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Your strategy for reducing COVID-19 risk this winter


Winter is coming.

How will the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic shift, and what can we do to protect ourselves as we head into a time of year when cold and flu viruses already are a going concern?

Dr. Iahn Gonsenhauser, chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, says there are three top concerns.



No. 1: We’re going to spend more time indoors.

As a result, our risk mitigation strategies for COVID-19 need to adjust.

The respiratory droplets and aerosols that transmit COVID-19 can linger in poorly ventilated areas. When inside with other people, be sure to practice social distancing and wear a mask. Avoid large crowds in poorly ventilated spaces.

When the weather allows it, move gatherings outdoors.

No. 2: It’s flu season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that the flu caused 35.5 million illnesses and claimed 34,200 American lives during the 2018-19 flu season.

The flu also increases your risk of contracting COVID-19 and other respiratory infections. Having COVID-19 and influenza at the same time, which is a possibility, could be catastrophic.

The best things you can do to reduce your risk?

Get a flu shot this year. It reduces your risk of influenza by 70%, Gonsenhauser said.

Also, keep practicing social distancing, mask use and hand hygiene.

No. 3: People have pandemic fatigue.

After eight months of staying close to home, schooling children virtually and practicing common health precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, people are tired and letting down their guard, Gonsenhauser said.

“As we approach these winter months, and we’re seeing cases rising, it's more important than ever that we double down on these precautions and do everything that we can to continue responding to this threat,” he said.

This winter could be the greatest challenge we’re facing during this global pandemic — and our greatest moment to show our commitment to following through with what works: masking, social distancing and handwashing.

“We can get through this challenge together and move forward with care, not fear,” Gonsenhauser said.