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Thursday, December 3, 2020

Academics & Research

Health prof. offers advice on staying safe this holiday season


Texas coronavirus cases are trending up into the holiday season and this isn’t projected to slow down. | Juana Garcia/The Cougar

The holiday season is around the corner and the national surge in coronavirus cases is far from over. The U.S. is now gaining over 160,000 new cases daily, with Texas hovering around 10,000 new cases a day.

“The basic problem is the number of interactions each person in the community has on a daily or weekly basis,” said health systems and population health professor Ben King. “The risk of an interaction can be mitigated to some degree of course, but each of those represents some risk of community transmission.”

King said even though there can be a reduction of these interactions, these precautions are not perfect and it still has a possibility of leading to community transmission.

Although masks help mitigate the spread of the virus, King said their imperfections are evidence that they shouldn’t be the only solution. As the pandemic continues, he said people will not be consistent with important things like washing their hands and sanitizing surfaces thoroughly and frequently.

“We have to get all the big things and all the little things right in order to turn this new spike in cases around like we did over the summer,” King said. “Every choice we make to be safe helps.”

Not only will coronavirus cases be projected to increase this winter, but so will the flu. King said the flu didn’t really have an increase in case numbers until this time last year, and getting the flu shot is one thing people can do to assist healthcare providers.

For those who are planning trips over the holiday season, King said that staying in-town is the best option. Large gatherings are likely to act as super spreaders, according to King, transmitting the virus and then people traveling will increase the number of new cases this winter.

UH is sending students home and resuming courses online following Thanksgiving, so King recommends that for students who do go home, isolating 10-14 days before and after their trip is their best bet.

“It’s a simple idea really, but takes some commitment to pull off,” said King. “They can monitor themselves for symptoms, but more importantly, they’re much, much less likely to have an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infectious state when they see the fam.”

King also mentioned how testing before and after their trip, leaving time for the test results to get back, is also a way to track the virus and inform the people that have been around them during the festivities.

After doing everything possible to mitigate the virus, King said that following the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wherever you’re traveling to is the way to go about your trip. This means wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands and avoiding touching your face. 

“We don’t know what the local and state government will do, but we can control our own behavior this holiday season,” said King. “If everyone gets on board, it’s really the only thing that’s going to make a difference.”

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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