Health experts give advice on protecting yourself from COVID-19

Posted at 6:19 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 19:19:34-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Earlier this week 3 News Now reported on a new model by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) that is projecting more than 200,000 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by October 1st.

But is this model something that is written in stone or can choices citizens make for themselves and their children help change its course?

“Thinking about your activities and what you’re doing in light of can we maintain distance, when we can’t we need to be wearing masks, making sure you have the hand gel and do hand hygiene, reminding each other to not touch our face. All of these things are important and will help us prevent the spread of disease,” said Dr. Mark Rupp, the Chief of Infectious Diseases at Nebraska Medicine.

“Of course we’re worried about the coronavirus, we’re all very worried about it,” said Dr. Anne O’Keefe, a senior epidemiologist at the Douglas County Health Department. “This is an important pandemic to pay attention to.”

As COVID-19 cases rise in states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas, O’Keefe said there may be a correlation to states loosening restrictions and cases rising.

“I think there is some evidence that shows if states were more relaxed they had more cases,” O’Keefe said.

One of the first things people can do is follow social distancing.

“We know wearing masks in public and social distancing works,” O’Keefe said. “We know how the disease is transmitted.”

“There are ways to have interactions and have activities and do it in a safer way,” Rupp said. “Maybe nothing is perfectly safe but there are ways to do it in a safer fashion.”

Dr. Rupp said business in the area can start to reopen but social distancing still needs to be stressed.

“If we go hog wild and people disregard all of these recommendations then we will see an increase in cases and we may have to come back to public health and the government putting the breaks on this,” Rupp said.

It’s unrealistic to think families will be cooped up inside for the next six months. Dr. Rupp said parents need to be involved when deciding what activities their children do this summer.

“There are some activities that their kids may be considering that are inherently less safe,” Rupp said.

Sports such as tennis where there is a lot of space will be safer than group sports where people are together. As well, doing activities outdoors will be safer than indoors.

“Having an activity where you’re in a gymnasium closer to people with confined people, folks breathing hard, will be less safe than if you were doing it indoors,” Rupp said.

Dr. O’Keefe added people should take their family’s health, or if any family member is at high risk, into consideration. Little precautions can help keep the number of cases decreasing in Nebraska.

“We’re guardedly optimistic,” O’Keefe said. “It’s not going up right now but that could change.”

Dr. Rupp added that being able to do tests broadly across the population and doing contact tracing are ways we as a community can fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.