Q&A with Dr. Bratzler
As we mark the midway point of the fall semester, OU’s Chief COVID Officer, Dr. Dale Bratzler, answers some of the most common questions about the virus and what we can expect over the next few weeks.
What do we need to know about the current COVID-19 situation in Oklahoma?
Oklahoma is far from being done with COVID-19. Statewide, we are at a new peak in the pandemic – we are seeing just under 1,200 new cases a day in the state. We cannot let our guard down. This is not over yet.
The incidence of new cases of COVID-19 in the state’s rural counties is actually higher than our three largest metropolitan areas (Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Norman). COVID-19 has become a rural disease here in Oklahoma and in many areas across the country.
We’re halfway through the fall semester. What are some of the things we’ve done “right” as a university community with respect to COVID-19?
The university has implemented extensive safeguards to keep students, faculty and staff safe. Our required masking, social distancing protocols and enhanced cleaning measures have made our classrooms among the safest places we can be. On the Norman campus, the voluntary surveillance testing and wastewater sampling allow us to closely monitor and more quickly intercept asymptomatic infections.
What health precautions do we need to keep taking?
This infection is primarily transmitted when people are close to others, particularly in settings where masks are not being worn. So, masking, avoiding crowds – particularly indoors – maintaining physical distancing and doing frequent hand hygiene are the best ways to protect yourself and those around you.
Now that we’re entering cold and flu season, taking these precautions has never been more important. The combined impact of influenza and COVID-19 spread could be incredibly detrimental to our campus and the surrounding community.
Where is the virus most likely to be transmitted?
We’ve learned there are certain places where transmission is most common. Home is still high on the list if there is an infected person living or visiting there. Other places where the virus is easily spread include bars, gyms, restaurants, places of worship and any setting that you have groups of people in an indoor setting and not wearing masks.
With holiday gathering season quickly approaching, what precautions should we take?
As you travel for the holidays, you may be going to areas that have higher rates of transmission of COVID-19, and areas that do not have safeguards such as mask ordinances. Take the personal responsibility to protect yourself and the people around you. Model good practices by wearing a mask in any public setting. Avoid large crowds and attempt to maintain physical distancing at all times. Help those around you understand the impact of this disease and the reasons to practice those important public health measures to slow the spread of this disease (wash your hands, wear your mask, watch your distance). If you are taking any form of public transportation such as a bus, train or plane, be sure you wear your mask from the moment you arrive at the transportation departure point until you leave the arrival hub.
Should students get tested for COVID-19 before traveling home for the holidays?
We will be encouraging students to seek a free COVID test before they go home. Young people with this infection are often asymptomatic, but could transmit the infection to their parents, grandparents, siblings and others. If a student tests positive, they need to be in isolation and not directly interact with their family members for at least 10 days after a positive test.
Should I get a regular flu shot?
Yes. Influenza (the flu) is another respiratory virus that is transmitted from person-to-person similar to the way that the virus that causes COVID-19 is spread. There is considerable overlap in the symptoms of influenza and COVID-19, and it is possible to be infected with both viruses at the same time. Getting the annual influenza vaccine can reduce your risk of getting the flu and protect you from the complications of being co-infected with the COVID-19 virus. You should get your flu shot now, as it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. Make plans to get vaccinated early in fall, before flu season begins.
Article Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2020