What You Need to Know-Week of November 9th
The most important weekly updates for you to keep your community healthy
In this Update:
1. Information You Need: Why do guidelines keep changing?
2. Information You Need: Upcoming Holidays and Stressful Conversations
3. Information You Need: Upcoming Holidays and Stressful Conversations
1. Information You Need: Why do guidelines keep changing?
This is a learning process and we are all in this together! Because so much about the virus is unknown and uncertain, trusting and following the most recent guidance released by the experts and scientists who are at the forefront of the pandemic will help us get back to normal sooner. While it’s natural to be uncertain when suggested guidance changes, we are here to help!
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a novel virus that has most likely never been transmitted from animals to humans before the outbreak in late 2019. Since the virus is so new, scientists have a lot to learn – and they must do so very quickly. This helps to explain why guidance surrounding COVID-19 is always changing to reflect the most up to date information.
- It’s important for all of us to be flexible and adjust to new guidelines regarding the virus, but only if they are changed or updated by reliable sources and backed by scientists. While it’s stressful to try to stay up to date on all of the information, it will help to keep you and your loved ones safe!
- The important thing to remember is that even though guidance is evolving, this should not lead to skepticism or mistrust of the scientific community, but rather the opposite. Scientists and health professionals acknowledge that they are learning new information almost daily about the virus.
- It is much more trustworthy that scientists update guidelines and recommendations as new information is released, instead of standing by older, less guidance.
Here are some examples of how and why guidelines have been updated since the start of the pandemic:
|Some Reactions to Changing Guidelines||What You Should Know|
|Reliable sources like the WHO and CDC said that wearing a face covering wouldn’t prevent infection at the beginning of the pandemic. Does this mean that masks aren’t helpful?||
Wearing a mask DOES help!
This guidance was updated after studies found asymptomatic people were able to spread the virus and when evidence suggested cloth face coverings could reduce the amount of virus emitted effectively without needing to use the N95 and surgical masks reserved for healthcare workers. These were in critically short supply at the beginning of the pandemic and health care workers were at very high risk. The CDC and WHO now recommend that everyone, while in public, should wear a cloth face covering with at least two-layers.
|In the beginning of the pandemic, scientists said that the virus spread easily on objects and surfaces, but now they are saying it does not spread as easily this way. I feel like I can’t trust public health experts because of these mixed messages.||
We are learning new information about the virus almost every day.
Based on the available science during the beginning of the pandemic, scientists believed that transmission could easily occur through touching contaminated objects or surfaces. This was based on finding genetic RNA from the virus on surfaces hours and sometimes days after they had been contaminated. As more studies are being conducted, scientists have gained a much better understanding of transmission. However, erring on the side of caution is never a bad thing as surface transmission is still possible, but not as common as initially thought.
|When the pandemic started, we were told to not interact with anyone outside of our household. Now I’m hearing that it’s okay to create “pandemic pods.” What should I be doing?||
Creating a pandemic pod can be a good way to restore some normalcy, as long as necessary precautions are taken.
As the need for physical distancing continues, many people are searching for a sense of normalcy. Mental health is also critically important and there are ways to make getting together safer. This is especially important for children. There is always some risk of COVID-19 for in-person gatherings; however, creating a pandemic pod is a way to lessen the possibility for COVID-19 spread, while still socializing with the same small group of people who practice similar prevention practices. COVID-19 risk level differs by each pod and is dependent on many factors.
Early on, there was also uncertainty about who is at high risk for COVID-19. Now we are aware of these higher risk groups and that it is important to limit interactions with vulnerable populations. Whether or not someone is a high risk individual is an important determining factor for starting a pandemic pod.
|I remember hearing that get-togethers are completely unsafe, but now it’s okay to see others in outdoor spaces …||
There is always some level of COVID-19 risk associated with socializing in person, but doing so outdoors can help reduce some of the risk!
The virus tends to spread the easiest in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation. These types of spaces allow the virus to build up in the air so you are exposed to higher doses. So, if you do decide to get together with others in person, doing so outdoors, while practicing physical distancing and wearing a cloth face covering, is the safest option.
|Even though I’m hearing that COVID-19 is highly-contagious, it also seems to be safe to make short trips, to the grocery store for example. Does this mean that the virus isn’t really THAT contagious?||
Your risk of catching COVID-19 is different for each activity.
How risky activity depends on the amount of time that you are exposed to the virus, how close you are to the person who is infected, and the amount of virus that you are exposed to per unit of time (this is determined by how much virus the person you are exposed to is putting into the air). What this means is that taking a quick trip to the grocery store (while wearing a cloth face covering and following physical distancing guidelines) is relatively low risk because of the short amount of time that you are spending there, and the ease of maintaining physical distance from others. Risk is also related to the volume of the building or area someone is in. A grocery store is large compared to a taxi, uber, or closed, smaller space. However, if possible online shopping is a great option to reduce exposure to people even more.
Staying up to date on evolving COVID-19 information will help everyone be more safe and productive during this time!
2. Information You Need: Upcoming Holidays and Stressful Conversations
It has been an incredibly difficult year so far. Many of us are searching for a sense of normalcy in our social lives these days; whether that is creating pandemic pods, partaking in outdoor, physically distanced activities while wearing a cloth face covering, or video calling with our friends and families. Safer, social interaction with reduced COVID-19 risk is imperative to maintaining mental health, although this is not possible or easy for everyone at this point in time. As the holidays approach, many people (including us here at AZCOVIDTXT) are yearning for the yearly traditions of sharing meals and opening presents with our loved ones.
A few weeks ago we sent out a survey to ask our Arizona community for feedback and to convey their concerns. Many of you shared that you were worried about the holidays and the potential difficult decisions and conversations that may come with them. We know that even with the holidays approaching, the world still finds itself in the midst of a global pandemic. Therefore, there are additional safety considerations to take this year in order to keep our loved ones safe and healthy. Knowing that your usual holiday traditions might look different this year may lead to some very difficult conversations with family and friends. This is why it is important to recognize that all of us will inherently differ in what level of socializing or activities we are comfortable with partaking in. Others may make decisions that differ from yours, which is okay! What is important is that everyone feels comfortable and safe with what activities or socializing they choose to participate in. With all of that said, we have compiled some tips for how to address questions or conversations regarding participating in holiday festivities.
Think hard about your decision and stick to it!
- Consider the risk of participating in holiday activities and make a decision that you feel comfortable with. If others try to persuade you into participating in activities that you do not feel safe doing, remain firm (but kind) while reminding them of what you are comfortable with.
Be honest. Share your fears or thoughts about the circumstances
It’s helpful to share how you’re feeling and what you’re comfortable with doing. This can give others the opportunity to empathize and understand where you’re coming from.
- Be open about what your exposures may be. This may alter which family members get together and which members opt not to participate.
Be empathetic during uncomfortable or difficult discussions
- Many times these conversations arise out of love and because people want to spend time with one another. This is why it is important to remain kind and respectful during conversations.
Have conversations early on!
- You should begin to have conversations surrounding the holidays now in order to make clear plans and ensure safety precautions are taken.
Acknowledge that it is okay to have differing opinions
- Some people are more comfortable with certain activities knowing the risks of COVID-19, while others are not. What is important is that everyone feels safe and is able to choose what activities or social gatherings they would like to participate in.
Sometimes it can be a good idea to avoid statistics or data in your discussions
- Using complex data or statistics may confuse or overwhelm some people and make it harder for them to understand your point of view.
Bring attention to the bigger picture
- Remind people that the most important thing is that loved ones stay healthy and safe.
- While maybe you or the person you are talking to are not necessarily in a high risk group for COVID-19, there are still risks associated with socializing in-person with others (e.g., potentially getting severe complications of the virus, or spreading it to others who are in a high risk group with or without knowing it).
- It is also important to consider the capacity of the healthcare system. Keeping ourselves from being sick also means less stress on the healthcare system so that others may get treated for health conditions other than COVID-19.
3. Quick Question: How can students and teachers stay safe in schools?
We know that many schools have or are beginning to offer hybrid online and in-person classes for students. This means that it may be a good time to review some of the ways to keep students, teachers, and school staff safe!
Here are a few extra tips to remember:
- Open windows and doors!
- It is Fall now, which means it is cooling off around Arizona. This means that it is also a great idea to open windows and doors to improve ventilation within schools.
- Try creating “pandemic pods” for children to socialize with a select few other classmates.
- This is a great way to lessen the risk of socializing in-person with a small group of people.
- Using C02 monitors in a classroom is a good idea! People breathe out C02. Monitoring C02 levels can give you a sense of how much build off of people’s breath may be in the room. Once the detector reaches a higher level of CO2, it is a good time to let the children go outside to let the CO2 dissipate and potential viral particles to settle out of the air. You can wipe down surfaces when you come back inside to reduce any potential contact with contaminated surfaces.
- If you can’t open the window, hospital grade air purifiers can help reduce the air.
- If you have the option to stay home for schooling it is a good idea to do so. This helps your community. It reduces the number of kids overall in the classroom, reducing the number potentially exposed and infected if COVID is introduced into that classroom.
- Seating charts are important for the classroom to ensure that children sit in the same seat each day, this aids in contact tracing.
- Using a face-shield without wearing a cloth face covering or only using plexiglass as a precautionary measure is not effective. They must be worn together because of the airborne transmission that can occur.
The next update will cover information about reducing COVID-19 risk over the holidays. If you would like to learn more about this and other topics related to COVID-19 in Arizona, please complete next week’s AZCOVIDTXT survey that you will receive via text in about a week.