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How to prepare for a COVID-19 winter

  • How to prepare for a COVID-19 winter

    COVID-19 isn’t going away. In fact, it's getting worse: More than 1 million COVID-19 cases were reported in the week ending Nov. 19, and numbers are still rising. On Nov. 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new guidance recommending that Americans avoid traveling for Thanksgiving in order to curb the virus' spread. The guidance was announced in a media briefing—the agency's first press call in months—in which top public health experts underscored the importance of safety as America heads into the winter holidays.

    “There is no more important time than now for every American to watch our distance, wash our hands, and most importantly wear a mask," Dr. Henry Walke, COVID-19 Incident Manager at the CDC, said on the call.

    Spikes in communicable diseases occur in winter due to people interacting in closer quarters. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, recently warned us to prepare for a worsening of the pandemic in coming months with no real respite until late 2021. Even though a vaccine could be rolled out to frontline workers and those with high-risk conditions by the end of 2020, others should expect to wait until well into next year. Beyond the wait, the fast-tracking of vaccine development contributes to hesitancy among many Americans in trusting that the vaccine will be effective.

    Studies further show the virus can survive on surfaces far longer than originally thought; so beyond mask-wearing, we aren’t done with hand-washing and other ways to optimize hygiene. Educating yourself and continuing to adapt everyday habits will be crucial as we move into a season that’s challenging for some even in the best of times.

    Stacker compiled 30 ways to prepare for a COVID-19 winter, using data and reports from trusted media and health officials. Options range from the expected—masking up—to more-innovative—avoiding a sense of isolation via online language meetups, or creating a Zoom-friendly work-from-home space. Keep reading to learn ways to survive and thrive throughout an unusual upcoming winter in terms of optimizing health, home, work, mental health, and social interactions.

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  • Get tested now

    Testing is becoming more and more readily available, and often for free. Those who have any of the common symptoms shouldn’t wait.

  • Assume you have the virus

    Even those who were tested recently might have subsequently been in contact with someone who was asymptomatic but still shedding the virus. Follow precautions, from mask-wearing to social-distancing, in order to protect those around you.

  • Stock up on masks

    Masks are ever-present these days: Even restaurants and mini marts are stocking them to encourage customers to mask up. But not all masks are created equal when it comes to preventing COVID-19, so pay attention to current research.

  • Get a flu shot

    Because the flu and COVID-19 share some symptoms, getting a flu shot is an important part of surviving the winter without unnecessary aches, pains, fevers, and sniffles, and being confident that any that do arise are not from garden-variety influenza. NPR has some recommendations on when and where to get a flu shot to simplify the process and maximize the impact.

  • Educate yourself about the pandemic

    Insights from scientific sources change almost daily, but there are ways to stay on top of the latest data. The COVID Data Tracker has breakdowns by state, county, demographics, and more, and your county health department site typically offers information specific to your region.

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  • Stock up on ways to survive colds and flus

    The last thing anyone wants in a COVID-19 winter is another bug. Look for traditional and holistic ways to manage colds and flus: Some of them will also keep you healthier in the worst-case scenario where you contract COVID-19, too.

  • Simplify your meals

    Life during a pandemic is tough enough: Fussing over how to eat healthy can compound the stress. Simplify eating well by subscribing to one of many meal box services, or collect a handful of simple recipes.

  • Get moving to stay healthy

    Movement is one way to optimize health, and if done outside at a distance, one of the safest and most-affordable ways to keep healthy when we’re still facing COVID-19. Invest in a few layers to protect from cold and wet weather, and pay attention to these tips from the National Weather Service to avoid hypothermia.

  • Exercise online... affordably

    Getting swole—or just more energetic and strong—doesn’t require daily trips to the gym. Check out affordable or even free online programs that require no or little gear: Some even have online communities to help boost your motivation and build your tribe.

  • Move your feet

    Getting in any steps is an improvement over staying stuck at the keyboard or slumped on the couch. When days get shorter, it’s important to gear up for safety when walking outdoors, with a headlamp, reflective clothing, and other ways to stay visible.

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