How to avoid coronavirus and reduce risk of severe COVID-19

While there’s no way to eliminate all risk, there are steps you can take.

Avoiding coronavirus is getting more challenging as colder weather forces us indoors amid the holidays.

While there’s no way to eliminate all risk, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of spreading the coronavirus and the number of people who develop potentially severe COVID-19.

“When looking at the risk, people need to consider not just how they can endure that risk themselves, but whether they have somebody in their home who’s at particularly high risk of getting severely ill with COVID-19,” said Joseph M. Flynn, D.O., MPH, FACP, chief administrative officer, Norton Medical Group, and physician-in-chief, Norton Cancer Institute.

“If you have one person who comes into your house, there’s a risk. You’re actually exposed to whomever they were exposed to, potentially,” Dr. Flynn said.

That makes it particularly dangerous for people at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those at increased risk and those who work or live with them should take extra precautions such as avoiding in-person gatherings with people outside your household. If you do attend a gathering, seek out ways to lower risk.

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For instance, indoors is riskier than outdoors. Indoor gatherings with poor ventilation are riskier than indoor gatherings with open windows or doors.

The CDC offers additional tips, such as:

  • Host activities with only people from your local area as much as possible.
  • Limit numbers of attendees as much as possible.
  • Provide updated information to your guests about any COVID-19 safety guidelines and steps in place to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Provide or encourage attendees to bring supplies to help you and others stay healthy. For example, extra masks (do not share or swap with others), hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and tissues.
  • If you are planning in-person holiday gatherings with people outside of your household, consider asking all guests to strictly avoid contact with people outside of their households for 14 days before the gathering.

Unfortunately, for some it’s just not a good idea to attend in-person gatherings no matter the number of people and precautions. Those include:

  • People with COVID-19
  • Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms
  • Anyone waiting for COVID-19 viral test results
  • Anyone who may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days
  • People at increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19

“The holidays are going to look different. We have to be vigilant. When somebody has a stuffy nose, we don’t know, do they have allergies? Do they have a cold? Do they have the flu or do they have COVID-19? We don’t know by just looking at somebody,” Dr. Flynn said.

Remember, those who have COVID-19 did nothing wrong. Erasing any hint of stigma around the disease makes it easier for people to speak up and stay away if they aren’t feeling well.

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