Cooler weather and changing leaves are finally here, and autumn on campus is as beautiful as ever. The one downside: cold and flu season is just ramping up. The common cold has already been sweeping across campus, but we still have a chance to protect our community from the flu. One of the things that makes the flu particularly dangerous is that some of its symptoms overlap with COVID-19. Make sure you’re doing your part to protect yourself from them.
A lot of ways to protect yourself involve doing things the community is already supposed to be doing, as we are still supposed to be taking precautions against COVID-19. Washing your hands remains crucial, as germs can be fought by antibacterial soap. Also good is wiping down surfaces before and after you use them. Wipes are provided in classrooms across campus. Taking advantage of that resource can help remove germs from desks before and after each class. Also, although it is still mandated by Waltham and Brandeis to wear masks indoors, it’s important to keep in mind that while we are wearing masks to prevent COVID-19 infection, it’s adequate to prevent influenza transmission as well.
Another important thing to do is be honest on the Daily Health Assessment. Don’t come to class or any other event sick. We’ve heard people in classrooms sniffling and coughing repeatedly, more so than typical allergies would call for. In that same vein, make sure to always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, even if allergies are the cause. Do not take off your mask to cough or sneeze. Masks will help contain the droplets or particles from your own cough or sneeze, meaning that fewer germs will be available to the general public each time. Additionally, masks help protect you from others’ coughs and sneezes. More protection translates to fewer chances of getting sick or spreading an illness.
We are still in the middle of the pandemic; according to the Center for Disease Control, there are almost twice as many new COVID-19 cases right now than there were a year ago. Except now, everyone is actually out and about, so we will not be able to avoid a flu season as easily as we did last year, when we were all staying home. We need to do our best to keep everyone healthy.
Be mindful when sharing drinks or food with friends; little, seemingly harmless actions like this can lead to illnesses spreading quicker around friend groups. Also, the university has made hand sanitizer readily available for community members at the entrance of most buildings and at the Hoot Market, Usdan and Sherman dining halls. There’s no reason not to use the hand sanitizer provided, especially before entering the dining halls where we all have to touch the serving utensils. Little behaviors like using hand sanitizer and being mindful of your actions can go a long way during the cold and flu season. It also wouldn’t hurt to avoid going to large gatherings, but we realize where we are and the likelihood of that happening.
We also encourage everyone to get their flu shot. We thank Brandeis for hosting flu vaccine clinics from Oct. 4 to Oct. 8. Hopefully, many students and members of the Brandeis community were able to get their vaccine. If you were unable to get your shot, there is still plenty of time. Local pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens provide flu shots to the public. Additionally, if you are worried that you would not be able to afford the vaccine, your student health insurance is able to cover it!
Speaking of shots, those who have taken the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 are eligible to get their booster shots if it has been more than six months since their last shot! Though they were offered at the aforementioned vaccine clinic, they are also offered at both CVS and Walgreens.