October 22, 2020
Deputy Center Director, John F. Kennedy Space Center
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Over a year after the initial onset of the coronavirus pandemic, individuals and businesses are still experiencing its repercussions. Fortunately, our nation has learned a great deal about COVID-19 over the past year, and a silver lining has emerged in the form of increased testing and universal adult vaccine eligibility in America.
With continued adherence to CDC guidelines and vaccination efforts, the return to a new normal may come sooner than expected. A panel of experts discussed the state of the coronavirus pandemic with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and they also spoke to what individuals and businesses can do to help America move forward.
By Following CDC Guidelines, Individuals and Businesses Can Protect Themselves and Others
Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, medical director of the Special Pathogens Unit of Boston Medical Center, noted that people must protect themselves from the twin threats of the flu and COVID-19. Not only are infected individuals competing for the same healthcare resources, but patients with dual diagnoses of the flu and coronavirus were twice as likely to die in the hospital compared to COVID-only patients.
“The way that we as individuals protect ourselves are, of course, wearing a mask, physical distancing, trying to move as many activities outdoors as possible, avoiding indoor crowds, hand hygiene, and getting those flu shots,” Bhadelia emphasized.
Businesses are faced with additional logistical challenges, such as ventilation and ensuring employees have access to their flu shots.
“Aside from all those measures we just talked about, it’s becoming ever more evident that ventilation is another part, aside from disinfection and promoting … access to those flu vaccines among your workers,” she added.
Pharmacies Are Working to Get Flu Shots Into the Arms of More Americans
While flu vaccines are an important preventative public health measure every year, it’s more vital than ever amid this global pandemic.
“Public health experts emphasize that getting the flu shot is the most important step that people can take to prevent those flu infections in themselves and their loved ones,” stressed Heather Schultz, a pharmacist at Meijer Pharmacy. “It’s especially important for … people who are at higher risk of flu complications, such as those with comorbidities, as well as our elderly patients and their close contacts.”
Schultz added that pharmacies have developed ways of reducing in-person contact and wait time, such as booking appointments and sending patient questionnaires in advance, to promote the ease and safety of vaccination.
Comfort and Wearability Are Key to Mask-Wearing Compliance
The CDC continues to recommend that individuals wear masks when in public settings. Gihan Amarasiriwardena, co-founder and president of Ministry of Supply, believes that people are more likely to wear masks if they invest in ones they are comfortable wearing.
“One of the most intimate things that people are wearing these days are their masks,” Amarasiriwardena said. “We’ve looked at both the science and functionality of that, but also the comfort because we think comfort is going to lead to better compliance.”
It is also expected that at least some people will continue wearing masks even after the worst of the pandemic is over.
“We look at other markets and how they have responded to other pandemics or infectious diseases, and there has been a kind of proof and track record of society continuing to use masks afterward,” he added.
Face Coverings Help Mitigate Viral Spread, Protecting Individuals and Others
Many Americans have had questions about the efficacy of mask-wearing, face shields, and other protective measures. To help answer these questions, companies like Riken Center for Computational Science have run simulation trials to determine how effective these face coverings truly are.
Dr. Satoshi Matsuoka, director of Riken Center, demonstrated several of these trials to illustrate that face coverings truly do work to mitigate the viral spread of coronavirus.
“A lot of the larger droplets … that contain a lot of viruses do get captured by the mask,” he explained, noting that non-woven masks are more effective at doing so than fabric masks. People seeking additional protection may consider wearing a face shield in addition to a mask.
“The combination of these protective measures could be quite significant in terms of mutual protection and also suppression measures,” Matsuoka continued. “It’s really important.”
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