Guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19
- Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka | July 06, 2020
I want to commend First Nations and Metis people in Northern Saskatchewan and all Northern residents for their formidable action to limit the spread of COVID-19 in their communities in the past months. Some of us might feel excited to reconnect with our family and friends. But our work to control the pandemic is not over yet. It is just changing.
Right now, we have several cases of COVID-19 in a Northern Saskatchewan First Nation community that are connected to a wake and funeral. It reminds us that the virus can spread easily between people when we gather and have close contact with each other, even when we need human connection and comfort the most.
There is good news. Public health officials are learning more and more about the virus every day. You might feel frustrated that the advice seems to change a lot. But it also means we know more about the public health measures that really work.
It means gathering more safely is possible. Here’s what it looks like:
Contact public health officials if you are holding public or a multi-household event or gathering. They will help you assess how risky your gathering might be and give you advice on what precautions to take.
People who are sick or think they might be sick should stay home. This is crucial. New evidence shows that most (but not all) people who spread the virus feel at least a little “under the weather.”
Safer gatherings are smaller gatherings. Right now, that means 30 people indoors or 30 people outdoors, with six feet distance between people who are not in the same household. Keep a list of who attended.
When fewer people attend a gathering, the chance of being exposed to COVID-19 is lower for everyone who attends. This protects the people at the gathering and it protects the people they are close to (such as family members, coworkers or patients.)
Keeping your guest list small also helps public health officials if cases of COVID-19 are found. When someone tests positive for COVID-19, public health officials find, test and trace new cases to stop the spread of the virus. Smaller gatherings protect these important public health resources as we build up supplies and capacity to respond together.
During gatherings, find ways to keep six feet physical distance between people who do not live together. Where physical distancing can’t be maintained, wear cloth masks.
We are learning that the COVID-19 virus spreads most effectively through droplets from our lungs when we breathe, cough, sneeze, sing or talk too close to others. Physical distancing works very well because it prevents those droplets from reaching others.
Cloth masks can provide an extra later of protection or be a last resort, because they absorb many of the droplets. This keeps the virus out of the air and protects others. Cloth masks do not work as well as physical distancing.
I especially urge physical distancing and wearing masks if you expect singing or lots of visiting at your event. We are learning that singing and loud talking can spread the virus very quickly to some or nearly all people in a room.
And of course, keep up the handwashing. This isn’t just a good habit for the pandemic, it’s a good habit to protect your health throughout your life.
Public health officials like me are not against gatherings. We know how important human connection is for the overall well-being of people and communities. But coronavirus remains a very real threat, including the possibility of a second wave of infections that might be larger than the first.
So when you gather, take the precautions. Take them seriously and support your family and friends to do the same. I do not know what the future of this coronavirus pandemic will bring, but I know we will face it together with resilience and cooperation.