By: Alexis BiBlanda
During this time, it can be difficult to feel certain about anything. Our lives aren’t going according to plan, conflicting information is everywhere, and we still don’t know when things will start to become more normal again. The extended shutdowns and stay at home orders across the country have spawned protests in various states including Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Carolina, Utah, New York state and Washington state. These protesters are concerned about the economic consequences of continuing to keep businesses closed and feel that the government is interfering too much in their lives1. While closing businesses and implementing stay at home orders has negatively impacted the economy and the livelihoods of many people, reopening businesses too soon will have a devastating impact on the health of our country and lead to more deaths from the virus.
The virus behind the current outbreak is known as SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes cis called COVID-19. This virus was first observed in Wuhan City, China. Many early cases had links to a seafood and live animal market in the city, but later cases were not linked to this exposure, indicating person to person spread. This virus is a member of the coronavirus family and is similar to the ones that caused outbreaks of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in 2012 2. COVID19 is believed to spread by respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing and between people who are in close contact with each other. People are most contagious when they have symptoms, but infected individuals can spread the disease before symptoms occur. Additionally, some infected individuals do not experience any symptoms3.
However, there are steps that individuals can take to protect themselves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home as much as possible and wearing a cloth face covering when you do need to go out in addition to avoiding crowds and large gatherings. These practices, which are known as social distancing, reduce the number of people who are sick at one time. This prevents hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with a sudden influx of patients. Not touching your face, covering your coughs and sneezes, frequently washing hands in hot water for at least twenty seconds, and regularly cleaning household surfaces are also important.
Practicing social distancing is extremely important and is already reducing the number of new infections in some areas. This is certainly good news, but we haven’t beaten the virus yet. Most people are not immune to COVID19, and some parts of the country are still highly affected. Opening businesses and allowing public gatherings too soon would allow the virus to spread more easily and lead to a second wave of cases. In order to prevent this, as businesses start to reopen we need to identify, test, and isolate all infected individuals and their contacts. This will keep COVID19 from regaining a foothold.
But how will we know when it’s the right time to start reopening? According to the current guidelines from the federal government, a state or region is ready to begin phased opening when they have a downward trajectory of reported influenza-like illnesses, COVID- like syndromic cases, and documented cases for a fourteen day period. The region’s hospitals must also be able to treat all patients without crisis care and have a testing program in place for healthcare workers5. The first three criteria are indicators of reduced transmission and the last two reflect fewer hospitalizations, which can both predict the strain this disease will have on our healthcare systems.
Social distancing is hard, and these strange times have taken a toll on us all. I understand people’s growing discontent, their concerns about the economy and making ends meet while they are unable to work. However, it is critical that we all continue to do our part to stop the spread of this virus by practicing social distancing. Your life and the lives of the people around you depend on it.
1. Yan H. Protests erupt again over coronavirus shelter-in-place orders. Here’s why governors aren’t budging. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/20/us/protests-coronavirus-stay-at-home-orders/index.html. Published April 20, 2020. Accessed April 23, 2020.
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) Situation Summary. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html. Published February 25, 2020. Accessed February 25, 2020.
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Transmission of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html. Published February 17, 2020. Accessed February 25, 2020.
4. READ: White House Guidelines for ‘Opening Up America Again’. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/16/politics/read-guidelines-for-opening-america/index.html. Published April 16, 2020. Accessed April 23, 2020.
5. Londoño E, Ortiz A. Coronavirus Travel Restrictions, Across the Globe. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/article/coronavirus-travel-restrictions.html. Published March 15, 2020. Accessed March 19, 2020.
6. World Health Organization. Updated WHO advice for international traffic in relation to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/ith/2019-nCoV_advice_for_international_traffic/en/. Published January 31, 2020. Accessed February 25, 2020.