Update from Director of Communicable Disease Dr. Molly O’Dell for July 1 Edition

The positive cases of COVID-19 are increasing sharply in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts. Many cases are associated with travel and vacations, especially with travelers returning from hot spots like Myrtle Beach, Horry County, S.C. The act of traveling increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. I want to encourage our community members to carefully consider their summer plans, especially travel.  

While many of us look forward to memorable summer trips to the beach, lake, mountains, theme parks, and other destinations, we know that travel is associated with risks of exposure to COVID-19. Travel often increases our exposure and interactions to others. Air travel offers the most risk due to the configuration of planes and proximity to others, as do public transit such as buses and trains. Road trips offer exposure each time you get out of the car at a gas station, restaurant, or a rest stop. Hotels have greatly increased cleaning practices, but bringing your own sanitizing wipes to wipe down high touch surfaces is still advised. Campgrounds can be risky as sharing the bath house presents hygiene challenges. 

Consider the risks associated with travel, recognize your family’s vulnerabilities, and then make a careful decision about vacation. If you do decide to travel, you can mitigate the risks by practicing all the same guidance you do at home but in your vacation spot. Finding locations closer to home that require less travel can also lessen the risk. You should practice physical distancing, wear a cloth face covering, and wash your hands frequently, especially after entering public places such as pumping gas, restaurants, and grocery stores. Avoid eating in restaurants and choose curbside take out. Avoid participating in indoor activities, stay out of public spaces as much as possible, and prioritize visiting outdoor places with low populations. Carry sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, and your cloth face covering to keep yourself and those around you safe. 

As you return from summer travel, plan to stay at home as much as possible for 14 days. Monitor your health closely and call your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing, chills, shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, sore throat or new onset loss of taste or smell. The healthcare provider will determine if testing for COVID-19 is suggested. It is very important that people with even mild signs of illness (fever, cough, chills, shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat) stay home to prevent spreading illness to others! Even those with mild illness could pass the infection to others.

There are safe activities to enjoy this summer. Enjoy the great outdoors by taking advantage of our beautiful mountains where you can hike, camp, bike, and walk. Enjoy your own yard, neighborhood, and local parks. Prioritize open spaces over communal spaces such as playgrounds and basketball courts. Outdoors is best for eating out or meeting up with friends or family. Consider each activity you want to embark on this summer, and alternatives ways to mitigate the risk. If we all ensure that our actions are as safe as possible, we can reduce disease spread and keep our community safe! 

Visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus or call our health department’s call center if you have any questions or concerns: 1-855-949-8378, open Monday-Friday 8 a.m-6 p.m.

more recommended stories