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Tag: pandemic

Is it safe to travel for the holidays in 2020 during the pandemic?

The end of the year is sneaking up, and people are weighing travel plans to join friends and family for the holidays — all against the backdrop of a deadly pandemic.



a group of people walking down the street: There's a lot more to consider when planning holiday travel in 2020.


© Daniel Slim/AFP/Getty Images
There’s a lot more to consider when planning holiday travel in 2020.

Gathering with others — probably the most universal holiday tradition — has never required so much meticulous forethought.

Should you travel for the holidays in 2020? What precautions will make it safer? Who will be there and how careful have they been?

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that travel increases the chances of contracting and spreading Covid-19. Staying home is the best way to protect against getting and spreading the virus, yet many people are likely to travel before the year is over.



a sign on the side of a snow covered car in a parking lot: Driving is not without risks, but your interactions with others can be more easily controlled than with air travel.


© Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images
Driving is not without risks, but your interactions with others can be more easily controlled than with air travel.

CNN spoke with medical experts on how to reduce the risks around holiday travel and when you really should skip it altogether.

Should you travel for the holidays this year?

“Probably not, if you are anxious or vulnerable,” says Dr. Richard Dawood, a travel medicine specialist and director at Fleet Street Clinic in London.

But traveling is fine if you’re willing to be cautious, follow the rules and adapt easily to changes of plan, he said.

“I think the threshold for travel at this time should still be higher than before the pandemic,” says Dr. Henry Wu, director of Emory TravelWell Center and associate professor of infectious diseases at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.



a statue of a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Staying in a hotel may give guests more control of their environment than staying with friends or relatives.


© Benno Schwinghammer/picture alliance/Getty Images
Staying in a hotel may give guests more control of their environment than staying with friends or relatives.

“If you do choose to travel, try to keep gatherings small and take precautions,” such as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing and good hand hygiene, Wu said.

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Who should skip it?

People who are especially vulnerable to severe Covid-19 illness are safest staying home.

“Are you older, are you frail, do you have chronic underlying illnesses?” are the questions to ask, says Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

People who are considering meeting up with vulnerable relatives or friends should really weigh the implications of introducing illness to them, Wu said.

“There are well-documented Covid-19 clusters associated with family gatherings, including ones that resulted in deaths,” he said.

Are some locations safer than others?

Gatherings are likely safer in areas around the world where infections remain low, although the standard precautions still apply.



a group of people sitting at a table: Joining hands around a crowded holiday table is best skipped this year.


© Shutterstock
Joining hands around a crowded holiday table is best skipped this year.

For example, it may be possible to have a “relatively normal” Thanksgiving gathering in parts of the United States where infections are very low, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“But in other areas of

Which states had the best pandemic response?

Vermont locked itself down early and reopened gradually. Washington state paid workers who couldn’t do their jobs while quarantined. And Louisiana zeroed in on students who were most at-risk of falling behind and prioritized help for them first.



diagram: A three dimensional map of the United States, highlighting which states did the best in their response to Covid-19.


© Illustration by Tucker Doherty, with map geometry by Bharadwaj Balraj
A three dimensional map of the United States, highlighting which states did the best in their response to Covid-19.

When President Donald Trump decided to delegate the pandemic response to the states, he gave them a chance to call their own shots. Some states acted aggressively to contain COVID-19, others far less so.

We wondered with all those decisions put in states’ hands, which ones have done the best job so far?

For this story, reporters interviewed a wide range of health researchers, public officials and academic experts to ask them which states were standouts in their management of the pandemic. What we heard repeatedly were lessons culled from a handful of states that others could follow.

We’ve distilled their insights into three categories that represent the greatest challenges states are facing: fighting the virus, managing the economic fallout and reopening schools.

FIGHTING THE VIRUS

Leading the way in the rural Northeast

Few states have a record as unblemished as Vermont.

The odds could have been stacked against the state. The virus arrived in Vermont during the first wave sweeping the country. It shares borders with some of the hardest-hit states and has the third-oldest population in the country.

But Vermont swiftly flattened its initial wave and has since gone weeks at a time without any new confirmed infections. Fewer than 60 people have died, giving the state the second-fewest deaths per capita behind Alaska, which has seen surging caseloads in recent weeks. If the country as a whole had the same per capita death rate as Vermont, the nationwide death toll would be 30,000 instead of more than 215,000.

“This should be the model for the country, how you’ve done it,” Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said during a briefing with state leaders in September. “Notwithstanding that this is a small state, it should be the model of how you get to such a low test positivity that you can actually start opening up the economy in a safe and prudent way.”

While health experts say the state has likely benefited from its rural geography, other sparsely populated areas of the country that let their guard down were overwhelmed by the virus this spring and summer. That sense of complacency never took hold in Vermont, where a moderate Republican governor and a Democratic-led Legislature helped defuse partisan tensions that hampered the response elsewhere.

“Any state that’s going to succeed against Covid has got to have the compliance of the population, because every single thing you do is telling people to alter their personal behavior,” Mark Levine, Vermont’s health commissioner, said in an interview.

What works:

— Vermont reopened slowly. The lockdown it put in place in

Even dentist visits go remote during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has transformed many in-person activities into remote services delivered over the internet. The latest example is the dreaded visit to the dentist.

Dvora Brandstatter used to drive her son Elchanan half an hour to the orthodontist and back every month to make sure his braces were working properly. Now, from the comfort of her home in Bergenfield, New Jersey, she attaches a special scope to her smartphone camera, opens an app and inserts the contraption into the 11-year-old’s mouth. A video of the boy’s choppers is sent to his dentist, who checks progress, diagnoses any issues and sometimes ends the appointment right there.

“As a parent, having fewer appointments is a good thing,” Brandstatter said. “I haven’t seen a downside so far. It’s probably the way everything is moving anyway.”

The app and the scope were created last year by New Jersey-based startup Grin. After the pandemic hit, Chief Executive Officer and dentist Adam Schulhof said the company sped up development of the technology and partnered with manufacturer 3M to quickly distribute it to as many orthodontists as possible. About 5,000 units have shipped out and roughly 1,000 patients have used the system so far, according to Grin.

Schulhof, who uses the system for his own practice, said the coronavirus has spurred huge demand for new procedures that help people reduce the close contact that typically happens when they visit the dentist. The CDC has warned that dental instruments create spray that can contain droplets of water, saliva, blood and other debris, and has advised the use of “teledentistry” as an alternative to in-office care.

When the Grin videos arrive at the dentist’s office, other software from the startup helps practitioners analyze the condition of the teeth and integrates the footage with existing patient management systems. The app also lets patients see what the dentist sees inside their mouth. Not for the faint of heart.

There are already new, internet-focused dental services that Grin is going up against. Companies such as SmileDirectClub mail invisible aligners and braces to consumers. SmileDirectClub shares have more than doubled since the middle of March. Schulfhof said Grin’s offering is aimed at fighting the challenge to conventional dentistry from such direct-to-consumer offerings. “We’re trying to disrupt the disrupters,” he added.

In the short term, the technology will help orthodontists keep their businesses running while many patients avoid the dentist’s office completely, the CEO said. As smartphone capabilities improve and the software develops, Schulhof expects Grin’s scope to use artificial intelligence image analysis to become a more powerful diagnostic tool for dentists.

The CEO also sees the technology gaining traction in general dentistry where insurance companies may back its use. People’s teeth decay at different rates and more regular, remote checks, could be used to identify problems before they require more complicated and expensive treatment at in-person visits every six months, he said.

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