Is it safe to travel to see my family during the holiday season?
There are a few factors to consider here, starting with who you are and where you’re going. If you or someone you’re traveling with has an underlying condition you’re concerned about, it might be best to stay home. If you do decide to go, drive if you can. “If flying, stick to short flights and limit layovers,” says Dr. Thomas File, an infectious disease physician with Summa Health System and past president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “Turn on the plane’s overhead vent to increase ventilation.” Once at your destination, spend time outdoors, wear a mask and stay 6 feet apart. Wash hands frequently according to best practices, and avoid potlucks, buffets and other self-serve meal options. “With increasing cases being observed as we head into the winter and holiday season,” File says, “there is going to be an increased risk for transmission if persons travel and if the travel is to congregate with others.”
How often and by what method should one wash a cotton mask?
We’ve heard it said that you should treat your cotton masks like your underwear, and that’s pretty good advice: Wash after every wear since germs could be contaminating the outer surface and the inside comes in contact with our mouths, which are not sterile. Dr. Sherif Mossad, an infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, recommends using the gentle cycle, or handwashing with hot, soapy water. “[Wash] after each use; at least once daily,” he says. “Masks should also be dried on high heat. We also advise people take extra care not to touch their eyes, nose or mouth when removing a worn cloth mask. Individuals should also wash their hands immediately after removing their mask.” As for disposable masks, dispose of them after one use.
Is there anything else a person can do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?
Pay attention to your overall wellness. Dr. Janice Rice, facility medical director at Southwest General Brunswick Medical Center, notes that she’s seen the whole gamut of health outcomes during this pandemic. “I see patients that are affected greatly, and ones that thankfully weather the virus rather well,” she says. There are no guarantees, of course, but Rice offers a few tips that might help a person stay in the latter group. “First and foremost, take care of your body,” she says. “Eat a nutritious diet, stay hydrated with lots of water, get plenty of sleep, exercise and daily vitamins.” Rice says that weekly journaling and meditation can help with grounding and a positive mindset as well. “I believe that staying positive through these difficult times will only benefit you as a whole,” she says.
Can you get reinfected with the virus?
The question of whether or not a person can be infected with this strain of the coronavirus twice is one of many that are still unanswered, but scientists are leaning towards yes. “Typically, with any infection, your body makes antibodies to help fight off that infection,” says Mossad. “New evidence appears to suggest that individuals don’t have long-term immunity after infection.” He notes that a recent United Kingdom study found that after three months, COVID-19 antibodies decline. That number was five months in a recent study by scientists in South Korea. “Ultimately,” says Mossad, “more research is still needed to help determine whether people who have developed antibodies to COVID-19 are immune to future infection.”
Why is it important to get a flu shot this year?
First of all, it’s just good practice. “This is a good step to take to help protect you and your loved ones,” Rice says. Also, it’s possible to get the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. “This combination could be very serious or even deadly,” she says. Hospital beds are not in endless supply, so taking one up with a severe case of the flu won’t help. “We need to keep hospital beds as open as we can in case we get a surge,” says Dr. Christine Alexander, chair of family medicine at MetroHealth System. And having the flu can make a body more susceptible to COVID-19. “When people get influenza, it makes them more vulnerable when they get exposed to other infections,” says Alexander. “If I’m down for the count with the flu and I get even a small exposure to coronavirus, I am more likely to get it.”
What is the difference in infection rates of COVID-19 in kids and adults, and what explains the difference?
Answers are still unfolding as the pandemic wears on. There are a few things that are becoming clearer though. “We now know that children under 10 years old aren’t as susceptible to COVID-19 as older children and adults,” says Dr. Carly W. Wilbur, pediatrician at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “According to data published by the Children’s Hospital Association, kids represent only 10% of test-positive COVID-19 cases in the U.S.” That being said, children haven’t had the same access to testing as adults. “CVS only recently changed their guidelines to approve patients as young as 12 years old, and children’s hospitals have been allowing COVID-19 testing only for patients with at least two symptoms even though data have shown children’s symptoms tend to be subtler,” says Wilbur.
How will we know when the pandemic is over?
If you’re waiting for a flip of a switch and dancing in the streets, don’t. This pandemic needs to be controlled before it’s officially over. “The pandemic won’t come under control until the transmission rate is reduced significantly,” says File. “This is assuming we have both an effective and safe vaccine as well as continued implementation of public health measures to prevent sustained transmission.” We’ll likely need to get to a 60% rate of population immunity. “Thus, we will need a relatively highly effective vaccine and a high rate of immunization to even consider that goal,” says File. “Practicing good health measures will still be important at least for a while. I am hopeful this will occur sometime during the latter half of next year,” he says.