obligations. Our lack of national leadership and relief is forcing people to risk their lives and the lives of those around them just to survive. It’s unacceptable. So that being said, please do your best <3
Personal Guidelines for Health & Safety
No matter how you’re spending the holidays, the standard guidelines for personal safety still stand.
STAY HOME IF YOU DON’T FEEL WELL: If you have symptoms of illness of any kind, do not go to work or socialize while symptoms are present. Even if you have a negative COVID test, it could still be incubating or you are at least at risk for spreading some kind of disease and we can’t afford that. See below for more information about exposure, testing, quarantine, and isolation.
Wash/sanitize your hands regularly
Standard: 20 seconds; soap & water.
Sanitizer: Lather with sanitizer and let dry before touching anything:
FACE AND FACE COVERINGS:
Outdoors: It is still best practices to wear a face covering outside when you’re with other people (plus it will keep your face warm!). However, if you are not wearing a face covering outside, you should be AT LEAST 6 feet apart.
Indoors: Any kind of facial covering is better than no facial covering. But if you’re going to be indoors with people for a long period of time, use a surgical mask.
If you need to sneeze/cough – do it into your elbow.
If you have to touch your face to scratch, adjust eyewear, blow your nose – wash/sanitize your hands before and after. Discard tissues immediately.
SPACE: PHYSICAL & SOCIAL DISTANCING
Stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor AND outdoor spaces.
Social distancing should be practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions.
It is a good idea to shower upon returning home from a long outing/errands/work if you were around large amounts of people. Health care workers should change in and out of scrubs/work clothes at work.
Outings should still be limited to essentials – think about how many contacts you have in a day! Continue to plan your grocery shopping, order curbside when possible, space out appointments, try not to go to multiple places in one day. Exercise common sense with regards to your social outings.
DETAILS ON GOING OUT: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/going-out.html
Clean your home on a regular basis with all-purpose cleaners.
Disinfect high contact areas with qualified disinfectant: kitchens, bathrooms, door knobs, phones, remotes, etc.
We will hopefully not see a strain on inventory again, but it’s always good to have at least a month’s worth of: soap, TP, sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and other cleaning basics.
Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems can reduce the airborne concentration of viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
HVAC systems only filter the air when the fan is running, so run the system fan for longer times, or continuously. Many systems can be set to run the fan even when no heating or cooling is taking place.
When used properly, air purifiers can help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses, in a home or confined space.
Improve ventilation with outside air to improve indoor air quality.
Use of ozone generators in occupied spaces is not recommended. When used at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards, ozone applied to indoor air does not effectively remove viruses, bacteria, mold, or other biological pollutants.
Groceries & Mail:
In general, because of the poor survivability (hours) of coronaviruses on surfaces, there's likely a very, very, very low risk of spread from products or packaging. However, you are welcome to wipe these items down and wash your hands before and after handling.
Food should still be handled according to standard sanitation guidelines.
If someone you have been around has tested positive for COVID-19, you will want to think about the likelihood that you’ve also been exposed. Hopefully a contact tracer will call you and provide guidelines, but in the event that one has not, here are some things to consider:
If all guidelines were being followed when you were around that person (masks, distancing, hand washing) the chance of exposure is low but caution must still be exercised.
Remember that COVID can take up to 14 days to incubate, so getting a single test right away will not suffice. Quarantine and get tested 5 days after you were exposed.
General CDC Guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html
If you have been exposed, you need to initiate a 7 Day Self-Quarantine & Testing Protocol.
You should wait to get tested until 5 days after the date of exposure.
After 7 days of quarantine, if you have NO symptoms AND have a negative test (dating at least 5 days after initial exposure), you can end your self-quarantine.
If you cannot get a test, you must quarantine for 10 days AND have no symptoms before ending your self-quarantine.
If symptoms develop at any time:
If you are experiencing symptoms, you must consider it COVID until proven otherwise and self-quarantine as long as you are experiencing symptoms.
Test immediately and follow your local guidance for any repeat testing guidelines.
Even if your COVID tests are negative, symptoms mean that there is still something going on and we cannot afford to be spreading any kinds of infections right now.
If symptoms continue for a long period of time and may be associated with a non-infectious condition, consult with your health care provider for personalized recommendations.
WHAT TYPE OF TEST SHOULD I GET?
PCR (Molecular) Tests look for SARS-CoV-2 genetic material. They are the gold standard for diagnostic testing and should be utilized 5 days after exposure. Testing turnaround can be a few days up to a week depending on your community’s testing capacity.
Rapid Results (Antigen) Tests look for specific proteins produced by SARS-CoV-2. They are more accurate if you are symptomatic but have been known to yield false-negatives.
Antibody Tests: look for past infection. It takes 1-3 weeks for your body to produce antibodies so this is not an ideal test for current infection but can show if you’ve been infected in the past.
Testing In Kentucky: https://govstatus.egov.com/ky-covid-testing
If You Test Positive: a representative from the public health department will call you with instructions. You can also visit here for more information: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/index.html
If You Test Negative: There is a good chance you are not currently infected with SARS-CoV-2. However, if you've been exposed, see above for guidelines.
Planning Your Travel
BEST PRACTICES FOR THE HOLIDAYS: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
BEST PRACTICES FOR TRAVEL: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-during-covid19.html
Personal practices for you and the people you are visiting before travel:
Both you and the people you are visiting should continue the personal guidelines listed above. In addition, you should do the following:
Check travel restrictions: google [the county your visiting] + ["public health department"]
FLU SHOT: make sure everybody has had their flu shot.
Testing: 3 days before travel (person traveling and people who will be visited). Keep test results with you in case you need to show them.
If symptoms start to develop before your travel:
7 Day Quarantine + Negative Test: Get tested 5 days after symptoms begin. If test is negative AND your symptoms have resolved AND your travel date is after your self-quarantine, it should be ok to travel. If you have any symptoms within a week of travel, you must not travel.
If you are flying: Most airlines have hired qualified medical teams for safety guidelines and enforcement. Middle seats are staying open through March on most airlines, planes are disinfected between flights, and crew members are subject to widespread random testing daily.
Bring plenty of supplies: masks, sanitizer, tissues
Best practice is to KEEP YOUR MASK ON – don’t find reasons to keep it off (taking an hour to sip on a latte or eat some peanuts). Put your mask back on between sips/bites etc.
Wash/sanitize your hands after touching things on the plane or at the airport in addition to the standard “hands, face, and space” guidelines.
Road tripping: Plan your travels & stops
Plan your route carefully – try to pre-plan where you will stop for gas/food/restroom etc. so you will only have to make essential stops.
Have a plan on how you will stay safe when making your stops: Hands, Space, & Face guidelines!
Have plenty of sanitizer, masks, tissues, snacks, drinks in the car before you go.
Personal practices for you and the people you are visiting during visit
Adhere to all local guidelines: google [the county your visiting] + ["public health department"]
Continue standard personal safety guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html
Familiarize yourself with the CDC’s Holiday Celebration Guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/holidays.html
During your stay, the best practice is to keep a face covering on while indoors with people who are not in your household. If you will not do this, stay spread out as much as possible.
Try to have as much time outdoors as possible
Limit personal contact
Spread out when eating
If you think you or a loved one has been exposed or start to become symptomatic visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/quarantine.html for more information.
RETURNING HOME: Consider self-quarantining for 7 days when you return and get a test 3-5 days after returning. If no symptoms develop AND you test negative, you can resume your daily activities and work.
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
HOW COVID SPREADS: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/transmission/index.html
COVID TESTING: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/testing/index.html
COVID VACCINES: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html *Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on COVID Vaccines.*
I know this was a long read, but there is so much we need to consider when it comes to keeping ourselves and each other safe and well. The vaccines will be here soon, but we must continue doing everything we can so all of us can live to receive the vaccine!
While much of the American Dream is about pursuing your own happiness and success, none of us is an island. We are all on the same boat, and we will sink or swim together. Let’s remember that compassion, empathy, and teamwork are our best allies – together, we will see this through!
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on why you can be confidant in the COVID-19 Vaccines.
Yours in health,
Dr. Colby & Andrea Helton