COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations in West Virginia are rising. And as the holidays loom, the worst may be ahead.
Regardless of all else, the most important thing going forward is our individual behaviors, said Dr. Mark Roberts, chairman of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health.
“We have to wear masks. We have to socially distance. We can’t have people over for Thanksgiving,” Roberts said. “We’re not letting our son come home from Montana for Thanksgiving because it’s just not the right thing to do these days.”
According to Roberts, experts fear the current rise in cases will only compound heading into the winter months.
As environmental factors change, temperatures get cooler and more time is spent indoors, there’s going to be a greater likelihood of exposure and transmission if diligent restrictions on social gatherings aren’t put in place and adhered to.
“It’s not just the virus, it’s the virus and our response to it,” Roberts said. “It’s our behaviors that allow the virus to spread.”
The other factor is seasonal variability. According to Roberts, some viruses, like influenza, are far more present in the fall and winter months than at other times of the year. Roberts said we don’t know enough yet about the seasonality of COVID-19 to know what the effect will be on the virus, but in congruence with the other health risks that come with cold temperatures, the burden on hospitals is undoubtedly going to increase.
Still, the most immediate threat, according to Roberts, is the holidays. In Allegheny County, where Roberts is based, data has already shown that a very large number of cases are coming from small group meetings and gatherings at people’s homes.
“Those kinds of connections can spread the disease just as easily as going to a bar or a restaurant,” Roberts said. “We should behave all the time as though we’re infected. It’s not just to protect you, it’s to protect everybody else. Please, this Thanksgiving, this holiday season, just stay home.”
… Regardless of all else, the most important thing going forward is our individual behaviors, said Dr. Mark Roberts, chairman of health policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. …
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Photo caption: Charleston Area Medical Center is "busy." It's not just because of COVID. Photo credit: Lucas Manfield