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Tips for Americans from afar on how to keep coronavirus at bay this holiday weekend



Just a few months ago, the coronavirus outbreak in the United States was severe, but it was not such a different picture in Europe. Now, the hard-hit European nations such as Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Spain have got the outbreaks under control while the situation in the United States is still bleak.

There is much to be learned from the affected countries that managed to turn things around, as well as those who were so quick and organized that they all but eradicated the virus.

Here are some tips from abroad on how Americans can move forward.

Don't party like it's 1999

It can be tempting to spend Fourth of July with dozens of friends in a bar or pool, or at a house party. But based on what we know about how the virus spreads, meeting in large groups, especially indoors, can be dangerous.

In South Korea, celebrated for delivering a model response to the virus, the reopening of nightclubs in the capital Seoul led to a spike in cases in May. The city was forced to close all bars and clubs soon after.

The difference is that South Korea had the virus so well controlled, and had such a well-oiled test-and-track system in place, that the authorities were able to get in touch with most concerned and contain the cluster of cases.

In the United States, a sharp increase in the number of cases has also forced closure, but many states do not have enough contact persons in place to ensure the same containment.
We also know, even from US experience, that bars and nightclubs can be a breeding ground for the virus to spread. More than 150 cases are related to a bar in Michigan.

The opening plans have varied from state to state, but by and large America has opened far faster than affected countries in Europe. In the United Kingdom, for example, pubs have only begun to reopen on Saturday, 15 weeks after they were ordered closed, and when the UK's curve apparently flattens out. You can no longer say that about the curve in the US, and bars in many states have long been open.

Arizona closed serving locations on March 20. But when restaurants opened again on May 11, many bar owners in metro Phoenix found a loophole by serving food so they could open again. Essentially, there was only a seven-week closure of bars there, compared to Britain's 15th. Arizona now has one of the nation's most dramatic spikes in business.

So keeping visiting indoors with large crowds this weekend will no doubt help prevent the spread of the virus. In many states, the amount of people is limited to under 100, 50, or even 10, and some have forced rods left.

Wear that mask

There have been many mixed messages about whether wearing a mask protects you from transmitting or catching Covid-19, with the World Health Organization (WHO) initially not recommending the use of facial coatings. In the United States, the case has also been politicized – President Trump is never photographed wearing one, and he has been reluctant to tell Americans about it.
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But the tide is turning. Health experts now largely agree that masks are useful, especially when a virus is widespread in communities. WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommend mask use in public spaces.

Several studies show that the use of facial coatings is effective, but these have not yet been considered as professional-friendly and there is simply no existing data on how successful they have been with this pandemic.

Nevertheless, it has been pointed out time and again that some Asian countries that are more accustomed to respond to infectious respiratory disease have widespread mask use in their populations, a practice that studies have shown helped prevent transmission during the SARS outbreak in 2003. SARS is a respiratory disease also caused by a type of coronavirus.

Outside Asia, Germany was one of the fastest countries to introduce mandatory nationwide mask rescue, while much of the world was still discussing its effectiveness. There are many reasons for Germany's success in keeping death rates low and reducing infections, but at least part of the success has been attributed to the use of facial coatings.

Even Trump's most loyal supporters, including Vice President Mike Pence, are beginning to wear a face coat. Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Thursday ordered most people in the state to mask themselves publicly, as the state is experiencing one of the nation's worst waves of infection. Other states, such as California, have also issued public service announcements encouraging people to use them.

Although the state has not been made mandatory, if you know that there are cases in your community, you can still wear one. There are even easy ways to make them yourself.

Get tested if you think you should do

At the beginning of the outbreak, it was practically impossible to get tested in the United States unless you had been hospitalized. That has changed, and although there may be obstacles, the tests are more accessible than they once were.

President Trump has come up with the false argument that the country should reduce testing to keep the case number down. WHO has reiterated that testing is the key to keeping the virus under control. Places that have had some of the most successful responses – including South Korea, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Australia – have all tested at high speed.

The CDC Council is that if you have symptoms, you should call your doctor and ask if testing is recommended. Even some asymptomatic people should be tested under specific circumstances.

As cases in Florida, for example, White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx urged all Floridians who had been to mass rallies for the past four weeks to be tested, even though they did not show symptoms.

Quarantine when you are asked to do so (and sometimes even when you are not)

Widespread testing goes hand in hand with efficient tracking, tracking and quarantine systems.

The idea is that anyone who has come in contact with a newly infected person will be notified by authorities and asked for quarantine, usually for 14 days. This means that if you have been infected, even if you have no symptoms, you probably won't pass it on to anyone outside your home.

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The United States as a whole is struggling to get enough contact trackers in place to have a effective system in operation, like some other countries, including the United Kingdom. CDC's goal was to have 30 contact trackers for every 100,000 people in the country.

According to Nephron Research, an independent health care research firm that has monitored contact tracking across states, only six states and the District of Columbia have passed that threshold. They are: Utah (37), South Dakota (39), New York (49), North Dakota (46), Nebraska (38), Massachusetts (36) and District of Columbia (42). Every other state is under-served, which means cases are unlikely to be detected.

This is especially true for eight states that are hotspots for Covid-19: Nevada (13), Florida (7), Arizona (5), Idaho (14), Texas (11), Tennessee (9), Georgia (2 )) and South Carolina (8).

If the state has not yet established an effective contact tracking system, there is no reason why you cannot request a test if you suspect you may have come in contact with an infected person.

In the meantime, it may make sense to keep your Fourth of July plans modest, and continue to practice social distance until the United States has the virus in check.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard and Natalie Croker contributed to this report.


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