Why COVID-19 cases are rising.

by Glenn Wortmann, MD, Medical Director of Infection Prevention at the MedStar Institute of Quality and Safety
August 12, 2020

While many of us were hopeful that the spread of COVID-19 was slowing down, some states are seeing record spikes as COVID-19 cases are rising. The increase may have you wondering, why are COVID-19 cases rising? And, what can we do about it?

Some states are seeing record spikes as #COVID19 cases are rising. Infectious disease specialist Dr. Wortmann explains why and what we can do about it on the #LiveWellHealthy blog: https://bit.ly/33W5DrA.

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Many states lifted stay-at-home orders and people are resuming daily activities.

Around Memorial Day, many states began relaxing lockdown restrictions, which means more people began leaving their homes. As bars, restaurants, and other businesses reopen, people have more opportunities to interact with one another. Because COVID-19 is spread person-to-person, any time people are within close proximity to each other, the risk for transmission increases.

This risk is even higher indoors where there is less ventilation and it is harder to socially distance from others. And, while many states reinforced the importance of wearing a face mask as a precaution, others have been more lenient. Since the virus is spread through respiratory droplets that leave the mouth and nose when someone coughs, talks, or exhales, there is an increased risk of spread in environments where people are not wearing face masks.

What you can do: Before deciding to go out, weigh the risks against the benefits of resuming daily activities. When it’s necessary to engage in public activities, follow safety precautions, such as:

  • Wearing a face mask
  • Maintaining social distance
  • Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently

Quarantine fatigue means people may not be as careful as they were before.

Months of quarantining inside our homes have been difficult. It’s not only taken a toll on our schedules, it’s affecting our mental and emotional health. So, when businesses reopened, many of us were desperate to resume normal life and social interaction. With many stay-at-home orders lifting right around summer holidays, it’s likely that many people began attending large social gatherings where their risk of exposure increased. For example, some states have seen a spike in COVID-19 cases among young adults as a result of bars and restaurants reopening.

While it’s tempting to get back to our regular social events, we still need to consider when, where, and how it’s safest for us to do so. Interacting with more people raises the risks, as does being in groups where people aren’t six feet apart or wearing masks. COVID-19 cases are rising because more people are spending more time interacting with others in person. When you can’t establish six feet of space between you and others, the risk increases. And the more time you spend with people who may be infected, the higher your risk of becoming infected, especially if you’re not wearing a face mask.

What you can do: Close contact with others increases your risk of exposure to COVID-19, so be mindful of where and how you’re interacting with others. Consider the following questions before attending a social gathering:

  • Will there be a small or large group of people? The risk is higher if the group is larger.
  • Can you maintain six feet of space between each other? If not, the risk increases.
  • Will you be outside or inside? Outside activities offer more ventilation than indoor events.
  • Will people be wearing face masks? If not, the risk of exposure is significantly higher.

Asymptomatic people who have COVID-19 may not know they have it and spread it to others.

Most people know by now that if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home and quarantine to prevent spreading the virus to others. However, many people who are infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, which means they don’t experience any symptoms. And, some people infected with COVID-19 may not experience symptoms until days after they’ve been exposed to the virus. As a result, people who don’t know they’re sick could be spreading it to others as they visit the grocery store, a family barbecue, or a local cafe.

What you can do: You may have been exposed to COVID-19 if you were within six feet of someone who had COVID-19. Contact could mean you:

  • Were caring for them
  • Had physical contact (e.g. hug or high five)
  • Were sneezed on

If it’s possible that you’ve been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, the responsible thing to do is quarantine for the 14 days. Quarantine means that you stay home and separate yourself from others for a period of time to ensure you don’t spread the virus to anyone else.

You can help reverse the rise in COVID-19 cases.

We’re all anxious to get back to our normal lives. But right now, the best thing we can do is take measures to ensure the safety of ourselves and our community. That may mean making sacrifices for the greater good of the people around us, like wearing a face mask even in the summer heat.

COVID-19 seems to thrive where we do—in social situations. The COVID-19 spread declined while we were at home because we experienced minimal social interaction. Now that we’re out and about, we need to continue being cautious by wearing masks and maintaining a six-feet distance between each other. It’s a simple and easy way we can care for one another.

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Category: Living Well     Tags: coronaviruscovid-19MedStar Healthurgent care