How to stay safe in an area with a high burden of COVID-19
In light of a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases in the Roanoke City and Alleghany Health Districts, we are encouraging the public to take extra precautions to stay safe and stop the spread of disease. Please consider your risk tolerance and adjust your behavior to avoid spreading disease.
COVID-19 presents a significant challenge to our health and our healthcare systems beyond the annual cold and flu seasons. First, COVID-19 is a novel virus for which we have not developed immunity. We do not yet fully understand its transmission or long-term health implications. Second, the death rates associated with COVID-19 are substantially higher than flu. Johns Hopkins estimates the mortality rate of COVID-19 to be upwards of 10 times higher than most strains of the flu. What we know combined with what we do not know demands a robust and decisive response to protect ourselves and our community from COVID-19.
We currently have a very high level of COVID activity. Our recent data show that we have substantial transmission, high burden, and an increasing trend. These measurements are comparable metrics used across the Commonwealth of Virginia to assess the impact of COVID-19 on our communities. These are signs that our behavior should be more similar to what we experienced in Phase I and II – such as avoiding indoor group activities such as eating at restaurants, or going to theaters, performance venues, gyms and fitness centers and limiting non-essential retail shopping, indoor religious services, and wedding or funerals. If these activities are important and necessary, make sure to follow strict protocols around face coverings and physical distancing.
Many of the activities allowable in Phase III are considered to be high-risk when there is this level of community transmission: including the above activities, gatherings of friends and family from other households, any gathering of 10 or more, and playing contact sports. While there is so much to learn about this virus, there we have learned a great deal. We now know that many of these activities can be made safer with strict protocols around face coverings and physical distancing. Unfortunately others, such as indoor restaurant dining that requires the removal of the face covering, are still high risk.
The bottom line is that in-person interactions with those outside of our household without face coverings, physical distancing, and good hygiene are high-risk activities that offer opportunities for COVID-19 to spread. During the early stages of the ‘stay at home order’ and Phase I and II, many of us avoided gatherings and stayed at home as much as possible. Now we know that we can have our businesses and schools open and to keep them open, each of us needs to make small, deliberate decisions each day to keep ourselves, our family, and our community safe. By choosing to wear a face covering, washing your hands, and watching your distance anytime you are with individuals outside of your household (including with close friends and family), you are keeping our community healthy and safe, fighting this pandemic, and saving lives.