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How to Not Catch COVID, According to a Doctor

This Emergency Physician is still seeing COVID patients and hopes you're not one of them.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

As the one year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic is upon us, it is difficult to remember our pre-COVID lives. As treatment options have been increasing, some people have become less concerned with taking safety precautions. As much as everyone would like to wake up and have the pandemic behind us, as an Emergency Physician I continue to see COVID cases. Here are some recommendations to continue to keep yourself and your families safe against COVID. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus


You Must Get Your Immunizations

Woman with face mask getting vaccinated, coronavirus, covid-19 and vaccination concept.

Immunizations have just recently become part of the prevention plan. The two vaccines that are currently in use have a roughly 95% reduction in mortality. This is better than any other prevention plan that we have had up to this point. There are also many other positive aspects to the vaccine that go beyond the reduction in mortality for the person who has been vaccinated. It has also been discovered that those individuals who are vaccinated also have a much lower likelihood of passing COVID-19 from person to person. With the prospect of herd immunity being much safer by vaccination against COVID-19 than infection by COVID-19, vaccines are the best option we have as a society to get back to normal life. 


You Must Wear Your Masks

Woman put on medical protective mask for protection against coronavirus.

One of the most contentious aspects of prevention, masks have been shown to be immensely important in reducing the cases of COVID-19. As we know it's a respiratory virus, the best way to stop the transmission is by blocking the respiratory particles from person to person. It has been difficult to trust the recommendations as they have been fickle. Initially dismissed by officials, the recommendation has now grown to recommend multiple masks. The reality is that a mask that blocks respiratory particles from being transmitted from one person to another has been shown to reduce the number of COVID-19 infections.


You Must Cover Your Cough or Sneeze

Sick woman with flu at home

Covering your cough or sneeze is not novel to COVID-19. It is helpful guidance that reduces the transmission of COVID-19 as well as the flu and other viruses such as the common cold. Although it has been the socially acceptable way to cough or sneeze for years, the COVID-19 outbreak has allowed for even more scientific understanding of this recommendation. Researchers at MIT have evaluated how far particles travel when an individual coughs, and the results are significant. They found that particles can travel hundreds of times further from sneezing and coughing in comparison to talking, sometimes upwards of 27 feet. Although a great recommendation for the prevention of COVID-19, it is also critically important for many other viruses as well. 


You Must Stay Home if Symptomatic

woman wearing a face mask and peeking out from blinds

The incessant reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has lead to some people being less fastidious with social distancing and group activities. People are explaining away their symptoms as possible allergies, or even stating that they have had COVID-19 prior and therefore cannot be infected again. When these individuals do not self quarantine, they can continue the spread of the virus throughout the community. In association with incorrect mask wearing, not isolating when symptomatic has attributed to some of the continued transmission of COVID-19.


You Must Wash Your Hands

Woman Washing her hands with soap and water at home bathroom

Although washing hands has been known to stop the spread of bacteria and viruses for many years, it continues to be a necessary recommendation through the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially it was thought that COVID-19 may live on surfaces for many days, however the current understanding is not as extreme. It is believed that larger particles of COVID-19 may continue to live on surfaces for hours or days. If a person has touched a surface with one of these large particles, and then touches their nose, or eyes, it is possible to transmit the virus. Hand hygiene is an important step to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, but is also an important step to reduce the transmission of most pathogens. 


You Must Stay Healthy

Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks

Many patients canceled appointments with their primary care physicians or other physicians last year. Initially with the hope to reschedule for just a few weeks later, the pandemic continued for longer than everyone initially thought. Therefore many patients have not seen their doctors for upwards of two years. This results in many patients possibly having medical problems that are currently undiagnosed. With systemic medical problems possibly unknown, some patients may have more risk for contracting COVID-19.  

RELATED: If You Feel This, You May Have Already Had COVID, Says Dr. Fauci


How to Get Through This Pandemic Safe and Sound

woman puts on face mask

Prevention continues to be the best defense against COVID-19. Many of the recommendations such as mask wearing and hand washing have not changed throughout the pandemic. Protecting yourself and your family against contracting the virus continues to be a part of every day life. Vaccines are the newest part of the prevention plan against COVID-19 and represent the hope for the return to normal life. So follow the fundamentals and help end this surge, no matter where you live—wear a face mask that fits snugly and is double layered, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, get vaccinated when it becomes available to you, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Kenneth Perry, MD FACEP
Dr. Perry is an active practicing physician and Medical Director of an Emergency Department in Charleston, South Carolina. Read more