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Staying safe as society reopens

Social distancing, hand washing, masks remain critically important to limit the spread of COVID-19

The weather is starting to turn and more people are venturing outside. And now as much as ever, following social distancing recommendations is critically important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends:

  • Staying at least 6 feet away from people outside of your home
  • Not gathering in groups
  • Staying away from crowded places and large gatherings

Gritman Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. John Brown offers some guidance on social distancing:

Q: There have only been a handful of positive cases of COVID-19 in Latah County. Is it still necessary to follow social distancing recommendations?
A: Yes, it is still a good idea. People should keep in mind that not too many miles away in the Lewiston-Clarkston valley, there have been a whole lot of new cases. As people become more mobile, the chance of encountering an infected person is probably going to increase, and so as we start to open up, social distancing is a very good way to protect yourself. As is wearing a cloth mask and frequent hand washing. It is quite clear that these measures worked wonderfully to prevent spread in Latah County up to this point, and as we start to relax those measures, you can expect to probably have a higher likelihood of encountering people who have the potential to be infected.

Q: Is it safe to visit friends and family?
A: There is not a one-size-fits-all answer, but it has not become safer than it was a month ago.

No one wants the community to stay at home and just sit in their house for the next six months – that’s not reasonable. But I do think that you have to use common sense. This is probably not the time to go to a big rock concert and be crammed in with other people. But visiting friends who have been reasonable with their lifestyles and their risks, I think that is a reasonable thing to do. But just be aware that does put you at a slightly higher risk group for transmitting the disease to others. After you do something like that you should be extra cautious to avoid potentially infecting others.

Q: With Memorial Day weekend approaching, is it safe to go camping?
A: In the wilderness, you have a very good chance of doing the exact type of isolation that you would want. The wilderness is a great place to be, a great place to rejuvenate your soul, your spirit and your body, so I don’t see any problems with that. Obviously, there are going to be exceptions – if you go to a very crowded campground where you are elbow to elbow with a bunch of people, that is going to put you at risk.

Q: What other steps should people take to protect themselves?
A: Handwashing for the usual recommendation of 20 seconds is extremely important. Avoid touching your face. Wear cloth facemasks and be especially cautious when you are going to go in crowded places like stores, and be conscious and respectful of older people and the vulnerable people in your environment. Respect all the rules that various places may have, like if you want to visit a relative in some sort of assisted living facility, follow their rules strictly. Don’t try to cut the corners. If you are going into a hospital or a health care setting, follow the rules and don’t cut the corners. It is not good citizenship to put vulnerable people at risk and we all have to help one another.