The US is now months-deep into the coronavirus pandemic, yet in many ways parts of the country now look like they’re back to square one.
Hospitals in several states are sounding the alarm as they reach maximum capacity. Bars were shut back down in Texas and parts of California, and Florida prohibited customers from drinking on-site.
In Louisiana – where 1,891 new cases were reported Wednesday – Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state has lost all gains it made in June against the pandemic over the past three weeks.
As officials across the country admit states may have reopened too quickly, progress that was made as Americans stayed cooped up at home may have been lost.
But progress that was undone can be redone.
While nothing about this virus seems simple, perhaps the one thing that’s remained the same throughout the pandemic is the advice from health officials and experts highlighting the simple ways that can make a world of a difference when it comes to controlling the spread of the virus.
White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said Wednesday states with surges should return to the White House’s “phase one” recommendations.
We are “asking the American people in those counties and in those states to not only use those face coverings, not going to bars, not going to indoor dining, but really not gathering in homes either,” White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said. “And decreasing those gatherings back down to our phase one recommendation, which was 10 or less.”
Here’s a refresher of the simple things that everyone can – and should – be doing as their part to reel in their pandemic.
Let’s start with the basics
Keep your distance. Seriously, the more feet the better.
That’s why so many indoor places – some of which don’t have all that great ventilation – have now limited capacity, permitting only a portion of people they once used to allow inside. While experts have recommended staying about 6 feet from others, in places like the gym, where there’s lot of heavy breathing, it might be smart to keep an even greater distance apart.
And wash your hands. If you’re somewhere where washing your hands isn’t an option, make sure to pack hand sanitizer (except these ones).
And here’s how long you should be washing them for.
Wear a mask
Leading health experts have said something as simple as wearing a mask when you venture out into public spaces can help save lives. They’ve been proven to be the most effective way to reduce transmission of the virus and in fact, if people opted to wear masks, they could better the conditions of the pandemic in weeks, the nation’s top doctor said this week.
The latest mask guidance
“It’s the most important thing in my opinion that we can do that will allow us to open and stay open,” US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams told local news station FOX 5 in Washington, DC, Wednesday.
“Coronavirus can get bad really quickly, but I want people to understand that we can improve the coronavirus rates really quickly in the course of two to three weeks,” Adams said. “There are studies that show that you can decrease the spread of coronavirus by 60%, 70% if you can get 80-plus percent of people wearing face coverings when they go out in public.”
To begin getting the spread under control, a growing number of states, cities and counties have mandated the use of face masks.
Atlanta became one of the latest cities to require face masks in public in response to a rise in cases.
“We will continue to take active measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 infections in Atlanta,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement. “Public health experts overwhelmingly agree that wearing a face covering helps slow the spread of this sometimes deadly virus.”
Convinced? Before you read any further, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to wear a face mask correctly – and safely.
Don’t go to bars just yet
Reopened bars have been one of the greatest driving forces behind the rising numbers, according to health experts and state officials. While states began lifting restrictions, images all over the country emerged of crowded bars and clubs where hundreds were gathered – many without face masks.
Gov. Edwards, in Louisiana, said 95% of the new cases the state reported Wednesday were from community spread – and most outbreaks were traced back to bars, CNN affiliate WDSU reported.
In Michigan, officials reported at least 152 cases of the virus were linked to a single bar.
In one Pennsylvania county, coronavirus cases spiked once restaurants and bars began reopening, officials said. While Allegheny County is not officially tracking exact numbers by venue, in doing contact tracing the county learned people attending the same bars and restaurants contracted the virus in “dozens and dozens,” one official said.
As more state leaders reach the realization bars fuel the spread of the virus, one health expert says there is one simple choice going forward.
“I’ve been talking to governors about pauses. I’ve been talking about what they want to roll back. And when they understand the choices in stark terms – schools this fall or bars now – those are your choices … I think more and more governors, even in places that aren’t having large outbreaks, are realizing that maybe we can avoid bars in the summer and fall, if that gives us a better shot at getting schools open this fall,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said Wednesday.
So, if you want to do your part, maybe skip the beer with friends – just for a few more months.
Actually, don’t go anywhere you don’t have to
While parts of the US see spikes in cases, it may be smart to keep the outings limited altogether – or at least the ones that aren’t essential.
This has been a similar message coming from more local and state leaders lately, echoing March and April warnings when many states were put on lockdown: stay home.
One local official in Houston, Texas, where hospitals are now overwhelmed with new coronavirus patients, said it’s best to take measures now than wait for things to get worse.
“(I want to be) very clear with the community. Right now, folks need to stay home and I need the authority to enforce it … We shouldn’t be waiting for our health care workers to be overburdened, for ICUs to be full,” Texas Judge Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s Chief executive, told ABC earlier this month.
In Arizona, which has also seen a rise in cases, the governor has urged residents to stay home if they don’t absolutely have to go out.
And with new emphasis on the virus’ ability to circulate in the air, there’s really no place like your home.
CNN’s Pierre Meilhan, Andrea Kane, Rebecca Grandahl, Jamiel Lynch and Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.