Vote safely, stay healthy for the holidays with COVID-19 tips from UAB

Vote safely, stay healthy for the holidays with COVID-19 tips from UAB
UAB epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Judd advises taking steps to stay safe against COVID-19 while gathering at the polls Nov. 3. Keep a distance of 6 feet from others, wear a face mask and wash your hands and use antibacterials while voting. (Getty Images)

It’s important to engage in the electoral process. However, voters have more to consider this year than for whom they will cast a vote on Election Day.

Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., epidemiologist in the UAB School of Public Health

Preventing the spread of the COVID-19 and avoiding transmitting or bringing home germs to your family should be at the top of everyone’s list, said Suzanne Judd, Ph.D., epidemiologist in the UAB School of Public Health. UAB Hospital currently has 70 patients admitted for treatment of COVID-19.

Judd emphasized the importance of taking precautions during voting and beyond as we move into the holiday season.

Take these steps to stay safe while voting Tuesday:

  • Maintain a 6-foot distance from others while voting.
  • Make sure that people around you wear a mask and that you wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Keep hand sanitizer available.

The good news is the medical community has not seen an increase in coronavirus cases due to early voting, Judd noted.

“That’s a positive indicator, at least, that we’re doing things the right way in terms of the lines for voting,” she said. “There have not been any specific cases linked to the lines for voting yet.”

Judd pointed out that students and others who will travel home during school break in the next few weeks and for the holidays should take precautions. Thanksgiving could be a problematic holiday because people typically are inside and sharing a meal together, gathering around a table with family and friends.

“Gatherings greater than 10 people pose a substantial risk in terms of one of the people being COVID-positive and not knowing,” Judd said. “Combine that with eating and drinking and socializing, laughing and singing, just as something that could lead to substantial COVID transmission, which then again sets us up for the holidays that come in December when people get back together again in those indoor spaces.”

The positivity rate for COVID has surged in the past two to three weeks, and epidemiologists will watch closely for more spread of illness during the next two weeks, particularly after voting occurs.

“We had a lot of big events occurring in the last week, Halloween, homecoming and K-12 events that have been going on … that you could expect could lead to increased spread of COVID,” Judd said. “These two weeks, we can see what happened in October and how our behavior sets us up for November.”

By Nov. 10-14, medical personnel will be able to determine how the behavior of the community in October led to COVID-19 cases.

“It’s those cases circulating around Nov. 14 that are going to lead to cases that happen at Thanksgiving,” Judd said.

Try the following to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at Thanksgiving:

  • Try to dine outdoors.
  • Eat the Thanksgiving meal in shifts.
  • If you must be indoors, open windows to allow heavy ventilation.
  • Spread people throughout the house instead of congregating in a few areas.

Judd said people should keep in mind that the toughest part of flu season is coming: Keep a safe mindset as the holiday season begins.

“We would really love to keep our doctors so they’ve got the capacity to treat both the flu and COVID and everything else you might have to go to the hospital for,” she said. “Think about what you’re doing; think about how your behavior can help to keep the levels of virus down, and know how you can help to maintain a positive attitude to keep everyone else interested in trying out those healthy behaviors, too.”

Check the COVID tracker on the Alabama Public Department of Health website.

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