Hosting gatherings or cook-outs – encourage guests to bring their own food and drinks. When at a hotel, consider taking the stairs; otherwise wait to use the elevator until you can either ride alone or only with people from your household. Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol after any deposit, withdrawal, exchange, drive-thru visit, or use of an ATM. Before you go to a restaurant, call and ask if all staff are wearing cloth face coverings while at work. And no high-fives, or even elbow bumps at the gym.
These are some of the guidance tips from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Friday, along with a second set for organizing and attending big gatherings such as concerts and sporting events, about how to reduce risk of coronavirus while attempting some semblance of normal life in the COVID-19 era.
Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme at the Ministry of Health described the newly released CDC guidances as “very good commonsense guidelines”.
Forbes says as The Bahamas prepares for phase four of its five-phase reopening strategy, Bahamians should remember that to continue to see low numbers of cases, it’s really dependent on how well people continue to follow prevention instructions.
“As we go into phase four and reducing our restrictions here in The Bahamas, we must remember that COVID-19 can come back,” Forbes told The Nassau Guardian yesterday. “We can start having more cases. We can have a second [wave], it could even be bigger than the first wave.”
The Bahamas has 104 confirmed COVID-19 cases – 82 in New Providence, eight in Grand Bahama, 13 in Bimini, and one in Cat Cay.
There have been 11 deaths, 72 recovered cases. There are two hospitalized cases, 21 active cases, and 2,285 tests completed.
“As we start to move around more, and people come in and we’re enjoying things that we used to do like socializing, going out to restaurants and our usual activities, and we have more opportunities to gather, that can cause the virus to be transmitted – and absolutely we have to remember that there are things that we have to do to reduce the spread of COVID-19.”
Forbes is a proponent for the three C’s – avoid crowds, avoid close contact, and closed spaces. And she says there are many things people can do in addition to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus and reduce their chance of getting COVID-19.
CDD everyday preventive actions include having a cloth face covering, tissues, and hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, if possible.
“One of the things that the CDC talks about in the guidelines is wearing a mask covering the face – that includes the nose and the mouth. I see a lot of people wearing the mask below their nose. [But] you still have to breathe in air through your nose and you can come in contact with respiratory droplets from COVID-19 breathed in through the nose. So, the mask should cover the nose and the mouth, and fit snugly, but not so tight that you can’t breathe. It should be a non-medical mask if you’re out in public running your errands or even just at a gathering. And if you have COVID-19 and are asymptomatic, it can stop those droplets from going in the air and on other people.”
Forbes says even while wearing a mask that people should try to maintain physical distance of at least three-to-six feet from someone else. And she says to continue practicing the preventive measures they’ve been stressing like handwashing, not touching the face, eyes and nose. And avoid crowds as much as possible as people who don’t have COVID-19 symptoms can still spread the virus. The doctor says if you must socialize, being outside in the open air is better than being indoors.
“We all love the Fish Fry, but we saw the pictures from the Fish Fry [over the weekend] where there were large crowds of people [and] very few people were wearing masks in those pictures that I saw, and they were also very close together.”
Forbes said people must also continue to think about people who are vulnerable, who if they get COVID-19 can die – the elderly and people who have a lot of medical conditions.
Forbes says it makes sense for those at risk for severe illnesses to stay away from crowds and to limit time with people, which can help cut down on transmission.
She said that feedback health officials have received from some people is that they think COVID-19 is over. But she cautions that it isn’t. And that for The Bahamas to continue to contain the spread of the coronavirus, she said people have to remember that the success was based on what everybody did, for the most part, the restrictions, wearing masks, handwashing and avoiding crowds.
The Bahamas confirmed its first COVID-19 case on March 15.
“We had restrictions from mid-March, and [Sunday] we were up to 104 cases. We still have cases that popped up [and] that was with us doing everything that we were supposed to do to prevent a huge problem. So, if we just relax all of our precautions and we just continue as if it’s business as usual, what will happen is that when we do have cases of COVID-19, it will easily spread, and it will surge again. If you have a large second wave, if the health care system is overwhelmed if cases are rising, if people are dying, you have to go back to restrictions,” she said.
Forbes said The Bahamas did a “good job getting the curve flattened” but she said it is by no means the end of it.
“We have to continue to put in place those precautions and to be cautious and try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – otherwise, if we get a surge, we might have to look at things like how do we stop it again. I’m sure that we would like to be able to enjoy more normal activities, and so we’ve got to do it responsibly and if we do, we could prevent a second wave of COVID-19. It’s not guaranteed to have a second wave, but really, everybody’s got to do what they’re supposed to do,” she said.
Worldwide, there are 7,973,302 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Sunday, according to Ministry of Health statistics; there are 434,793 deaths.