As the numbers of patients hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19 continue to drop throughout the Rio Grande Valley, local health experts are urging the community to continue to take precautions to guard against a re-spike in hospitalizations.
When choosing to take part in an activity outside the home it is important tocontinue to heed best practices which have been proven to prevent the spread of the virus throughout the course of the ongoing pandemic.
Dr. Beverly Zavaleta, physician adviser at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville, also advised local residents to avoid large indoor gatherings, adding that outdoor activities are considered safe as long as precautions such as the use of face coverings, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing, are utilized.
“It is up to all of us to take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and the ones we love and care about most while preventing another spike in COVID-related hospitalizations,” she said.
Perhaps one of the most important best practices continues to be the use of face coverings when in public, said Dr. Christopher Romero, internal medicine specialist and physician adviser at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen.
“The importance of masks is to prevent the spread of the virus by those people who may not know they are infected and contagious yet,” he said. “People can spread the virus before they develop symptoms, which has been demonstrated in research from around the world. Wearing a mask is only one of our weapons to fight COVID-19, but it’s an important one. When out and about we don’t know who may have cancer, diabetes, lung problems, or other health issues that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.”
Zavaleta indicated that continued use of social distancing practices can also play an important role in limiting the risk of COVID-19 exposure when participating in activities outside the home.
The concept, dubbed “social distancing,” encourages maintaining a space of six feet between individuals whenever possible. Since one of the methods Coronavirus can spread is via respiratory droplets expelled from an infected person, social distancing can help keep healthy individuals from being exposed to those particles, she said.
“These tiny droplets of water are released from our mouth when we exhale, cough, and sneeze,” Zavaleta said. “However, they are only able to travel a certain distance, and their concentration in the air decreases significantly as distance increases. Being six feet away from each other can greatly reduce the risk of these tiny droplets that can contain virus particles from spreading from person to person.”
Continuing the practice of frequent hand washing can also help reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 when leaving the home, Romero said.
“Hand washing comes into play when we leave the home and can’t always practice effective social distancing, such as when venturing to the grocery store, he said. “Also, use sanitation wipes on shared items such as shopping carts when available, and avoid touching your face.”
While the urge to resume public gatherings may be difficult to resist, both physicians agreed that one of the best ways to prevent becoming infected with COVID-19 remains limiting exposure to large groups of people, especially during indoor activities.
For more information on how you can reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19 while engaging in activities outside your home, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/deciding-to-go-out.html.