Ask An Expert: Bobbie Bratton, UNTHSC

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Bobbie Bratton, UNTHSCUNT System HR brings you UNT World experts with this periodic and always timely installation called "Ask An Expert." So, let's ask...

EXPERT: Bobbie Bratton, Clinical Executive, SaferCare Texas, UNT Health Science Center, is a board certified family nurse practitioner with 25 years of nursing experience and over 19 years of advanced practice. Her goal is to provide patients with guidance and leadership toward health decisions that are safe and promote improved quality of life. And that's why we sought her out -- to provide clear and honest guidance in making critical health decisions for ourselves and our families as the Delta variant surge has again heightened our level of concern and forced us to reevaluate our behavior. Especially now, as students of all ages return to school, and school districts, cities, counties, politicians, judges and high courts issue various mandates and bans on mandates, we need clear-headed, practical, science-based facts and advice. Thank you, Bobbie Bratton, for being our Expert, our voice of calm and reason during a difficult and confusing time. Please click the button below to read on.


What is safe and isn’t safe since Delta variant is a real game changer?
The recent surge of COVID cases due to Delta variant presents a challenge as campuses across the country reopen for the fall semester. During this surge, it is important for individuals to be mindful of what they can do to support efforts to stay fully open such as: continuing to practice good hand hygiene, continuing to use proper cough/sneeze etiquette, frequently disinfect common spaces and high-traffic areas, practicing social distancing especially in indoor public areas, staying home when sick, assessing for symptoms before leaving home, following the CDC’s guidance on mask wearing and strongly considering vaccination, if eligible. I think everyone would agree the overall goal is to find a way to safely resume our “normal” way of life including work, school, church, sports and community. As we have seen over the past year, that very well could mean that safety measures will likely ebb and flow, being less strict during seasons when cases are low and stricter during times of surge. Earlier this year, we transitioned to a less restrictive environment, however, each of us is responsible for being aware of the risks and benefits of our behaviors and to make responsible choices for our own well-being as well as the well-being of others in our community. 

How should professors proceed in the classroom? Should they wear a mask? 
The CDC guidelines currently state to maximize protection from the Delta variant and prevent possible spreading to others. Fully vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in public if in an area of substantial or high transmission. Classroom settings vary and may be set up to offer protective alternatives such as safe distancing or the use of plexiglass barriers, etc. Professors and students are encouraged to look at their personal health status, what their daily routine looks like, what their exposure risks are and make appropriate decisions to protect themselves.  

Even if vaccinated, should I wear a mask to crowded outdoor events such as concerts or the State Fair? Are outdoor events safe to attend considering the high level of transmission? 
A good rule of thumb for any outdoor event, regardless of vaccination status, is to "know before you go." Check the event venue website for considerations such as: seating charts or spacings on lawn, the type of restroom facilities available and sanitation practices, available food services, any COVID related requirements, e.g., mask requirements, vaccination, or testing requirements. The CDC guidelines state that wearing a mask in outdoor settings may be recommended in some scenarios. Finally, consult with your personal healthcare provider to help determine what measures offer appropriate protection for you based on your personal health history. 

Is indoor dining safe? If I dine indoors should I wear a mask?
Some important things to consider before going for an indoor dining event include: restaurant staff wears masks, seating that promotes safe social distancing and restaurant hygiene practices. During the current surge, it may be a good idea to consider opting for patio seating. While not all measures may be in place, the important thing is to be knowledgeable about what the exposure risk level is and make decisions based on personal health and personal comfort level with those risks. While choosing to wear a mask is a personal decision, it does impact others. It is important to remember that not only does the mask protect you but it also protects others, including restaurant staff who are trying to safely earn a living and take care of themselves and their families.

How do I verify a disinfectant actually works against the COVID-19 virus?
The CDC website offers great information on proper disinfection practices and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifications of products that are available for use. This link is a user-friendly guideline for cleaning and disinfecting while reinforcing the importance of using products properly for effectiveness and health safety.

U.S. EPA - Cleaning and Disinfecting Best Practices During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Why should I seek a medical evaluation for my symptoms when I can get a COVID-19 test done on my own?
Common symptoms of COVID-19 infection include: fever or chills, cough, fatigue, body aches, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing. A person who is ill may experience all, few, or no symptoms. These common symptoms are also very common for other respiratory issues such as seasonal allergies, common cold, influenza, strep or other respiratory infections. Getting evaluated by a medical provider will help you reach an accurate diagnosis and it will help you get the medications and treatments you need for effective recovery. In the event that you are ill with a respiratory infection that is not COVID-19, your medical provider may be able to help you return to normal activities sooner than if you prolong your medical evaluation or do not get one at all. This can mean decreased loss of time away from work, school and other important activities. 

Helpful information: