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People, not numbers:
· First, it’s important to note that we have had 24 cases of COVID in Haywood County in the first nine days of July (plus three visitors from out of state who were diagnosed while staying in Haywood County). This is the largest spike in cases that we have seen in such a short period of time. We are, quite frankly, not completely sure why we are seeing so many cases here right now, but we are concerned about this trend. People are definitely taking more risks and being exposed to more people for longer periods of time with the increased socializing, travel, etc. that comes with Phase 2 of reopening. The attached graph shows the risk factors involved in various activities during COVID-19. Please note that appropriate precautions (wearing a mask, maintaining six feet of difference, frequent hand-washing) are factored in to the risk levels. Imagine the risk level for those who don’t bother with masks or distancing!
· Speaking of risks, take a look at the attached risk assessment article. /DocumentCenter/View/3723 It provides insightful details on factors that make people prone to taking risks in general, and specifically during the pandemic:
o Optimistic bias: People think that their own risk is less than other people’s risk and engage in unsafe behaviors as a result.
o False sense of control
o Unclear cultural cues: Public health messages are often at odds with messages from elected officials.
o Confirmation bias: When we seek out information, we tend to do so in a way to ensure that the evidence we find confirms what we want to hear.
o Exposure therapy: We’re getting used to living in a pandemic. People are letting down their guard.
We’re all dealing with serious COVID-19 fatigue at this point but, as our recent dramatic increase in cases makes clear, we’ve got to stick with the program and continue practicing the 3W’s (Wear a mask, Wait six feet apart, Wash hands regularly) if we ever want to return to anything resembling normalcy. A sincere thank you to those who are doing your part. Keep it up! If you haven’t been practicing the 3W’s, be aware that these simple interventions are most effective when the majority of the population participates. Do your part for the local economy and the health of your community by practicing the 3W’s.
· Again, we appreciate all the mask-wearers out there. I want to clarify something that you might have read in the paper recently about the transmission of the virus at work by people required to wear masks. Just to be clear: we have seen transmission of COVID in workplaces where the staff is required to wear masks. HOWEVER - the transmission occurs when they take the mask off. We’ve seen this in the Jackson County cluster and twice in Haywood County. People wear masks while working on the job, but take it off at lunch and sit across from one another at a table for more than fifteen minutes. In Jackson County, the cluster involved 5 workers, one of whom was positive and mildly symptomatic. She infected the other 4. In one Haywood County scenario, one employee was asymptomatic when he had lunch with his co-workers. He infected two of them. They all work wearing a mask. They don’t transmit COVID-19 while wearing a mask. They transmit the virus while they are NOT wearing the mask. When you eat lunch with co-workers remember to sit at least 6 feet apart!
· More on masks: see the attached article for tips on maximizing the effectiveness and comfort of your mask.