Don’t forget COVID safeguards while enjoying holidays with family, friends

By Lesley AtkinsonNovember 23, 2020

It’s pretty clear the war against COVID-19 is far from over.

Nearly every state in the nation is reporting elevated infection rates. Numerous metropolitan hospitals have sent out near-max-capacity warnings for their Intensive Care Units. As of Monday, the U.S. was sitting at 10,846,373 cases with 244,810 deaths.

“The coming holidays are not going to be easy on anyone because travel remains restricted and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that large family gathering be avoided this year as they could increase the risk of being exposed to the virus,” observed Lt. Col. David Nee, Public Health special projects officer at Kenner Army Health Clinic.

“Now is not the time to get complacent and give up on protecting oneself and others we care about and for,” he further emphasized. “We need to continue safeguards such as social distancing, wearing protective masks and staying within our homes and isolated groups to not open opportunities for the additional spread of this virus.”

Nee’s recommendations are aligned with comments made Friday by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “We know this virus is spreading in indoor places like restaurants where people take off their masks (to eat and drink),” he said. “It’s spreading at small social gatherings like dinner parties, and it’s spreading when people ignore the science and don’t think they need to wear a mask inside.”

The governor has tightened COVID-19 restrictions. Children age 5 and older must now wear protective masks. The size limit for group/family gatherings has been lowered to 25 people. Bars and restaurants have been ordered to stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. and to close no later than midnight.

“We’re acting now so things do not get worse,” Northam insisted. “We know these … measures work. We saw that earlier this year. I am confident we can get our numbers back down, but it requires all of us to make smart choices.”

“Much like the governor, we’re asking Team Lee to think about the situation we’re in,” Nee responded. “We can’t beat COVID unless everyone is invested in the defensive measures. That is the intent of General Order No. 1 – to emphasize the expectation for this team to take steps to protect themselves and others by following the social distancing and mask mandates, limiting travel and avoiding large public groups. Everyone just needs to keep their head in the game and not be swayed by debate over the need for restrictive measures.”

Refocusing on the upcoming holidays, Nee said there’s understandable concern among public health officials because individuals may become increasingly complacent about COVID-19 safeguards and not give second thought to carrying on with family visits, office parties, and other Thanksgiving and yuletide celebratory traditions.

“We know that the spread of COVID-19 is encouraged by the following factors – presence and quantity of infected persons (who could have it but be asymptomatic), distance from others, duration of exposure, ventilation, and protective measures like hand washing and wearing masks,” Nee said. “With that knowledge, we can form a daily defensive game plan throughout the coming weeks and months until the nation has the spread under control and/or a vaccine is developed.”

Recent news that a vaccine, under development by the drug company Pfizer, appears to be 90 percent successful in blocking COVID-19 should serve as inspiration, Nee suggested. “There are amazing efforts underway to develop vaccines and treatment. This process has been faster than anything we have seen in human history.