The basics — masks, social distancing and handwashing — still best protections against COVID-19, experts say

Though President Trump’s positive coronavirus test has sent shock waves across the nation and around the globe, infectious disease experts say nothing’s changed when it comes to the recommended advice on how to protect yourself from COVID-19.

It comes back to the “three Ws,” says Dan Uslan, MD, co-chief infection prevention officer for UCLA Health. That is:

  • Wearing a mask;
  • Watching your distance;
  • Washing your hands.

“We know that those things work. It’s been proven that they work,” Dr. Uslan says. “And we need to keep doing them, because that’s really the most effective thing we have right now.”

The converse is also true, adds co-chief infection prevention officer Annabelle de St. Maurice, MD, MPH.

“If you’re not following those three things, then you’re likely to get infected,” she says. “There’s nothing really super glamorous about the three Ws, but they work.”

Besides the three Ws, it’s also important to continue to stay home whenever possible and minimize social interactions with people outside of your household, Dr. Uslan says. That’s because it’s possible to spread the virus without knowing you have it.

“By the time somebody tests positive, they’re potentially infectious two days prior to that positive test,” Dr. de St. Maurice says. “So, anyone they were exposed to during those two days before they were tested and before they had symptoms — if they are symptomatic — are exposed and potentially at risk of contracting the virus.”

Testing may help contain outbreaks, she says, but doesn’t really prevent new cases if people spread the virus ahead of getting a positive test result. However, says Dr. Uslan, testing is part of a comprehensive strategy to fight transmission — “which includes wearing masks.” 

At least 208,000 Americans have died of COVID-19, more fatalities than reported anywhere else in the world. The global death toll of the disease is more than 1,024,950.


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