Opinion | Safety still important after a year of COVID

With the coronavirus having been in the United States for a year now, and life-changing safety precautions put in place not long after, many people are growing fatigued and are ready to see a normal life again. Because of this, many people have lost sight of what is important, which is doing your part to slow the spread of this virus.

With lots of misconceptions and dispute surrounding the rules and recommendations, I spoke with Wabaunsee County health director Ray Finley about the current safety procedures. Here is what I learned:

Masks are required in public settings. According to Finley, masks have been proven to help tremendously. “You’ve had positive cases get to the school, but since you guys have mandatory masks and are excellent about keeping those on, we have seen literally no transfers of the disease inside the school. They’ve all been connected outside. Even when it’s been transferred from friend to friend in the high school, it’s been traced back to outside of school in a setting where masks were taken off. That has shown us that the masks work.”

Social distancing and frequent handwashing are recommended. Finley suggests carrying hand sanitizer in your vehicle or purse when you are out. Big trouble areas are commonly touched surfaces, such as gas pumps. “When you’re pumping gas, how many other people have touched that before you? So, it’s just as simple as pump your gas, use the hand sanitizer,” Finley explained. 

Keeping groups small and avoiding large gatherings is strongly recommended.

The standard KDHE statement on close contact is to be within six feet of someone for ten minutes or greater. This does not have to be ten consecutive minutes, but can be an accumulation. “You may have talked to somebody for three minutes, but then came back and talked to them for seven minutes. That all adds up to ten minutes, and if you’ve come within six feet (of a positive case) for that time, then you need to quarantine.” The rule for close contact is the same with or without masks on.

In Wabaunsee county, the quarantine period has been reduced from 14 days to 10 days. The CDC still states that the virus’s incubation period is 14 days, but, according to Finley, research has shown that less than 3% of those who contract the virus develop symptoms after the 10th day. This means that if you have had potential exposure to the virus, you must quarantine for 10 full days, meaning you are released on the 11th day, so long as you are not experiencing any symptoms. You should still be cautious and attentive through the 14th day, as it is not impossible for symptoms to start.

“With the vaccinations being released I think we see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Finley said. “Within months, we should start seeing a turn around, so be vigilant with masks and social distancing and not gathering in large groups. We need to stay with that. Were all tired of it, I’m tired of it, and not just dealing with it as the health director, but I canceled a lot of trips last year too because of COVID, and I’m ready to go back to doing some of those things.”

Continuing to be diligent in following these safety precautions is so important right now. Although this virus has gone on for such a long time now, it is not the time to get lazy. Following the rules is just as important now as it was in the beginning. It is crucial that we all do what we can to slow the spread and protect ourselves and everyone around us. 

Thought Bubble is the opinion of a Charger staff member or contributing writer. To submit a letter to the editor or write a guest column, email whscharger@gmail.com.

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