With coronavirus cases rising in states across the country, it's easy to feel a little hopeless right now. Despite some gains made over the past few months, the recent increases in new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths has many Americans worrying that a return to full quarantine is imminent. But there's debate over whether or not another shutdown would provide the help the country needs—and experts say there are plenty of things we can do right now to prevent a return to lockdown.
In a Twitter thread on Oct. 12, Ashish Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said that he keeps getting asked if we're "heading towards lockdowns." The short answer, he said, is no. At least, "not if we are smart."
According to Jha, there are straightforward ways to mitigate the spread of coronavirus now and prevent another lockdown in the future. As he notes, little of this is new, but there are some specifics based on the most recent information about how COVID spreads. Jha calls his list "the old boring stuff, with some twists." Read on to find out what those twists are, and for more on shutdowns, discover The WHO's Hotly Debated New Stance on Lockdowns.
Be smart about wearing masks.
Masks should be worn indoors whenever you're not at home, Jha says, and outdoors if you're close to other people or speaking. The key is to be "diligent," he writes. And for more guidance on smart mask use, This Is What You Should Do With Your Mask While Eating, Dr. Fauci Says.
Don't go to indoor bars and restaurants.
Bars and restaurants have emerged as some of the most potent spots for COVID transmission, because they are indoors and generally not easy to socially distance in. Patrons also can't wear masks while eating or drinking. Jha advises people to get takeout or eat outdoors. And for more on how coronavirus spreads, COVID Can Live for a Month on These 2 Items You Touch Every Day.
Keep your social circle small.
As Jha puts in, "stay in as small a bubble as you can tolerate." This doesn't mean that you can't see a variety of people in safe, socially distanced situations, but that you need to keep the number of people you're interacting with more intimately much smaller.
Avoid house parties and gatherings.
If you are seeing friends, you certainly want to avoid big indoor parties, where COVID can easily spread. See friends outside, Jha says. If it's too cold for that and you need to get together inside, "wear [a] mask, stay apart, open windows even [a] little," he writes. And if you're planning holiday gatherings, The CDC Says These Are the Riskiest Thanksgiving Activities to Avoid.
Push for increased COVID testing.
The demand for more testing has been constant throughout the pandemic, and while things are certainly better than they were in March, Jha still says we need more. He also adds, "if you get called by a contact tracer, please respond." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Encourage local leaders to prioritize reopening schools over bars and restaurants.
While there was fear that schools would be the site of superspreader events, that does not seem to be happening, Jha notes, saying that bars and indoor dining have proved more dangerous. "Schools aren't immune, but we are likely overestimating their danger," he writes. "We really do need to open more schools."
That's the area where local leaders should prioritize reopening, Jha says. As for bars and restaurants, he advocates providing them money "so they can survive."