Get ready for the most difficult months yet in this pandemic.
The fall Covid-19 surge is here, fueled by colder weather, reopened schools and pandemic fatigue. The flu season could make the coronavirus pandemic even worse.
For the next several months, new Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths are expected to keep rising as the temperatures keep dropping.
But that doesn’t mean your fall and winter have to be miserable. Here’s how you can stay healthy, sane, and actually enjoy these cold-weather months:
Find your social distancing crew and stick with it
You’re probably sick of hearing about face masks, social distancing, and hand washing. But those are your strongest weapons against coronavirus.
Yet many Americans are ditching those precautions and letting their guard down with friends and family members who don’t live with them.
Casual at-home get-togethers are fueling recent Covid-19 spikes, said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
So Dr. Peter Hotez suggests limiting your physical contact this fall and winter to a small, select group of friends or family — and avoiding close contact with anyone outside that group.
“Think about who you want to do your social distancing with as you head into later in November, in December, in January, and get ready to hunker down,” said Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
Have a plan to take care of your mental health
“This terrible period is not going to go on forever. I do think we’re going to be in a much better place by the middle of next year because vaccines will be available,” Hotez said.
But “be realistic and recognize that this winter — this November, December, January, February — could be the worst time in our epidemic, and plan accordingly and be smart about it. And take steps to protect your mental health,” Hotez said.
“Make certain that you know a mental health counselor, how to reach them if you need them. Know how to call on family members. It’s OK to feel scared and to be upset and to get depressed. That’s a normal reaction to this. But get ready for it.”
Know your risk of infection
MyCovidRisk.app lets you find your risk of getting infected based on your location, your planned activity, the duration of that activity, and what percentage of people are wearing masks.
The calculator, created by the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health, also gives suggestions on how to decrease your risk, said Dr. Megan Ranney, the center’s director and an emergency medicine physician.
Socializing outside is safer, but not always safe
Colder weather means people tend to socialize indoors, where there’s less opportunity for viral particles to disperse. And that increases the risk of coronavirus spread.So if you do have gatherings, keep them outside if you can — perhaps with a fire pit, a warm coat or a heat lamp, said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician and visiting professor at George Washington University.
But just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you can abandon all safety precautions.
“Outdoors is not perfect. If you’re still sitting a foot away from other people, without a mask, you can still spread it — especially if you’re in that very infectious period,”