Together, we will adjust to the “new normal”

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By DR COURTNEY N. PHILLIPS | Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health
These past few months have all seen us adjust to an ever-changing “new normal”.

Our state was almost completely closed in March and April as most Louisiana citizens took Governor John Bel Edwards’ order to stay at home to heart. I know it has been hard not to be able to hug our high-risk friends or loved ones during all of this, at home school, working from home, continuing to work in physical places where the rules of operation keep changing, or being unexpectedly out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Courtney N. Phillips,
secretary

While keeping us physically separate, in many ways the pandemic has brought us closer through frequent phone calls, text messages and video chats with loved ones. We took care of each other through acts of kindness, such as delivering groceries to a vulnerable neighbor who must stay indoors for their own safety. We continue to cultivate that spirit of community and solidarity as our state gradually reopens and we cautiously venture out into the world once again.

I thank all those who have taken the home stay order seriously, flattening the curve and stemming the spread of the virus. We are saddened by the people lost to COVID-19 – our neighbors, our loved ones, our colleagues – but we celebrate the many lives saved through your partnership.

Louisiana began a gradual, security-oriented reopening in mid-May under the leadership of Governor Edwards. This gradual reopening, called Roadmap for a resilient Louisiana, removes some restrictions and allows companies to resume operations based on COVID-like illnesses, case growth, and hospitalizations. These declines did not happen alone. Together we accomplished this: wearing masks, staying 6 feet away from others, minimizing how often we go out, washing our hands and not touching our face. This Louisiana spirit is what keeps us going.

On June 5th, we entered Phase 2 of the Roadmap to Resilient Louisiana, but what does that mean? For many Louisiana residents, it means the sudden opportunity to dine out, shop, get a tattoo or massage, or get married with more than 10 people in attendance. It also means that many people may believe that we can relax.

With more businesses reopening and increasing the capacity of businesses that have already reopened, we may advise against it, but people will start to venture out in greater numbers. However, just because the commercial and recreational businesses are open doesn’t mean there are no risks.

The businesses will continue to open gradually, but not as we are used to. They will have to operate with strict requirements including limited employment with social distancing, public facing employee masks, and increased sanitation. We also highly recommend good practices, including offering temperature checks before a person can enter, posting symptoms of COVID-19 outside with a request that symptomatic people not enter, and posting signs. thank the guests for wear a mask.

We have control over our preventative actions, such as putting on a mask and putting 6 feet of space between ourselves and others, but we cannot control the actions of others. Before making plans to quit, we encourage everyone to reduce their risk of exposure by considering the factors
Time – Space – People – Place, a risk assessment developed by Ohio State University epidemiologist Dr. William Miller. To put it simply:

  • Weather: The more time you spend with other people, the greater the risk.
  • Space: The closer you are to other people, the greater the risk.
  • People: The more people you interact with, the greater the risk.
  • Place: Indoor activities are riskier than outdoor activities.

Here are some tips for considering Time – Space – People – Place:

During Phase 2, we encourage high-risk individuals to continue to stay at home for their safety. This includes individuals aged 65 and over, residents in long-term care facilities, and vulnerable individuals such as those who are immunocompromised or have one or more of the following health conditions with poor control:

  • High blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Heart disease

Remember that all
it’s even safer at home. With the easing of restrictions comes a chance to see what other countries and states are seeing: a spike in the growth of COVID-19 cases. We don’t want to slide back, so we must all do our part to keep moving forward. This includes contact tracing, testing and mitigation measures like the ones below, but we all need to do our part to prevent a new spike in cases.

Defending yourself from COVID-19

As we continue to adapt to the new normal and avoid a new wave of infections, it is vitally important that we all continue to wear masks and stay 6 feet away from others when in public.

Face masks or face liners should be worn whenever you are around other people who are not in your family. The only exceptions are children under the age of 2 and people with severe respiratory problems. I wear my face mask every day, whether you find me at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness (GOHSEP), LDH Headquarters or Capitol … and I am grateful to see others do the same. I wear my mask to protect you, and you should wear your mask to protect me. It is being a good neighbor to everyone around you.
I know it may seem strange to breathe and even talk while wearing a mask, but it is for our health and safety. I am confident that we can all get comfortable with our masks and make wearing them as normal as dressing in the morning.
Along with masking, social distancing is one of our most reliable tactics for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Social distancing means maintaining a physical space of 6 feet between you and people outside of your family, something that does not come easily to Louisianans.
As a Louisiana daughter, born and raised in Plaquemines Parish, I know firsthand that the need to be friendly and to come together is instilled in us at birth. We thrive in each other’s company, which we can enjoy as long as we do it safely – 6 feet away and in disguise. Yes, it is different from the social gatherings we are used to, but as long as we are together we will face these difficult times.

Along with masking and respecting social distancing, to help keep everyone healthy:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Frequently clean high-contact surfaces and high-traffic areas.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Sneeze and cough into a handkerchief, elbow or mask.
  • Stay home if you are sick, especially if you have a fever above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Isolate yourself from other family members and contact your doctor. Staying home when sick saves your life.
This is our new normal until we have a vaccine. Take care of yourself and your neighbors, and once again the bonds of the Louisiana spirit will get us through.

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