With 2020 behind us and a vaccine currently being administered in the United States, there is hope in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the worst may not be yet behind us. Not only do health experts believe that we will experience a "surge upon surge" as a result of the holiday season, but the detection of two new variants of SARS COV-2—much more infectious than the previous—will likely result in an increase of infections, hospitalizations, and even deaths. So, what can you do to avoid COVID-19 this year? In a new interview, Dr. Henry Walke, the CDC's COVID-19 incident manager, reveals everything you should prioritize to stay safe. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.
Wear a Mask—Especially Now That There's a More Infectious COVID Mutation
Starting off, Dr. Walke discussed the new variants detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa. "Both appear to infect people more easily," he explained. "It is important to know that at this time there is no evidence that either of these variants causes more severe disease or increases the risk of death." However, "because these variants seem to spread more easily" he maintains the importance of being "even more vigilant in our prevention measures to slow the spread COVID-19."
To that end, Dr. Walke urges the importance of mask wearing. "When you wear a mask, you protect others as well as yourself," says the CDC. "COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets. Respiratory droplets travel into the air when you cough, sneeze, talk, shout, or sing. These droplets can then land in the mouths or noses of people who are near you or they may breathe these droplets in."
You Must Social Distance—Just Wearing a Mask Won't Cut It
In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, social distancing is key, reminds Dr. Walke. This involves "staying at least six feet apart from people we don't live with," he specifies. The CDC adds: "A mask is NOT a substitute for social distancing. Masks should still be worn in addition to staying at least 6 feet apart, especially when indoors around people who don't live in your household."
Avoid Crowds of All Kinds
"Avoiding large gatherings" and crowds is also crucial, says Walke. Don't go. If you must, "wear masks in public settings, like on public and mass transportation, at events and gatherings, and anywhere they will be around other people," says the CDC. "Use social distancing (stay at least 6 feet away from others). Before you go, call and ask what extra prevention strategies they are using, like requiring staff to wear masks."
Indoor Spaces—They're Breeding Grounds for Coronavirus
While the CDC and other health experts continually remind that "outdoors is better than indoors" when it comes to preventing the spread of coronavirus, Dr. Walke urges the importance of "ventilating indoor spaces" if you do choose to be indoors.
Hand Hygiene—You've Got to Wash the Virus Off You
Finally, practicing hand hygiene, or "washing our hands often" is incredibly important in case you come into physical contact with the virus.
Get Vaccinated When It's Your Turn
Also, if we have any hopes of controlling COVID-19, it is incredibly important for people to get vaccinated. "Make a commitment to get vaccinated when it's your turn and encourage everyone you know to do the same. I'm confident that covid-19 vaccination is the way that we help," Walke urged. "Images of people being vaccinated shared on news and through social media have been flooding in and staff have been sharing stories of family and friends who have been vaccinated. I want to thank the men and women who have already rolled up their sleeves to get a vaccine and I look forward to joining their ranks when it's my turn."
How to Survive This Pandemic
"We firmly believe that our mitigation measures in our guidance now will work" in preventing the spread of the newest COVID-19 variants, Walke reminded at the end of his Q&A. Again, you can help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.