It’s pretty clear the war against COVID-19 is far from over.

Nearly every state in the nation is reporting elevated infection rates. Numerous metropolitan hospitals have sent out near-max-capacity warnings for their Intensive Care Units. As of Monday, the U.S. was sitting at 10,846,373 cases with 244,810 deaths.

“The coming holidays are not going to be easy on anyone because travel remains restricted and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that large family gathering be avoided this year as they could increase the risk of being exposed to the virus,” observed Lt. Col. David Nee, Public Health special projects officer at Kenner Army Health Clinic.

“Now is not the time to get complacent and give up on protecting oneself and others we care about and for,” he further emphasized. “We need to continue safeguards such as social distancing, wearing protective masks and staying within our homes and isolated groups to not open opportunities for the additional spread of this virus.”

Nee’s recommendations are aligned with comments made Friday by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. “We know this virus is spreading in indoor places like restaurants where people take off their masks (to eat and drink),” he said. “It’s spreading at small social gatherings like dinner parties, and it’s spreading when people ignore the science and don’t think they need to wear a mask inside.”

The governor has tightened COVID-19 restrictions. Children age 5 and older must now wear protective masks. The size limit for group/family gatherings has been lowered to 25 people. Bars and restaurants have been ordered to stop selling alcohol at 10 p.m. and to close no later than midnight.

“We’re acting now so things do not get worse,” Northam insisted. “We know these … measures work. We saw that earlier this year. I am confident we can get our numbers back down, but it requires all of us to make smart choices.”

“Much like the governor, we’re asking Team Lee to think about the situation we’re in,” Nee responded. “We can’t beat COVID unless everyone is invested in the defensive measures. That is the intent of General Order No. 1 – to emphasize the expectation for this team to take steps to protect themselves and others by following the social distancing and mask mandates, limiting travel and avoiding large public groups. Everyone just needs to keep their head in the game and not be swayed by debate over the need for restrictive measures.”

Refocusing on the upcoming holidays, Nee said there’s understandable concern among public health officials because individuals may become increasingly complacent about COVID-19 safeguards and not give second thought to carrying on with family visits, office parties, and other Thanksgiving and yuletide celebratory traditions.

“We know that the spread of COVID-19 is encouraged by the following factors – presence and quantity of infected persons (who could have it but be asymptomatic), distance from others, duration of exposure, ventilation, and protective measures like hand washing and wearing masks,” Nee said. “With that knowledge, we can form a daily defensive game plan throughout the coming weeks and months until the nation has the spread under control and/or a vaccine is developed.”

Recent news that a vaccine, under development by the drug company Pfizer, appears to be 90 percent successful in blocking COVID-19 should serve as inspiration, Nee suggested. “There are amazing efforts underway to develop vaccines and treatment. This process has been faster than anything we have seen in human history.”

In the meantime, “we all must do our part to reduce the spread,” Nee reemphasized, and then offered a CDC-recommended list of preventive measures.

Wearing a mask

It is important to select the correct mask. The CDC suggests two or more layers of breathable fabric over the nose and mouth. Make sure it fits snugly against the sides of the face and does not have gaps. To help reduce fogging if you wear glasses, select a mask that’s closer to your nose or has a nose wire. Before putting on a mask, wash hands thoroughly. Avoid touching the mask when wearing it. When removing the mask, wash your hands again. Lastly, wash masks on a daily basis with regular laundry.

Attending a gathering

  • Outdoor events, with appropriate social distancing, are preferred over indoor events.
  • For office or family parties, bring your own food, drinks, plates, cups and utensils.
  • Wear a mask, and safely store it while eating and drinking.
  • Avoid going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as in the kitchen.
  • Use single-use options, like salad dressing and condiment packets, and disposable items like food containers, plates and utensils.

Holiday shopping

  • Avoid “Black Friday” crowds – most stores have extended this annual sales tradition to encourage shopping discipline. Ordering online is an even safer option.
  • For groceries, try curbside pickup or check with the store to see if pre-order or drive-up options are available.
  • Wipe handles of grocery carts with disinfectant spray before use.
  • During prolonged shopping outings, use hand sanitizer often and avoid touching your face.

Travel

  • Military members must get appropriate command approval – company commander within 180 miles; battalion commander within 300 miles; brigade commander over 300 miles; commandant approval if destination is a COVID-19 hot-spot.
  • Overseas travel is not approved for service members unless there are extenuating circumstances.
  • If traveling by motor vehicle, be cautious of rest stops that pose an increased risk of exposure; a good indicator is enforcement of social distancing and the wearing of masks.
  • For airline travel, wear protective masks throughout the trip and wash hands frequently.

The Kenner Army Health Clinic family wishes all members of Team Lee a healthy and happy Thanksgiving. “Your Care, Your Trust, Our Mission.”