Corona Virus continues to circulate in Wayne and Garfield Counties and will likely be with us throughout the winter. While most who have contracted the virus have not had serious complications, there has been one hospitalization on Wayne County and 5 COVID deaths in Garfield County. Even the young and healthy are at risk for “Long COVID”, a syndrome in which individuals are slow to recover from COVID symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, loss of taste and/or smell, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain. In some, symptoms can go on for months. Studies suggest 1 in 20 people who have the virus will have some ongoing symptoms beyond 4 weeks.
So what do we do now? Data suggests social distancing is the best way to avoid contracting the virus. It mostly spreads through respiratory droplets in the air infected individuals breath out into their surrounding environment. Coughing, sneezing, singing and speaking loudly all increase the amount of virus an infected person can put out into the air. The closer you are to someone infected by the virus, the more likely you are to breath in the infected droplets and become ill. Lack of good air circulation such as being indoors, means the virus will linger in the air longer.
Masks are helpful in that they limit the distance exhaled droplets can travel. While not very helpful in preventing us from breathing in infected air, they do decrease spread by limiting the amount of virus an infected individual will spread into the air. Given a high percentage of infected individuals feel fine, wearing a mask isn’t so much something we do for ourselves, as something we do to help protect those around us should we be shedding the virus.
Unlike the flu and common colds, COVID 19 spreads less commonly through contact with contaminated surfaces. Regular hand washing is always a good practice, as is regularly cleaning high contact surfaces. However, I would be much more concerned about the air I’m breathing than the surfaces I’m touching!
Remember, this infection takes advantage of those who are not in the best of health. Our elderly with chronic health problems incident to age are especially at high risk, but this virus doesn’t care about age. We all need to do all we can to maximize our health. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, stop smoking, lose those extra pounds, and make sure any chronic health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure are under good control.
So as cold weather sets in, let’s all do the basics. We know the routine: Stay home if you’re not feeling well and consider testing. Keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others not of your immediate family. Wear a mask when you are around people, especially indoors or when social distancing may be difficult. Practice good hand washing. Take extra care when around our older neighbors and loved ones. And let’s all maximize our good health!
Stay Well. Jeff Chappell, MD