Dominic LoBianco is a PR Specialist and writer for The Memphis Medical Society, a coalition of physicians across several specialties in the Greater-Memphis area.
After several weeks of sheltering-in-place orders due to COVID-19, Mayor Jim Strickland released a 3-phase reopening plan for Shelby County on April 27th. The phases are meant to encourage social distancing as businesses slowly begin to reopen, and Phase III would have allowed for larger gatherings and increased occupancy in sit-down restaurants. Due to a surge in Coronavirus cases, local government was forced to delay this phase. Now, we’re stuck in a moment of uncertainty as we wait for more information on testing, confirmed cases, and medical needs.
The setback can be disheartening, but it also reiterates the seriousness of this disease. Social distancing and other forms of flattening the infection curve aren’t going to eliminate the disease entirely. We’re going to be dealing with this disease for the foreseeable future, and it’s up to all of us to play a part in limiting the spread.
Here’s what you need to know and the precautions you should take to limit the spread of Coronavirus:
How Does COVID-19 Spread?
- The virus spreads primarily through interpersonal contact—from the respiratory droplets that come with coughing or sneezing to our usual exhalations. The virus spreads through the air to others even if the infected person isn’t displaying symptoms.
- Infected people, unaware of the infection, spread it to others by going into public. The virus can also live on surfaces for up to two to three days, but that is considered a much more minor threat.
- There’s a 14-day incubation period for Coronavirus. This means we don’t truly see the results of our prevention efforts today until two weeks later.
Is There A Spike In COVID-19 Cases And Deaths?
- Several states are seeing a startling second spike in Coronavirus cases because social distancing guidelines are being ignored and stay-at-home orders were relaxed. Florida and Texas in particular are adding cases by the thousands, and it’s not something you can explain by additional testing.
- Tennessee has done better than these states so far, and that’s due to urban areas being cautious in reopening. But for that reopening to work, it requires the majority of our city to follow CDC guidelines and things like the mask ordinance from city council.
What Should We Do to Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19?
Here’s how the average person can make a true difference in preventing the virus’ spread:
- Wash Your Hands Regularly and Avoid Touching Your Face
- The virus can live on surfaces, so it’s extremely important to wash your hands, especially when you’re sharing a space with someone or you’re out in public.
- Wash hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water. The CDC suggests washing for 20 seconds, which is probably a bit longer than you’re used to.
- In the event soap and water are not available, carry hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. You never know when you’ve been in contact with the virus, so this helps reduce risk.
- Practice Social Distancing
- Put a space of at least 6 feet (or two arm lengths) between you and others when outside the home.
- Treat everyone as if they might be carrying the virus. This can be difficult when Coronavirus numbers aren’t bad, but that makes it even more important to stay disciplined and protect the people you’re around.
- Wear a Mask
- If you’re looking to protect yourself and your own family, wear a mask at all times while in public.
- Last week, the city council passed an ordinance that requires Memphians to wear masks when out in public. In terms of helping to limit the virus’ spread, this makes a lot of sense. Recent research suggests that lockdowns aren’t going to be enough to eliminate a second wave of the pandemic.
- Wearing facial coverings when venturing out in public also protects others around us in the case of infection even if we are not exhibiting symptoms.
- Masks or other acceptable forms of facial covering should be lightweight, layered, well-fitting, and comfortable. Disposable masks should only get worn once then thrown away immediately.
- If our entire city followed this ordinance as we continue to reopen businesses, we’d have a much better chance of keeping the virus limited.
- Disinfect Frequently
- If you’re living in a home or apartment with other people, cleaning regularly-touched surfaces is important.
- It’s mostly impossible to know if you’ve been exposed to the virus so disinfecting phones, doorknobs, faucets, sinks, and tables should decrease the chances of contracting the virus through surfaces.
How Should Businesses Handle Reopening?
When reopening, local businesses should be doing everything they can to protect their employees and customers including:
- Work from Home
- Not all businesses have this ability, but when possible – especially in large, crowded offices – employees should work from home. This guideline is especially important if employees have family members at home who are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Enforce Social Distancing, Check for Illness
- For essential businesses and those who are cleared to reopen, health needs to be the main priority. Social distancing is still the biggest aid we have to reduce the infection rate, and it should still be enforced while at work.
- It’s also vital to monitor the health of your employees. If someone is coughing or develops a fever, sending them home is in the best interest of everyone at your company.
- Ensure Employee Responsibility
- It’s the employer’s job to make sure workers adhere to their guidelines as well. All employees should stay home when sick, wear a facial covering, practice increased hygiene, answer screening questions honestly, and social distance when possible.