Coronavirus infection rates have remained high in the United States throughout the summer. Still, a new surge of infections is possible in the fall. A second wave would be particularly dangerous for the elderly, who are at higher risk of death from COVID-19. Here are steps you can take to help prevent a second wave.
A Second Wave Is Not Inevitable
COVID-19 spreads more easily indoors. As the weather turns colder this fall, indoor activities could create a second wave of COVID-19 infections. This second wave could overwhelm hospitals and nursing homes, especially when combined with flu season. However, a second wave is not inevitable. Government intervention and individual behavior can both help prevent a new wave of infections, saving elderly American’s lives.
Your Actions Matter
Individual actions to prevent coronavirus transmission add up. While federal, state, and local governments must do their part, you can take direct action to help stop the spread in your community. By wearing a mask, practicing good hygiene, and staying home as much as possible, you can protect your elderly relatives, friends, and neighbors.
Wear a Mask
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called face masks “one of the most powerful weapons we have to slow and stop the spread of the virus.” Recent research suggests that near-universal mask-wearing could save tens of thousands of lives.Many people with COVID-19 do not know they are infected. Wearing a mask helps prevent people with no symptoms from spreading the virus. Additionally, mask-wearing provides you with some protection against catching COVID-19 from others. Wearing a mask is particularly important indoors, where there is limited air circulation. You can help prevent a second wave by wearing a mask every time you leave the house. This simple action can help keep you, your family, and your community safe.
Practice Good Hygiene
While coronavirus spreads most easily from person-to-person, the virus can live on surfaces for hours or days. If you touch an infected surface and then touch your face, you can become infected with COVID-19. Washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water will kill the coronavirus, preventing infection.The CDC recommends hand washing after you have been in a public place, before and after preparing or eating food, before and after caring for someone who is sick, and after using the bathroom. If soap and water are not immediately available, you can use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.You can also prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your home and community by disinfecting high-touch surfaces in your home like door handles, tables, light switches, faucets, and toilets. Regular disinfecting reduces your risk of contracting COVID-19 and spreading it to others in your community.
Stay Home as Much as Possible
When combined with mask-wearing, keeping a distance of at least six feet between yourself and others helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. In many activities outside your home, such distance is difficult to maintain. By limiting errands, choosing safe social activities, and keeping your distance, you can help prevent a second wave and save the lives of seniors in your community.According to the CDC, close and prolonged interaction with people outside your household, particularly while not wearing a mask, increases your risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home provides the best protection against contracting and spreading COVID-19. There are several ways you can limit your exposure while completing essential errands and staying social:
- Have groceries and other essentials delivered or use drive-through or curbside pick-up services.
- Support local restaurants by ordering takeout or delivery, rather than dining indoors.
- Stay connected with friends and family via phone, video chat, or social media.
- Get exercise outdoors in areas where you can maintain a safe distance from others.
If you do participate in activities outside the home, you can limit the risk of spreading COVID-19 by choosing safer activities. For example, the CDC suggests choosing activities that allow you to maintain a minimum of six feet of distance between yourself and others, that are held outdoors, and where everyone wears masks. To protect your community, you should avoid indoor activities where masks cannot be worn consistently, like restaurants and bars.
Support Elderly Family, Friends, and Neighbors
Social distancing helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, protecting your elderly family, friends, and neighbors. But it also causes loneliness, which can have negative health effects. You can support your elderly family and friends by checking in frequently via phone. You can also support and encourage them to learn new technologies, particularly video conferencing technologies like FaceTime or Zoom. Setting up regular video chats can help ease loneliness and isolation. If your elderly relatives or friends live nearby, you can arrange a socially distant visit through a ground floor window.Within your community, you can run errands or purchase groceries for high-risk neighbors. Also, many community organizations that provide food, housing, or social supports for seniors are facing budget shortfalls, so consider donating to these organizations. You can also reach out to local nursing homes to see if you can help by donating PPE or connecting with isolated seniors via video.
Help Healthcare Workers
Healthcare workers, particularly those in high-risk settings like nursing homes, are burning out. You can support them by keeping community transmission of COVID-19 low. Additionally, you can do your part to help ensure adequate PPE for healthcare workers by choosing a cloth face mask rather than a surgical or N-95 mask. You can also support healthcare workers in your community directly by helping them arrange childcare, delivering groceries or meals, or providing encouragement and moral support.
Advocate for Policy Solutions
While individual actions can help stop the spread of COVID-19, controlling the pandemic will also require government action. To help prevent a second wave, you can use your voice to advocate for increased testing in your community, procedures for tracing and isolating contacts, adequate PPE for healthcare workers and nursing homes, and economic support to help people stay home.A second wave is not inevitable. You can help save lives by taking action to prevent the spread of COVID-19.