As the COVID-19 pandemic blankets the nation, public health experts warn of a possible outbreak following the Thanksgiving holiday, contributing to a larger PPE shortage, straining the already fragile PPE supply chain.
The Current Situation
This past week, the United States registered 859,092 new COVID-19 cases. With the Thanksgiving holiday taking place this week, public health experts expect an uptick in cases. Get Us PPE’s internal data shows PPE needs across the country continue to be problematic. The PPE Shortage Index reveals that over 21 million PPE units are needed to supply hospitals and smaller healthcare facilities for one week. In October, for the third month in a row, over 70% of facilities reported having no supply left of one or more types of PPE.
Thus, Get Us PPE encourages its supporters to continue to employ social distancing and preventative practices. Controlling the spread of the virus helps healthcare professionals on the frontlines maximize their current PPE supply by minimizing the strain on the healthcare system. The PPE shortage crisis worsens when there is a spike in cases because the healthcare system can become overwhelmed. Therefore, to avoid this, Get Us PPE sets forth the following recommendations:
Wear A Mask
Studies confirm that cloth masks can reduce the wearers’ exposure to infectious droplets. Therefore, the safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to wear a mask to avoid exposure, especially whenever you’re around individuals not in your household. The CDC does not recommend traveling; however, wearing a mask can reduce the chance of in-flight infection if you already have travel plans. As such, it’s recommended that you wear a cloth mask for the entire duration of your flight.
If gathering locally, remember to wear a mask at all times, except if actively eating or drinking, and remaining at least six feet apart. Masks work best when combined with social distancing.
Just think, each time you choose to wear a mask, you reduce the chance that a healthcare professional will need an N95!
Practice Hand Hygiene
We’ve all heard this before: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Combined with cloth masks and social distancing, hand hygiene is an effective way to reduce infection risk.
Again, traveling is discouraged, but if you do, practice hand hygiene. That means washing and disinfecting your hands after coming into contact with surfaces that are frequently touched by others: doorknobs, TSA bins, bathrooms, credit card readers, etc.
Keep Gatherings to a Minimum
The more people attend a single event, the higher the chances of infection are. This thanksgiving, to narrow the extent of the outbreak and reduce the PPE shortage, Get Us PPE encourages you to keep events to a minimum and to attend virtually whenever possible. This year has been tough, and we want to gather with family and friends to breathe a sense of normality.
Unfortunately, the times are not normal. We continue to fight through a pandemic and PPE shortage. Pretending things are better will not change that fact. Thus, we must keep events small–local dinners with household members only, with outside members attending virtually. It’s not ideal, but the potential of increasing the outbreak and straining the healthcare system is much worse.
Further, testing alone cannot guarantee you will be safe. As Dr. Megan Ranney, co-founder of Get Us PPE, explained in an opinion piece for CNN: a single negative test is not sufficient for a safe Thanksgiving as it only represents a moment in time. You may test negative now but become infected between the test and the thanksgiving feast.
Avoid Crowded Places
Typically, Thanksgiving and the rest of the holiday season hosts large gatherings ranging from pub crawls to street festivals. Although many local governments discourage this, many of us may feel the urge to replace that with visiting a bar or eating out at a restaurant. This practice is discouraged by public health experts. At this time, we are experiencing a third wave of the pandemic. As such, we should treat it as we did the first and second waves, avoiding crowded spaces and large gatherings.
Maintaining social distancing is crucial to reducing the spread of the virus. If you cannot comfortably stand six feet apart from the people not in your party, the gathering is too crowded.
Get the Flu Shot
Finally, in the spirit of preventing further strain on our healthcare system, get your flu shot. While the COVID-19 vaccine is still unavailable to the general public, the flu vaccine is widely available and can be low-cost or free for people without insurance. Getting vaccinated is as easy as visiting your local pharmacy, with many pharmacies allowing you to schedule your visit online! If all else fails, this search tool will enable you to look up a provider near you.
This flu season, getting your shot is more important than ever. The combination of flu and COVID infections is a recipe for disaster and could potentially burden our medical resources.
For additional tips and recommendations, visit the CDC guidelines for a safe Thanksgiving.