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Simple safety measures can prevent a Labor Day virus spike, expert says


Alabamians can avoid spreading COVID-19 during Labor Day celebrations by wearing masks around people from different households, staying six-feet apart and gathering outdoors or in areas with good ventilation, according to Jodie Dionne-Odom, an assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Division of Infectious Diseases.

“There’s no question now about what works. The question is just will people follow those recommendations,” she said.

About 40 percent of people with COVID-19 exhibit no symptoms. Dionne-Odom said that an infected person is most contagious before they show symptoms when the virus is concentrated in their nasal passages. That’s why it is important to wear a mask even if you feel fine — if the virus is present at high levels in the nose, it is highly transmissible as it sheds and goes airborne with each exhalation.

A person’s immune response can be strong enough that they contract the virus and it doesn’t spread to their lungs, but if it’s still in their nose, they can spread it. This is why health officials warn against being confident about individual ability to weather the virus while disregarding the need to protect others.

Masks and social distancing can be expected to be necessary until a vaccine is available because the virus is so contagious, Dionne-Odom said. Dionne-Odom reiterated that the most common transmissions are between members of the same households because they aren’t practicing public safety measures in the perceived safety of their homes. 

When people gather for Labor Day, the risk for spreading the virus will increase, especially inside establishments like bars and restaurants. Still, this can be mitigated by adhering to the safety measures that public health officials have been urging for months. 

Preventing more infections and deaths will hinge on individual responsibility, Dionne-Odom said.

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“We have control about what happens in our communities,” she said. “It’s not like it’s some outside force.”


Micah Danney is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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