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  • Writer's pictureLisa Reynolds, MD

Making Choices as Oregon Reopens

Oregon is reopening.

Many of us can start venturing out more and visit businesses that are opening up, but it will take widespread (ie herd) immunity (a vaccine) to get to “back to pre-COVID normal”.

There are some important things about the virus and its spread to keep in mind:

  • This is still a “novel” virus to most people - meaning we have no immunity to it. This is no different than it was on Feb 28, when the first Oregonian came down with COVID19.

  • People can shed and spread the virus through sneezing, coughing, yelling and talking.

  • People can shed the virus even if they are not sick. I call this the virus’ magic trick.

  • Masks block viral shedding. When two people are masked, there is a small likelihood of one person spreading the virus to the other. We are FORTUNATE that this is the case.

How we choose to engage with others and in public spaces depends on our own personal health risks and those of our family, our household and our workplace.

If you are a high risk individual (older than 60 years old or you have a health condition such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes or are immunosuppressed) or if you regularly interact with a high risk individual, avoiding others outside your household is recommended.

Harm reduction is the concept that there are measures we can take to make safer our interactions with others. And by “make safer” we mean “minimize your risk of contracting or spreading COVID19”. And by allowing some safe interactions with others, we should be able to persuade folks to avoid the more dangerous situations (an indoor crowded party, for example).

Most of these are familiar:

  • Maintain social distancing of 6 feet or greater

  • Wash hands frequently

  • Outdoors is safer than indoors

  • Consider a “double bubble”: choose a family to socialize with who are also socially distancing. Good communication and agreement is necessary to make this work.

  • Smaller groups are safer than larger groups

  • Shorter periods of time interacting with others are safer than longer periods of time

  • Wear masks

AND keep in mind (h/t Dr Dara Kass):

  • Make a plan. For example, when you go to the store, bring a list and stay focussed. It’s not yet time for random wanderings in stores.

  • Talk to your kids about their responsibility. Start with giving them some small (supervised) freedoms and, if they make the right choices, give them a bit more freedom. Example: spot check that they’re wearing masks.

  • Know how to get a COVID19 test and understand what to do with results. No test is 100% accurate and it gives you your COVID19 status at just one moment in time.

  • Be comfortable making hard choices - you may be unpopular!

  • Be prepared to fail - you will make a choice that ends up failing. Someone may fall ill. Do not blame yourself or others.

  • Stay informed - our understanding and scientific recommendations change frequently.

Re-engaging in a COVID19 world is tricky and decisions should be based on individual risks and one’s relationships and trust of others. It can be done!

(Lisa Reynolds, MD; 6/15/2020; subject to change)

Sources: Julia Marcus, epidemiologist

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This website is written by Lisa Reynolds, MD, Portland, Oregon Pediatrician on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic. Mom and daughter. Candidate for Oregon HD36.

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