On Friday, Franklin County moved to the green phase of reopening the economy. This phase brings some changes but some things still remain the same. Dr. Raghavendra Tirupathi, Medical Director of Keystone Infectious Diseases, gives information about this stage of reopening, which protection measures you should still be practicing and the possibility of a second outbreak of COVID-19 in today’s Take Care article.
How is the green phase different than yellow? Will everything go back to normal?
The green phase is meant to allow the economy to strategically reopen while also keeping public health as a priority. Most restrictions are lessened in this phase but some protective measures still do stay in place. Some things that will not change during this phase are the use of facemasks, telework being recommended where possible and businesses being required to follow updated guidelines from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Large gatherings of more than 250 people should be avoided.
Changes to businesses in this stage include restaurants, bars and entertainment centers (shopping malls, movie theaters, casinos, etc.) may open at 50% occupancy, and personal care services (such as salons and barber shops) and indoor health and wellness facilities (gyms, spas, etc.) can open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only.
During this phase Pennsylvania will continue to increase testing and contact-tracing efforts.
Why should I still wear a mask if we are in the green phase?
It is strongly encouraged and in some places it may be required to wear masks during the green phase, especially when entering a business and/or a crowded place. The reason for this is because my mask protects you and your mask protects me. You can’t always see if someone around you has a compromised immune system or underlying medical condition. You can protect others from COVID-19 by wearing a mask when you leave home. Wearing the mask properly – covering your nose and mouth and wearing a mask with a good fit – is also a very important aspect of prevention.
What precautions should I still be taking in the green stage?
Basic hand hygiene should always be practiced but is especially important now. Proper handwashing can help prevent 1 in 5 respiratory illnesses and 1 in 3 diarrheal illnesses. Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way to protect yourself, and others, from germs in most situations. If soap or running water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol instead. Take a bottle of sanitizer along when you leave home so you are always ready to fight germs.
Social distancing should continue to be practiced. Maintain 6 feet of distance from other people as much as possible. You should avoid crowded places and nonessential travel. Frequent disinfection of high-touch surfaces such as tables, counter tops, toilet seats and door knobs is also recommended. Continue to follow good cough and respiratory etiquette, stay at home when you are feeling sick and be sure to get your information about COVID-19 from valid sources.
People are talking about this happening again in the fall. Will it be as bad if it does happen then?
Yes, there is growing concern in the scientific and medical community about the possibility of a much worse spike of cases the in fall/winter of this year with a co-occurrence of flu and COVID-19 which could overwhelm our hospital system with sick patients.
What precautions can we take to protect ourselves for a possible second outbreak?
Each one of us has a responsibility to keep the most vulnerable in our communities safe, lessen the spread of infection and keep the curve flattened. A vaccine is one more vital component to achieve herd immunity and hopefully we will have an effective and safe vaccine by the end of the year.
This article contains general information only and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or care by a qualified health care provider.