Make no mistake about it: Winter with COVID-19 will be difficult. So, besides wearing coronavirus face mask protection, washing your hands frequently, sanitizing surfaces frequently, and social distancing, is there anything else we should be doing?
Fortunately, there are a few more safety measures you can take. Below, we outline a four-point plan to help you better weather this harsh season.
No Easy Answers
With winter comes coldness, darkness, and a time when most of us spend the majority of our waking hours indoors. And it's coming quickly. Not even Dr. Anthony Fauci, America's top infectious disease expert and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has a solid plan to navigate what lies ahead. "I don't have any easy answers," he explained in a recent interview with Business Insider.
As infection rates continue to skyrocket, America's situation is obviously not ideal. To increase our chances of survival, many public health experts agree that we must prepare now. Below are four tips you should implement to protect yourself and your loved ones.
1. Accept the "New Normal"
Many (okay, most) of us have been wondering one thing since the coronavirus pandemic started: When will things return to normal? According to infection prevention expert Saskia Popescu, we should "lean into" the situation we find ourselves in and recognize that we must all continue taking all the preventative measures we can to beat this pandemic.
"I really hate the term 'when we get back to normal,' because this kind of is our normal now," Popescu explains. "The longer we try to resist that and be like 'well, when are things going to get back to normal again?' the harder it is."
Take some time if you need to mentally brace yourself that this crisis is not over yet. We know you're exhausted and fatigued. It's okay to acknowledge this. But also know that this too shall pass. And in order for it to do so faster, we must all do our part. Rebelling against simple public health guidelines doesn't help anybody. Instead, continue to avoid crowds, always wear your face mask or neck gaiter, and avoid spending a lot of time indoors with people who aren't part of your household.
2. Assume the Virus Is Close — Or That You May Have Encountered It Already
You can never be too cautious during these tough times. Besides winter, at all times this year, it's better to assume that someone nearby possibly has the coronavirus. And that person could be you; you just don't know it yet.
This may seem like fearmongering, but it's actually a prudent virus-fighting tactic. Remember, people, not objects, are the greatest spreaders of the coronavirus. And it's often impossible to really know when you're in the presence of the virus since it transmits well ahead of when an infected person starts to show symptoms.
With that said, it's probably best to get comfortable with the concept that you won't be hosting or attending any big holiday gatherings this year. Large events with several people, whether they're concerts, conventions, or extended family get-togethers, carry a high risk for spreading infectious diseases. This doesn't just apply to COVID-19 but other respiratory illnesses as well. With that said, Popescu projects that we may not be able to hold these events again until late 2021 or early 2022.
On a side (but relevant) note, get your flu shot if you haven't done so already. Systematically, flu shots help prevent more cases of the illness nationwide. This can help immensely in alleviating the burden on our already-strained healthcare system. Individually, the flu vaccine can give you some peace of mind. And that's priceless in these anxiety-filled times we find ourselves in.
3. Build a Social Bubble
Here's another thing you can do to help your mental health: Build a social bubble. What's that, you ask? Simply put, a social bubble is a small group of people (or households, if you prefer) who agree to collectively share time with each other indoors this winter.
Now, it's worth mentioning that this strategy depends on everyone socially distancing from other groups of people and households. If this rule is broken, then the risk of infectious spread increases. Put another way, by being in close contact with your bubble on a regular basis, you're exposing yourself to any exposure they've had recently. So everyone must be on board with the same COVID-19 safety protocols for this to work.
If implemented correctly, this approach can be effective in mitigating coronavirus transmission while still providing the human contact that we all need. Humans are social creatures, after all!
Popescu recommends only bubbling with people from one or two other households at most. Align everyone on the procedures that you all should be following (mask-wearing, social distancing, handwashing, etc.), and make sure that none of your bubble mates are bubbling with others.
4. Want to Socialize? Bundle Up and Get Outside
If you or any of your bubble mates choose to spend time with friends and family outside of your bubble, it's best to stay far apart. And there's no better way to do this than to meet and hang out in the fresh, outdoor air.
Opt for outdoor hangouts as often as possible when it comes to interacting with people outside of your household. Staying at least a couple of arms' length apart should help to stop you from coming into contact with any germs from the other party.
The thought of doing this probably sounds brutal since we're essentially asking you to stand outside during the coldest time of the year. To keep cozy, wear layered, loose, lightweight clothes. The air that gets trapped between these layers of fabric end up acting as extra insulation.
Winter Will Be Over Before You Know It
We hope you've found these coronavirus winter safety tips to be informative and useful! This season is certainly shaping up to be different from previous ones. But by implementing the measures we've mentioned above, you can retain some semblance of normalcy while staying safe.
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