The coronavirus pandemic is laying bare the true fragility of the U.S. healthcare system and those most likely to fall through the cracks.
In America, the most vulnerable are typically poor people of color. While most jurisdictions have been slow to report positive Covid-19 cases by race, early data suggests a disproportionate effect on the Black community. This is both troubling and predictable.
Ample data shows that the Black community has a larger number of comorbidities or chronic diseases like diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma. These conditions reflect other socioeconomic and environmental disparities. Coupled with less access to quality healthcare and historical distrust of the healthcare system, the Covid-19 pandemic becomes a perfect storm.
In light of this reality, our community should be adhering closely to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health officials. New data is released daily, and it can be overwhelming.
When it comes to personal protective equipment, we can help slow the spread by following some simple do’s and don’ts as we navigate through this new normal.
Do: Wash your hands before putting on gloves. If you’re not near a sink to properly wash your hands, then you should use hand sanitizer.
Don’t: Drive around in your car with gloves on. Wearing gloves from outside of the car to the inside can spread germs inside the vehicle. If you’re concerned about your car, then use disinfecting wipes to clean the inside of your vehicle.
Do: Remove gloves after your activity. Gloves shouldn’t be worn from store to store (or house to house). They should be put on before entering a store and removed upon exit. Hands should be cleaned after removing gloves.
Don’t: Use your bare hands to remove the gloves. If you’ve properly removed gloves, then they should be inside out and disposed of in the trash — not placed in your car, pockets or purse.
Do: Avoid touching your face and cell phone when wearing gloves.
Don’t: Purchase or hoard N95, N100 or other approved surgical masks. These are for healthcare professionals and in short supply.
Several new companies are selling KN95 masks. These are utilized in China and have been allowed for emergency use in the U.S. They’re similar to the N95 masks but include differences such as variation in maximum pressure the masks must withstand as a person inhales and exhales.
There have been concerns about counterfeit products, so buy with caution. Legit respirators have been approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Counterfeit products won’t have NIOSH markings on them. The CDC also shares other signs of counterfeit respirators.
Do: Use a cloth mask. It should cover your nose and mouth snuggly. The material should be sturdy but breathable. See tutorials here.
Don’t: Use masks as substitutes for social distancing or staying home. Cloth masks should be utilized when performing essential tasks like grocery shopping or going to the pharmacy.
Do: Wash your mask regularly. Machine washing is sufficient.
Don’t: Use a cloth mask on children under 2 years old or if you have trouble breathing.
Do: Wash your hands immediately after removing your mask. Remember to avoid touching your face and eyes.
Do: Follow proper medical guidance, and seek medical advice if you experience symptoms.
Don’t: Purchase any cures, medications, vaccines, home test kits, or herbal remedies from the internet.
Do: Take this opportunity to clean your home — it is spring after all.
No amount of personal protective equipment is a substitute for social distancing and staying at home. As a community, we can together slow the spread. While there may be temporary pain associated with limiting your daily movements, it’s worth the lives saved.
Our community can’t afford to ignore medical advice or float government conspiracy theories; the stakes are simply too high. We can observe six feet of social distancing above ground or be sentencing someone’s loved one a burial six feet underground.