Urging precautions for COVID-19 ahead of the holidays

Posted 11/12/20

Across North Carolina and around the country, cases of COVID-19 have increased sharply over the past several weeks. In North Carolina, we have set new record daily highs in confirmed cases each of …

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Urging precautions for COVID-19 ahead of the holidays

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Across North Carolina and around the country, cases of COVID-19 have increased sharply over the past several weeks. In North Carolina, we have set new record daily highs in confirmed cases each of the past four weeks, including just under 3,000 cases reported Nov. 6.

One day later, Chatham County recorded its highest daily case total since mid-July. COVID-19 hospitalizations are high across the state, and the percentage of tests that come back positive remains above 6%. Since March, 63 people who called Chatham home have passed away from COVID-19.

While these numbers are troubling, the reality is that we expect them to get worse. As the weather gets colder and with upcoming holidays where people often gather together inside with others, we worry that the COVID-19 pandemic will hit us harder than ever.

But it doesn’t have to.

In the more than eight months since the pandemic reached Chatham County, we have learned a lot about how the virus spreads and what we can do to stop it. We know that the greatest risk of infection occurs when you are near someone (within 6 feet) who is infectious, even if they don’t know it or feel sick. The closer you are together, the greater the amount of time you spend with them, and being indoors all increase this risk. We know that wearing a face covering when you are around others who don’t live with you greatly reduces the risk of infection both for you and those around you. But for this to work best, we all must wear them consistently and correctly. We also know that regularly washing your hands can reduce the spread of the virus, as it does with other respiratory viruses like the flu (reminder: If you haven’t already, please get your flu shot!). These are the 3 Ws, and they are more important than ever.

As you plan for the holiday season, keep these things in mind: Limit contact with those outside of your household. If you are planning to attend a gathering, start limiting contact with others beginning 14 days before the gathering. Keep guest lists small and avoid crowded spaces, especially indoors. If you are around others, practice the 3 Ws, spend as much time outdoors or at least six feet apart as possible. Wear a mask.

Also, consider getting a COVID-19 test before you attend any gathering. Testing options in Chatham County can be found at chathamnc.org/coronavirustesting. Remember though, tests only apply to that point in time (and results take a few days to get back), so it remains critically important that you follow the 3 Ws and limit contact even if you test negative. If you have even the slightest symptom that could be from COVID-19, don’t put others at risk.

We have heard from many over the last several months who attributed symptoms to a cold or sinuses and found out they had COVID-19 only after being around others, once the virus had already spread. If you are at higher risk of more severe illness, such as an adult over 65 years old or someone with a chronic condition like heart disease or COPD, be especially vigilant and consider staying home or attending virtually.

Thank you for doing your part to slow the spread of the virus, to keep yourself, your loved ones, and the Chatham community healthy, and to enjoy the holiday season as safely as possible.

Mike Zelek has been the Interim Public Health Director for Chatham County since June. He previously served in the department as the director of the Health Promotion & Policy Division. Zelek, who has been with CCPHD for eight years, has played a significant role in Chatham County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.


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