Life has changed so much in the last eight months. Leaving your house to go anywhere means wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer and seeing signs reminding you of the importance of proper social distancing. These changes have been unfamiliar and, at times, uncomfortable, especially early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of you reading this have returned to work or school only to find restrictions and rules. What was once normal is now completely foreign.

As Tri-County Health Care’s Infection Preventionist, I want to say, “thank you.” Thank you for wearing a mask. Thank you for washing your hands. Thank you for staying strong in this difficult time. These mitigation efforts are more important than ever and it’s my goal to highlight them during Infection Prevention Week to try to keep us all a little safer.

Infection Prevention Week focuses on educating the community about how we can stop the spread of disease.

As many of you may know, our area has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases. We are now witnessing the highest level of COVID-19 activity since the start of the pandemic. I want to assure our communities that Tri-County Health Care has prepared for a surge in cases. We have spent the last eight months securing personal protective equipment and developing infection prevention procedures to ensure our patients can safely seek care.

We are asking for your help in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. I know many are eager to resume normal life but the pandemic has not relaxed, and we cannot suffer from mitigation fatigue. We all must continue to social distance, wear masks and take appropriate measures if exposed to someone with COVID-19.

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So, what should you do if you have symptoms or have had close contact with a person with COVID-19? To protect yourself, your family and your community, you must separate from others, get tested and watch your symptoms. These symptoms may include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, fatigue, congestion or loss of taste or smell. Follow these instructions for at least 14 days after the last day you were in close contact with the person who has COVID-19:

  • Stay home: do not go to work, school, or any other place outside the home
  • Stay away from people who may be at high-risk
  • If you become sick, separate yourself from other people in your home;
  • Do not use public transportation
  • Wear a facemask if you must be around other people
  • Avoid sharing personal household items with other people in your home
  • Wash your hands often
  • Get tested by your health care provider

One more thing to note is that I have seen a recent trend of individuals wearing gloves while out in public. Wearing gloves to the grocery store may seem like a good idea, but in this instance, it may be doing more harm than good. When you wear gloves for an extended period, germs may build up, potentially spreading them to more surfaces. Health care workers change gloves often to reduce the spread of bacteria. For nearly everyone else, using hand sanitizer or washing your hands for at least 20 seconds is the most effective strategy in keeping you safe.

Many have done a fabulous job of adhering to mitigation efforts like wearing masks, social distancing and proper hand hygiene. We need to continue to keep up the fight against COVID-19. Thank you for keeping our community safe!

Cheryl Houselog is the Infection Preventionist at Tri-County Health Care.