Rowan Public Health offers advice on staying well during the Holidays
ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - As we celebrate the holidays, we cannot forget that COVID-19 is still infecting tens of thousands of Americans each day. In Rowan County, we have seen about a 4% increase in our positivity rate since the week of Thanksgiving. State data, as of this past Wednesday, also shows that our regional hospitals have the second highest number of patients in the state being hospitalized with COVID-19.
The county is also seeing an increase in the number of children in our county, birth to one year of age, that currently have COVID-19. Experts fear another winter surge of COVID-19 may be coming, especially if precautions aren’t taken as we travel, gather with extended family and friends, and as we stay inside more due to colder temperatures.
If you’re planning to travel or to gather with loved ones this holiday season, the following are things you can do to not only protect your family and friends, but everyone you may come in contact with as you are out celebrating, enjoying festivities, and/or doing last minute shopping:
· Test yourself and family members before gathering with others, especially if you have the following symptoms: a fever or chills; a cough; shortness of breath or difficulty breathing; fatigue; muscle or body aches; a headache; sore throat; congestion or runny nose; nausea; vomiting; and/or diarrhea.
Studies have now shown that rapid COVID-19 tests are even able to detect the new variants, such as BQ.1 and BQ1.1. Frequent testing can help prevent those all around you from unknowingly spreading the virus at holiday events. If you do test negative but have classic COVID-19 symptoms such as sore throat, chills, and body aches, it is highly suggested that you stay home and to see your physician as soon as possible. Rowan County Public Health does offer free at-home tests by calling 980-432-1800 or emailing our COVID Team at Covidfirstname.lastname@example.org .
- Although face masks aren’t required for most travel anymore, it is probably in your best interest to wear one, especially if you will be in a crowded airport sometime during the holidays. Also, it is important to know that most filtration systems on airplanes do not turn on while a plane is grounded. So, if you must wait before your plane takes off, it is also in your best interest to mask up. If you are traveling by bus or train, it is highly suggested that you should mask up during your entire trip, due to the absence of air filtration systems on the majority of these particular types of transportation.
- If you are traveling, be aware of the level of COVID-19 transmission of the place where you are visiting and take extra precautions to protect yourself by wearing a face mask and practicing good hand hygiene. Hospitalization and death rates are good indicators of how widely the virus is spreading, as well as paying attention to the positivity test rates of a community. Positivity rates are still a reliable indicator of COVID-19 activity because it’s relative to the number of tests that are being performed professionally and coming back positive. More specific details on the levels of transmission for the counties within North Carolina can be found at NC DHHS. In addition to this, other state specific information can be found through the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker.
- If you’ll be spending time with loved ones who are immunocompromised, unvaccinated, or elderly, you may also want to take extra precautions by masking up indoors or keeping festivities outside. We all need to take extra precautions to protect our most vulnerable population from COVID-19.
- Last, but not least, please get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. Although it is a little late to be fully protected by next week for Christmas, for it takes a week or two for your immune response to develop, you will have at least started the process of protecting yourself and those around you from getting COVID-19 or from getting very sick from this virus. Anyone 6 months and older can now get vaccinated against this virus. Also know that anyone over 5 years of age and older can now receive a booster against COVID-19.
If you are interested in starting your COVID-19 vaccination series, and/or receiving your bivalent booster, please call Rowan County Public Health at 704-216-8863 to make an appointment.
In closing, please do your part to stop the spread of COVID-19, as well as the flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), which are also affecting our community, by doing the following:
· Make sure you are up to date on all your vaccinations, including your annual flu shot and any COVID vaccines
· Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.
· Keep your distance between yourself and others when you’re in indoor public spaces.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
· Wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, especially if you’re in an area with large crowds of people or around immunocompromised individuals.
· Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
· Clean and disinfect, on a daily-basis, high-touch surfaces. This includes doorknobs, light switches, electronics, phones, computers, remotes, toys. and countertops.
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