We have long known that when it comes to health outcomes in America, inequalities have persisted along racial lines. The recent coronavirus pandemic has shined an ugly light on these disparities as severe cases of COVID 19, the illness caused by the virus, are disproportionately affecting African American and Hispanic/Latino communities at a higher rate. While much is still unknown about the virus, it has become increasingly clear that it is impacting many vulnerable segments of our society. However, in America, that vulnerability is highly intersected with race and poverty.
What steps should we take to stay safe and avoid further spread of the virus? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following steps:
Know How It Spreads
The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. The virus is thought to spread mainly person-to-person between people who are in close contact with one another (within six feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
Clean Your Hands Often
Wash often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid Close Contact
Avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home as much as possible and avoid large groups, and put distance between yourself and other people.
Cover Your Mouth and Nose
Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others. Everyone should wear a face cover when they have to go out in public, such as to the grocery store or to pick up other necessities. Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Continue to keep about six feet between yourself and others. The cloth face cover is not a substitute for social distancing.
Cover Coughs and Sneezes
Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow. Throw used tissues in the trash. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
—Adapted from “We Must Stay Informed,” Black News Portal, by Kenny McMorris, FACHE, CEO, Charles Drew Health Center, Inc., Omaha, Neb. April 2020