Avoid Crowds to Prevent Illness Spread

Many St. Patrick’s Day parades have been canceled this year, due to the threat of COVID-19. A doctor explains why it’s best to avoid large crowds and crowded places during a viral pandemic.

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CLEVELAND – The luck of the Irish couldn’t save many Saint Patrick’s Day parades from getting canceled this year, due to the threat of coronavirus, or COVID-19.

But before you head out to find an alternative celebration, experts agree it’s best to avoid large crowds or crowded places.

“We’re trying to use some common sense, that when people are put together in large groups, in small spaces, that when you have an illness that is borne by droplets, by coughing and sneezing, that there’s more chance to spread it among the community if you’re in close quarters,” said Matthew Faiman, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic.

Dr. Faiman said keeping some distance from others is an important part of avoiding community spread of a contagious illness.

As is proper hand-washing – which should be done regularly, with soap and water, for a minimum of 20 seconds.

Dr. Faiman reminds us that it’s not clear when sitting next to someone if they may be becoming ill, or are just getting over being ill, so avoiding crowded public places, for now, is a good idea.

He said experts are working on developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

The hope is, in the future, we can take steps for prevention – much like we do with the flu vaccine.

“We will be able to have a vaccine – that will be, in the future, the best way to prevent illness, compared to necessarily saying keep everyone away from everyone, avoiding social circumstances, concerts, and other places where there are large congregations of people,” said Dr. Faiman.

For people who have a higher risk of becoming infected – the elderly or those with compromised immune systems – Dr. Faiman said it’s a good idea to have a family member or friend help them get the things they need from the store, to minimize their exposure to crowds.

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