UCI Health urges extra caution for July 4th gatherings as COVID-19 numbers rise

July 01, 2020
Dr. Susan Huang is medical director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention for UCI Health.
“We understand that people are excited to reconnect, but ensure that any gathering you have is small enough to maintain safe practices between anyone who does not share a home,” said Dr. Susan Huang, medical director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention for UCI Health.

UCI Health infectious diseases experts urge the public to use extra caution over the July 4 holiday weekend as Orange County experiences a significant jump in the COVID-19-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

They recommend:

  • Wearing masks in public places
  • Keeping at least six feet from others
  • Observing hand hygiene
  • Socializing only in small groups, preferably outdoors

“The 4th of July is an important holiday and people want to be able to celebrate. It’s important to be vigilant to protect ourselves and our family, friends, and community from becoming infected and having a poor outcome because of age or pre-existing medical conditions,” said Dr. Susan Huang, medical director of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention for UCI Health.

“Until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, it’s important to remember that we are in a pandemic with rising cases in Orange County and to act accordingly," she added. "Be careful and be safe.”

The number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Orange County has increased dramatically since Memorial Day and Father’s Day weekends, as people ventured out in public and gathered with extended family and others who don’t live in the same household.

On June 29, California Gov. Gavin Newsom added Orange County to a watch list of 19 counties where the novel coronavirus is spreading rapidly. As of June 30, the rate of positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 residents was 9.3%, up from 7% on June 11, according to the state Department of Public Health. By comparison, 8.2% of COVID-19 tests were positive in Los Angeles County, which ordered a shutdown of its beaches for the holiday weekend.

“We understand that people are excited to reconnect, but ensure that any gathering you have is small enough to maintain safe practices between anyone who does not share a home,” said Huang, a professor in the UCI School of Medicine's Division of Infectious Diseases.

“People are underestimating how much six feet really is. If you are eating and your mask is off, six feet of distance is essential for preventing spread of infection. Being outdoors helps keep that distance and provides the benefit of UV light and open air, both of which decrease spread of infection.”

Here are some tips to help you and your loved ones safely celebrate Independence Day:

Celebrate virtually — Consider using Facetime, Zoom or Skype to share a meal and conversation, especially with family members over age 65 or those who are immune-compromised or have other conditions that put them at greater risk of complications from COVID-19.

Limit group size and time — If you do socialize in person, keep the number of people small and the length of time of the gathering limited. The more people you have in close proximity for long periods of time, the greater the risk of exposure and infection.

Dine alfresco — A picnic in the backyard allows you to maintain social distancing. Put out blankets or tables for different households and space them six feet apart. Social distancing is especially important when the masks come off as people eat. Use disposable tableware and make sure the food is served by only one or two people, who are wearing masks and clean their hands immediately before and after serving duties.

Wash or sanitize hands frequently — Have hand sanitizer at the ready if you’re outside and remind people to wash their hands or sanitize before eating or touching their masks.

Wear face coverings or masks — When not eating or drinking, keep your nose and mouth covered.

These practices can help you and others stay safe and prevent the virus' spread. Have a happy 4th of July!

Your health and well-being are important. If you do need emergency care, please be assured that our emergency department observes the most rigorous protections to keep our patients and employees safe. Across all UCI Health locations, we are taking the same extra steps to ensure patient safety, so don’t delay the care you need!

Learn more about COVID-19 and protecting your health ›

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