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This Holiday Season Can Stand as a Turning Point in Our Nation’s Control of the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • Barbara D. Alexander, M.D., MHS, FIDSA – President, Infectious Diseases Society of America
  • Rajesh T. Gandhi, M.D., FIDSA – Chair, HIV Medicine Association

With numbers of infections, illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths caused by COVID-19 at record highs as this holiday season begins, the risks posed by the spread of the coronavirus are more dangerous than at any time since its emergence last December. At this critical juncture, we call on all states to adopt proven measures to mitigate the current surge of transmissions.

New COVID-19 outbreaks imperil every community in the United States. Steeply rising rates of infections threaten our nation’s efforts to bring the pandemic under control. As we work toward safely reopening businesses and schools and planning holiday celebrations, united and cohesive measures across the country will be essential to containing the pandemic and averting more stringent shut-downs.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America and its HIV Medicine Association thank the governors and policy makers in 36 states and Washington, D.C., as well as in cities and counties across the nation that instituted mandates to wear masks to reduce risks of acquiring or transmitting the virus. As frontline infectious diseases and HIV physicians, scientists, public health officials and other health providers, we appeal to the remaining 14 states to follow that lead, to safeguard their communities and our nation and to protect and support essential workers, including health care personnel, on the front lines of the pandemic.

Volumes of data have shown that masks are effective in reducing the risk of transmission. Data also show that communities with mask requirements have higher rates of mask use. We call on all people across America to protect themselves and others by following evidence-based measures to stop the spread of the virus.

Recommendations include:

  • Wearing a mask at all times when in public indoor or outdoor spaces;
  • Limiting the size of all indoor or outdoor gatherings in accordance with local rules;
  • Maintaining six feet of distance between yourselves and others in all public settings;
  • Washing hands for at least 20 seconds or using a 60% alcohol hand sanitizer frequently.

Virtual gatherings remain the safest way to bring friends and family together from distant points. Outdoor settings can reduce the risks of gathering with people outside of your household.

If you have been exposed to the virus you should remain in quarantine for two weeks. If you have been infected, you should remain isolated until it has been determined that you are no longer infectious.

All of these measures will remain essential to advances against this pandemic even after the development and distribution of a safe and effective vaccine.

Immediate and lasting control of the pandemic will be critical to our ability to successfully address other public health challenges we face. These include the health inequities highlighted and exacerbated by the current crisis, rising rates of antimicrobial resistant infections, the impacts of vaccine hesitancy, the opioid epidemic and ending the HIV epidemic at home and abroad.

We have the resources and the knowledge to stem the spread of this pandemic. Keeping our common cause and shared well-being at the forefront of our holiday celebrations will make a difference.

Media materials on the importance of wearing masks to slow the spread of the virus and get America back to business are available through IDSA and the Ad Council’s Mask Up America Campaign. To learn more on how to protect yourself and your community, now and throughout the holiday season, visit the IDSA COVID-19 Information and Safety Resources page.

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