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Fredericksburg-area health district cautions communities
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Fredericksburg-area health district cautions communities

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COVID testing in Fredericksburg

Virginia National Guard soldiers from Task Force Dogwood conduct COVID-19 tests during the Rappahannock Area Health District's testing event in Fredericksburg on Saturday, Nov. 21.

A letter to our Rappahannock Area Health District communities:

COVID-19 cases continue to rise in our district. We are now seeing the highest 7-day average number of cases that we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic.

Because of these concerning increases, it is even more important to stress the importance of each of us following the safety guidelines we know to work in helping stop the spread of the virus:

• Wear a mask around anyone outside of your household

• Keep a minimum of 6 feet of physical distance from anyone who does not live in your household (this includes family members who do not live with you)

• Wash your hands, often, for at least 20 seconds each time- when soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 % alcohol

We have all heard about these mitigations for many months now and it’s understandable that we have become weary. We must not allow complacency to set-in, however, as we all have a responsibility to do what we can to protect ourselves and others in our communities.

Nationwide, COVID-19 continues to spread and in some areas, surge. Those who are not wearing masks and who are in close contact with others are accelerating the spread of this virus. There are serious consequences, both immediate and long-term, that are realized by so many.

There are more and more accounts of those affected by COVID-19 experiencing long-term health effects. Some of these effects are shortness of breath, fatigue, and even cognitive difficulties, all of which are occurring not just in our older population, but in younger age groups as well. Of course, the risk of losing one’s life or a loved one is the most devastating consequence of the virus, and we have now seen the loss of 95 lives in our districts. With cases increasing, we are likely to continue to see more.

There are also economic consequences from higher case numbers. Many workers, in all business sectors, have faced layoffs and the need to file for unemployment benefits. Consumer spending is down as people face income uncertainties. The Federal Open Market Committee, which sets monetary policy in the United States, wrote for the first time in its July 29th policy statement that “the path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus. The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment, and inflation in the near term, and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term.”

By slowing the spread of disease through precautions such as masking and distancing, we all can help prevent COVID-19 from spreading to such a level that additional restrictions are put into place, which will negatively impact local businesses.

Finally, rising case numbers result in great stress being placed on our healthcare system and our healthcare workers—those “front line” workers we have come to hail as heroes. As we are already seeing in other parts of the country and some regions here in Virginia, our healthcare workers are dealing with stress and fatigue. We do not have unlimited front line workers or hospital beds. When beds become full and healthcare providers are unable to work because they themselves become sick, there are fewer resources available to treat people who have other health emergencies. We all need to do everything we can to prevent this from happening.

What will it take for all of us to understand that we need to protect ourselves and those around us so we can prevent the spread of COVID-19? Again, we all have a responsibility to ourselves and our communities. We know what to do—it’s time we all take action.

Joseph V. Saitta, PhD, is the COVID-19 incident commander and public health advisor to the Virginia Department of Health's Rappahannock Area Health District.

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