As economy slowly reopens, it’s no time to let down your mask

As Kentucky and Indiana join other states in gradually reopening the economy, it may begin to feel as if the COVID-19 threat has passed, but diligence is still needed.

Overheard at the store

Man approaches with a baseball cap over his nose and mouth: “I forgot my mask. Do you have any disposables?”

Employee: “Don’t worry about it. They make us wear one, but I think it’s overkill especially now that things are opening up.”

Actually, as the economy reopens, it’s even more important that we don’t let down our guard — or mask.

Social distancing fatigue is widespread, and we’re all eager to return to normal. As Kentucky and Indiana join other states in gradually reopening businesses that were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, it may begin to feel as if the threat has passed, but diligence is still needed.

“Restrictions may have changed, but our bodies haven’t,” said Christina M. Breit, M.D., internal medicine physician with Norton Community Medical Associates ­– Mallard Creek. “The majority of people still don’t have immunity, and there’s no cure or vaccine yet. We know a lot more than we did in March, and we’re in a much better place to care for people. But we still need to be smart as things start opening back up.”

But if you’ve already scaled back your social distancing efforts and nothing has happened, you’re fine to keep returning to normal, right?

“Unfortunately not,” Dr. Breit said. “The incubation period for this virus can last up to 14 days. Many patients have unknowingly carried COVID-19 for days. It’s important to remember that transmission can occur even through an asymptomatic carrier.”

Why do I need to be careful? I’m young and healthy.

“While it is true that the majority of COVID-19 complications have been in patients who were older and/or had underlying health conditions, young, healthy people still can be infected and become seriously or critically ill themselves. Furthermore, they also can pass the virus on to somebody at a higher risk. Being a good neighbor not only protects these vulnerable populations, but also helps us prevent medical resources from being overwhelmed,” Dr. Breit said.

Wait, I thought we already ‘flattened the curve’…

“We certainly did. We’ve done a tremendous job in our state, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” Dr. Breit said.  “If we’re not careful, we could see additional spikes. More mobility in the community is going to create more opportunities for transmission. You and your loved ones still can be infected, so please take the necessary precautions to protect yourself and others.”

So what can you do to stay safer?

Many of the same behaviors we’ve been practicing since March are going to continue to be important moving forward:

  • Frequent and diligent hand hygiene
  • Disinfecting surfaces
  • Avoiding touching our face, mouth and eyes
  • Wearing masks
  • Social distancing
  • Continuing curbside/contactless transactions
  • Keeping up to date on the latest developments from health experts and government officials
  • Protecting vulnerable populations

Reopening businesses makes following these behaviors more important than ever. As people return to retail stores, offices, gyms, places of worship, hair salons and other public areas, there are going to be more chances for the virus to spread.

“That doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy any of these things,” Dr. Breit said. “It just requires all of us to remember that even though things are starting to feel like they’re returning to normal, there’s work still left to be done.”

Many projection models warn that reopening the economy could result in more deaths.

“Forecasting the trajectory of this unprecedented virus is extremely difficult. Nevertheless, seeing these models use different methodology to reach similar conclusions could be worth noting,” Dr. Breit said.

Being careful not to overindulge in the reopening doesn’t mean avoiding everything outside of your home. Putting off seeking medical attention can lead to serious health issues down the line. To make sure facilities are clean and safer for patients, Norton Healthcare has implemented numerous stringent controls and cleaning policies designed to protect against COVID-19. Many patients also can receive care through Norton Telehealth.

Telehealth visits allow patients to conveniently receive care from the comfort of their own homes and reduce the possibility of exposure.

“Ill patients can be screened and routed for treatment and evaluation. Meanwhile, healthy patients can be screened to see if their concern requires coming in or if treatment can be provided remotely,” Dr. Breit said.

Finding more creative solutions like telehealth will be important as people begin to resume pre-pandemic behaviors.

“The last few months have been full of stress and sacrifice, and we, as a community, deserve a pat on the back for the way we’ve responded. Just please don’t forget what’s still at stake. There will come a day when things are back to normal. The quickest and safest way for us to get there is to be responsible, and conscientious, as things reopen.” Dr. Breit said.

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