As warnings against holiday travel and large gatherings continue this holiday season, the state’s largest advocacy group for physicians has issued several guidelines for staying healthy and safe. The most important is still wearing a mask when in public and at gatherings. President of the Tennessee Medical Association Dr. Kevin Smith recommends using a proper-fitting face mask that fully covers the mouth and nose.
“And the face mask is super important because it catches the virus as it comes out of you and keeps it from going to your loved one or your neighbor,” Smith said. “And so if everybody would wear a face mask, we believe the rates of the coronavirus would decrease significantly.”
The Tennessee Medical Association also is urging residents to refrain from immediate travel during the holidays.
The state set a new record for the most new COVID-19 cases in one day, 11,352, on Sunday.
Smith said Tennesseans should also consider implementing a code of conduct before any gatherings. He said families, congregations and community members should agree on what is acceptable behavior during the pandemic. He said this includes agreements on what events, activities and locations everyone will avoid in order to collectively stay safe.
“When you’re thinking about Christmas and New Year’s and Super Bowl and things like that, if you are going to gather together, in addition to being careful with the other things that we’ve talked about, it’s really helpful if everybody agrees to the same level of safety for the first two weeks before you get together,” he said.
Smith also said now is a good time to get a flu shot, which are readily available from health care providers, including pharmacies, clinics and physicians across the state. He added that an effective COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon.
“And the future is soon. We’re not going to have to deal with this forever. It’s only a few more months,” he said. “Once we get the shots, I think we’ll be back to normal or some sort of normal, by July of next year.” The state’s largest hospitals are expected to receive 56,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine this week. So far, the coronavirus has killed more than 5,000 Tennesseans.