Keep Up the Good Work: Staying Safe as Restrictions Loosen

Like many in Vermont, the leaders and staff at Southwestern Vermont Health Care couldn’t be happier that the number of cases of COVID-19 fell below even our best expectations. The better-than-expected situation we have experienced in Vermont is thanks to all who followed recommendations as closely as possible. However, many with “isolation fatigue” may be ready to relax their own behavior, especially at hearing about the loosening of restrictions. In reality, the precautions we have been taking are as important right now as they were at the beginning of the pandemic. We’d like to take a moment to reiterate what precautions are still in place and remind everyone how important it is to continue being as careful as ever.

Keep Your Hands Clean. As restrictions have increased, calls for frequent handwashing and respiratory etiquette (covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, if possible, and throwing the tissue away) seem to have let up. While these actions alone will not prevent someone from contracting COVID-19, they are still the best actions to prevent acquiring an infection. If you have relaxed your handwashing habit, now’s the time to beef it back up again!

“Stay Home, Stay Safe.” The order to limit trips from home remains in effect through at least May 15. Some iteration of this guideline is likely to persist for some time beyond that. This means we should be leaving our home only for the following reasons: for personal safety, to get food or medicine, to seek medical care, to exercise, to care for others, or to go to work.

Cover Your Face. While outside the home, wear a cloth mask or face covering. People who do not have symptoms can spread COVID-19, so face coverings keep you from spreading the illness if you are ill without knowing it. Masks also keep you from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth and potentially infecting yourself or others.

Keep Your Distance. Even while wearing face coverings, we should all continue to keep at least 6 feet from others. The distance is about the same as the length of a long couch. If you could touch the person when both your arms are outstretched, you are still about 2 feet too close.

Stay Home Some More. You may have COVID-19 if you have a cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing or at least two of the following: fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and a sudden loss of taste or smell.  Call your provider. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control has launched a self-checker tool to help guide you through making decisions based on your symptoms. If you have any questions, call the SVHC COVID-19 Informational Hotline at 802-440-8844.

Seek Immediate Medical Attention. If you have difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, call 9-1-1 or your local Emergency Department and go to the hospital. SVMC’s number is 802-447-6361.

While the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 in our area is relatively low right now, we all need to remain vigilant in order to keep it that way. How well we adhere to the restrictions that remain is likely to make a big difference in how many of our friends and neighbors are sickened. In short, keep up the good work!

Marie George, MD, is SVMC’s infectious disease specialist.

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