COVID-19 in the winter
This winter will most likely lead to an increase of cases, especially in Indiana where cases are already increasing, said Dr. Lana Dbeibo, an infectious disease physician.
Dbeibo said colder weather means people tend to be indoors, meaning they’re physically closer and increasing the risk of transmission of the coronavirus.
This means wearing a mask, staying six feet apart from others and washing hands frequently will help limit the spread of COVID-19 this winter, said Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology education at IU-Purdue University Indianapolis.
“I feel like a broken record here, fellas, because these are still the only tools we know that work,” he said.
Dbeibo said reducing or limiting indoor interactions is crucial in preventing the spread of the virus this winter. Duszynski said people should take every measure they can to avoid any indoor social gatherings this winter.
“You have to realize that we're in the middle of a pandemic and you know we've had almost, you know, a quarter million people have died from this already across the U.S. and more than 3,000 in Indiana alone,” Dusznyski said. “Why would we want to potentially expose other people?”
Dbeibo said people should take extra precautions if they have any COVID-19 symptoms, even if they’re as minor as a headache or fatigue. People should take that as a sign they may be infected and stay home, she said.
Staying socially connected
It’s important for people to stay socially connected, whether that be through Zoom, phone calls, social media or online video games, said Gregory Lewis, a member of the Kinsey Institute Traumatic Stress Research Consortium at IU-Bloomington. Humans use interaction to determine if their environment is safe, he said.
When people begin to isolate themselves, they break down a system of coregulation, Lewis said. Coregulation refers to the idea of people checking on each other to mutually help them through issues of stress or depression, he said.
As people become more isolated during the winter, they should check in on their friends and family.
“I'm hoping that that's something that a lot of us will do for this winter, kind of do a little extra work to reach out to somebody and see if they need to talk,” Lewis said.
One way to maintain social interaction this winter is by using a pandemic pod, which is a small group of people you interact with that you trust are following the same rules you are following, Dbeibo said.
Before joining a pandemic pod, people should test negative and self-quarantine for 14 days to ensure they’re not exposed to or infected by COVID-19, Duszynski said.
The people in the pandemic pod shouldn’t be socializing with any other people in order to minimize the risk of getting infected, Duszynski said. Within a pandemic pod, the participants know everyone is confirmed to be infection free. The fewer people in a pandemic pod the more manageable it is, Duszynski said.
While a pandemic pod is an option, Dbeibo said there is still a risk that comes with it because there is no way to ensure others in the pod are being 100% safe.
Dbeibo said she thinks prevention of an outbreak this winter is possible, as long as everyone is actively following the rules.
“I think if people go at it with a mentality it's going to happen because it's the winter, then it will happen but it doesn't mean that we don't have measures to try to turn things around,” she said.