April 26, 2020

San Luis Obispo County data indicates we are ready for a phased in reopening. As a retired nurse, who specialized in infection prevention and control for more than three decades, I support our County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Penny Borenstein and Wade Horton’s science based position.

This reopening should occur in phases, allowing public health experts to monitor the data, look for trends and patterns, conduct contact tracing and implement control measures if indicated.

Herd immunity and the development and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine is a long way off. Meanwhile, the public needs to understand and use basic epidemiological principles to minimize the spread of infection.

The basic principles of controlling  and preventing the spread of an infectious condition is containment. Very simply put, the source patient is isolated. Those who come into contact with the infectious patient need to wear personal protective apparel. The appropriate apparel to avoid exposure is based on the mode of transmission. Upon exiting the isolation area, one removes the contaminated apparel, and performs hand hygiene.

Not everyone follows good basic practices routinely. Not everyone has signs and symptoms of infection. The recent Stanford study suggested up to 30 percent of people in Santa Clara have a history of COVID-19. We have all seen people who cough and sneeze into the air or their hands and then proceed to contaminate environmental surfaces. This is why we are being asked to mask, perform hand hygiene and socially distance to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Learn to wear your mask covering your both your nose and mouth. Consider it contaminated after you use it. Once you remove your mask, throughly wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. Learn to avoid touching your face, your eyes, nose and mouth, these are portals of entry for infection.

Hopefully, with all the public health education that has occurred during this time of sheltering-at-home, the general public has learned the basic principles of containment. Routinely one must cover coughs, wash hands thoroughly, and avoid touching one’s own eyes, nose and mouth.

If you are ill, stay home.

The next time you get the common cold, ask yourself where you failed to follow these practices of good respiratory and hand hygiene.

These are the basic principles of preventing and controlling infections and they are effective. For all my decades of working in healthcare, I never acquired an infectious condition from a patient.

By following these techniques more businesses can be opened to the public. During this pandemic, we have become accustomed to certain essential businesses being open, such as grocery stores and pharmacies. Stores provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes before you handle the grocery cart, remind you to wear a mask to socially distance. Many stores allow a limited number of customers to enter the store to accommodate the need for social distancing. Some stores have designated one-way directional aisles to promote 6 foot spacing between customers.

Given the practice of masking, social distancing and hand hygiene, it would seem reasonable that many other business can be opened, limiting the number of customers to allow for social distancing.

Linda Becker RN, BSN, MPH, moved to Paso Robles from Redlands in 2010.