Original published date: June 22, 2020
Over the past three months, we have had to adjust to how we interact with people. In one of my previous blog entries, I wrote about how moving forward safely would require the country to re-open slowly. The way Texas has re-opened is the opposite of slow, and the number of COVID cases and hospitalizations are showing it. In this newsletter, I would like to share what I am currently doing to stay as safe as possible using a personal contact tracing system.
What is personal contact tracing?
Personal contact tracing is a system where you keep track of whom you have daily interactions. This system lets you contact a person if you get sick. For this to work, you need to be purposeful about where you go and who you are around. It works best when you are purposeful about when you should take precautions and when you can down your guard.
How to practice personal contact tracing
If I am going to be around people that I don’t know, I wear a mask and I am as careful as possible about touching my hands to my face. In other words, I wear a face mask in situations where I encounter people I will likely never see again. These encounters include going to the grocery store, attending an indoor event, or even walking into and around a restaurant. Since the coronavirus is known to be airborne and can be spread before a person has symptoms (40% of infected people are considered to be “silent spreaders”), I am careful to keep myself covered when I can not control my surroundings. On the other hand, if I have a couple over to my house, go to a small gathering, or attend a class at my gym, I don’t wear a mask since I can notify these people if I become ill and they can do the same.
An infected person may not feel sick until day six
Since most people who become infected with COVID-19 do not have symptoms until day 5-7, it is essential to be able to go back at least 10 days to be sure you can contact anyone you have been around. If I had more time and know-how, I would create an app that I could use to track the people I come in contact with daily. For now, I will have to limit whom I come into contact with to people I know and trust.
Masks: How to identify the common mistakes people make
The use of a face-covering is currently the best defense against spreading the coronavirus besides sheltering in place. As I noted above, 40% of infected people can be spreading the virus and not even know it. Therefore, I thought I would take a few minutes to educate you on how to wear a mask since I believe they will be around for a while.
The virus is most concentrated in our nose. Therefore, your nose must be covered with your face mask to make a real difference. If you see someone with a mask under their nose, keep your distance. This is basically the same as someone not wearing a mask.
You only need to wear a mask when you are around people you don’t know, especially in a closed space. In other words, you do not need to wear a mask in your car, when going for a walk, or if you can comfortably stay six feet apart from people you don’t know.
Your mask should fit snuggly to your face. If it is loose and allows for most of the air you are breathing to flow freely, you are missing the point. The goal is to keep from breathing your air on other people and vice versa.
People who don’t wear a mask are uneducated
In this environment, people who choose not to wear a mask are merely being selfish. It is similar to a surgeon not wearing a mask during an operation. Covering my nose and mouth does not protect me from my patient but the other way around. I understand some people don’t like them but the mask is not intended from someone catching the virus but to keep from spreading the virus.
When people go out into public without a mask, they are bold enough to think there is no possible way they can be infected. What we have seen with the coronavirus is that anyone can carry and spread the virus regardless if symptoms are present.
The good news is most people that become infected will only have very mild to moderate symptoms. However, there are those people with heart problems, diabetes, and other health issues that look normal but could become very sick if infected. Please help protect other people by wearing a face-covering when you are in public, and please wear it correctly.
Nelson X. Simmons, MD