As the days grow shorter and temperatures drop, we will soon be in the middle of winter in the New York City region, home to hundreds of thousands of 9/11 first responders and survivors whose immune and respiratory systems are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19 – particularly severe cases of the disease.
To protect yourself and your family this season, here are a few key safety precautions to remember:
- Wear a mask in all situations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Whenever you leave home, take along a mask for entering stores and other buildings. Also wear the mask whenever you are near other people – the CDC advises within six feet, even outdoors.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water. No fancy soaps are required, and even dish detergent works just fine. Wash for at least twenty seconds – about the time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- Carry hand sanitizer everywhere. If you touch objects such as doorknobs, subway poles, elevator buttons, or credit card readers (anything anyone else might have touched), apply a generous amount of hand sanitizer immediately. Many stores have sanitizer available if you forget, but bringing your own supply provides additional safety otherwise.
- Avoid large gatherings, especially indoors. Most COVID-19 transmission occurs when someone with an infection breathes in the airspace of other people, infecting them as well. Wearing masks dramatically reduces – but does not eliminate – the risk of infection.
- Encourage other people to wear masks, kindly. Positive reinforcement has enormous benefits. If you carry around an extra mask, you could offer it to someone walking around without a mask. Remind your friends and family that wearing a mask protects the entire community, including 9/11 community members living in our neighborhoods.
- Be careful around the holidays. The arrival of winter means celebrations for Americans of many different faiths and communities. But you want to celebrate with your family next year (and the year after), too. Consider limiting the size of gatherings and socially distancing to the fullest extent possible.
Last year at this time, nobody could have predicted that COVID-19 would have such an enormous impact on our daily lives.
Through the initial fear and uncertainty, then the health care crisis that has killed more than a quarter million Americans and resulted in strict lockdowns, we have persevered as members of the 9/11 community.
Let us never forget the first responders and survivors who are not with us anymore. May their memory encourage us to continue to fight this pandemic together.
Wishing you and yours a safe and healthy holiday season!