‘Stop the Spread’ effort touts masks, distance

The following information was submitted by Rosanne Fohn, public relations representative for the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

COVID-19 infections have not abated this summer but instead surged throughout Texas, and the coronavirus is not respecting county lines or urban and rural differences.

Uvalde County has seen more than 250 cases, Medina County almost 200, Frio County about 300, and Atascosa County about 200. The coronavirus is being transmitted person to person in many types of settings.

During the “We Can Stop the Spread” public education initiative, front-line physicians of UT Health San Antonio are urging Texans in all counties to wear a mask, wash hands frequently, stay home if sick and maintain 6-foot social distance.

Mask wearing is inexpensive, and although these face coverings were difficult to come by in the early months of the pandemic, they are widely available now.

A study in “Health Affairs” showed a 2 percent decrease in the daily growth rate of COVID-19 after 21 days of mandatory masking. This prevented an estimated quarter of a million cases in the 16 cities studied.

“We protect others when we wear a mask,” said Dr. Ruth Berggren, infectious diseases specialist at UT Health San Antonio.

Hand-washing is a time-honored way of lowering the risk of infections. A study in “Wellcome Open Research” indicated that washing hands six to 10 times a day could reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus by 36 percent.

Staying home when sick reduces the likelihood of spreading an infection to anyone else. Symptoms consistent with COVID-19 include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea.

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Social distancing involves staying 6 feet away from everyone except members of the small number of people you see regularly, like your immediate family.  Why 6 feet? The coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets that travel up to that distance. Standing or sitting 6 feet away means the next person’s droplets may not reach you. A study indicated that the odds of transmitting the coronavirus indoors were 18 times greater than outdoors.

“It’s up to you and me to mitigate risk,” said Dr. Barbara Taylor, infectious diseases specialist at UT Health San Antonio. “If you really want to lower your risk, then stay 6 feet away from others, wash your hands, wear a mask in public and do all the things we’ve been recommending all along.”

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