December COVID-19 Update
As of November 18, 2020, according to the CDC, there have been about 151,855 new cases this past week in the United States for a total of 11,136,253 cases since January 21, 2020, with a current state average of 39.4 cases per 100,000 per day. This yields a total of, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, 281,852 confirmed cases and a 66% recovery rate; the department considers people recovered if a case is not reported as a death and more than 30 days has passed since the individual’s first positive test or onset of symptoms.
With Thanksgiving soon approaching, please continue to work to preserve the health of you and your loved ones. If you ultimately decide to proceed with an in-person gathering, the CDC recommends that you continue to adhere to mask and social distancing guidelines as well as to minimize contact with food, dishes, and utensils by bringing your own or using single-use or disposable items like condiment packets and paper plates. Other suggestions include: limiting the number of guests, especially in areas where food is being prepared; eating outdoors or leaving the windows open; cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and objects; and consistently washing your hands, preferably with soap and water or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content. For alternatives to a big celebration, you could host a virtual meal for the non-residents of your household or simply partake in Thanksgiving-related activities, such as watching the parade and shopping for Black Friday, from the safety of your home.
So far, as of November 2, 2020, in the United States, there is “not yet an authorized or approved vaccine to prevent… COVID-19” (CDC, About COVID-19 Vaccines). Experimental vaccines are being evaluated through clinical trials with thousands of study participants to determine their safety and effectiveness under the supervision of and in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and their associated standards. If a vaccine is approved for use, there are multiple monitoring systems in order to observe for potential side effects. If any are discovered, they will be studied to assess their danger, and if necessary, said vaccine may or may not be changed. Overall, the goal is “to help ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh the risks for people who receive vaccines” (CDC, Ensuring the Safety of Vaccines: Vaccine Safety Monitoring).
For general safety tips for COVID-19, know how it spreads and take precautions to protect yourself and those around you. It spreads through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person, even if they are asymptomatic, breathes; these droplets cause infection when they are deposited on mucous membranes like those lining the inside of the nose and mouth (ex. if these droplets are inhaled). COVID-19 can also spread under certain circumstances, such as in poorly ventilated close quarters, by airborne transmission, as well as, but less commonly, through contact with contaminated surfaces and objects. For the prevention of infection, wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially before eating or preparing food, touching your face, and after using the restroom, leaving a public place, blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing, and handling your mask. If you do not have access to soap and water, please instead use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content, cover the entirety of your hands, and rub them together until dry. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask around others, ensuring that it secures under your chin and fits snugly against the sides of your face. It should have two or more layers of washable or disposable but always breathable material, lacking exhalation valves or vents that allow particles to escape.