I found out earlier this week that I have been exposed to the novel coronavirus for the second time this year. The first occurrence happened on Halloween. Before you get it twisted – I did not host nor attend a large Halloween party, I played tennis with a friend. My latest exposure also occurred in an open space. I met a friend at a park to eat dinner and go walking; we later went Christmas shopping. This gave me a cumulative time of fifteen minutes of close contact. Yes, we were masked except for when eating; however, the CDC deems close contact to be anytime you are six feet or less from a person for a cumulative time of fifteen minutes whether you are masked or unmasked.
What I find frustrating is that I have limited my activities to essentials and any social activities to be outside wearing masks with a limited number of people. I have kept away from group activities. I have limited my socializing to people who are also practicing safe habits and following health guidelines. I get tested regularly so I know my status. Yet despite all of this, I have been exposed twice. Ignoring the people who are living life like it’s regular times and refuse to wear a mask, what adds to my frustration is the mixed signals we receive from our government and health officials.
How can the LA County Department of Public Health advise people not to see anyone outside of their household and order non-essential businesses to shut down yet the malls are open? I went to the Grove and walked past Santee Alley last weekend to see the regular holiday hustle and bustle. Almost like there is no coronavirus to worry about. On the one hand, I understand the dangers of COVID-19. However, can the hospitalization and infection rates be as bad as reported on the news if malls are open? Why is it permissible for me to be in close quarters with perfect strangers but I cannot visit with friends or family in an open setting?
I want to do the right thing and play my role in bringing the case count down yet I grow fatigued of the mixed signals and doubtful if this virus will ever be contained. I regret that the United States missed its opportunity to eradicate this virus within our borders in the winter. However, we cannot change the past (although we can hold people accountable for it), therefore we must move forward with a new way of living (at least the new normal until this virus is contained).
Questions that have come to my mind since the start of the pandemic include the following:
- What should I do to keep myself and others safe?
- See guidance from County of Los Angeles
- If I think I may have been exposed what should I do?
- See FAQs from Centers of Disease Control
- What is considered low risk, medium risk and high-risk activities?
- See infographics below
- See this Business Insider article from August the lists various risk charts
- How can I safely have sex?
- See the June guidance from the NYC Health Department
I linked the answers to these questions for you to be aware and take your life into your hands. I read a Los Angeles Times article yesterday which promoted harm-reducing behaviors in favor of abstinence-only approach. As Americans grow weary of quarantine, I think this might be a better means to curb the spread. I am still for the stay at home, wear your mask mandates but I understand that a minority of people will not adhere to this either due to willfulness, fatigue or ignorance. For this reason, I think a harm-reducing approach is more effective.
The novel coronavirus gives us an opportunity to connect with each other in new ways. We have a chance to be creative AND to slow the spread. I encourage you to do your part to keep your communities safe and not to give into frustration and fatigue. Two things I learned from my first exposure is that you can still be exposed even if you’re taking precautions AND wearing a mask and outdoor activities greatly reduce your chances of spreading or contracting the virus. What I learned from my second exposure is low-risk or minimal-risk activities are substantially riskier than they were previously because much more people now carry the virus.
May God keep you healthy and may you have the discipline to make wise decisions. Happy Holidays to you!
Please comment below your favorite news sources and sites to read guidance about novel coronavirus. One page I follow on Instagram is @lapublichealth They post daily statistics and helpful graphics to understand how the virus is spreading and how to protect ourselves. I included two of their infographics below.