Coronavirus – OK, now we get serious
As many of my readers know, I am in rural Arkansas. My last coronavirous post about worrying was written with my Arkansas followers in mind. I explained what a virus is and how it works, the difference between the flu and COVID19, etc.
At that time, one lousy week ago, Italy and Germany were in a bad way from COVID 19 infection. Lots of US major sporting events were being cancelled. And we just had a clue, a clue, things were not going well in New York City.
Arkansas had just gotten its first, its very first case of COVID19. My warning was, “Now it starts.” And sure enough, it has.
Yesterday, exactly one week later, all college and professional sport seasons are cancelled. New York City and some other areas are in lock down in a desperate effort to gain control of COVID 19 infection, hospitalizations, and death. You can see how quickly things have changed.
Arkansas had 118 cases. Montgomery County still has none. But its only a matter of time.
Why am I so sure? Because the COVID19 virus is highly contagious and respiratory in nature, entering your body through the nose and mouth. You catch it from infected people or surfaces around you.
You often can’t tell that the person has it and they may not know it either. It’s easy when they are sneezing, coughing, and clearly sick. But for up to 14 days before symptoms start, a COVID19 infected person is “shedding” virus wherever they go. This is called the incubation period.
I copied this from Facebook to show you how this works.
- Karen got infected yesterday but she won’t know until up to 14 days later, when her incubation period will be over.
- Karen thinks she’s healthy and is infecting ten people per day.
- Those 10 people think they are ok. They travel, go out and infect 100 people
- Those 100 people think they are healthy and are infecting 1000 people, ten people apiece.
- No one know who is ok or who can infect you. See the problem?
The way to avoid that level of infection is to keep separation between people. It is impossible to stay away from other people if you are in a crowd.
Step one in protecting the community from COVID19 is limiting crowds.
Everywhere in this county, public or private, most operations like banks usually marked by groups of people are restricting public entry and many employees are working from home. That includes the nursing home/assisted living center, county offices, the Chamber of Commerce visitors center. Lots of business being done by phone or on-line.
Many churches are holding services on Facebook, the internet, even drive-thru. The Mount Ida Pharmacy is delivering prescriptions to the pharmacy door for pick up.
Schools are out. Events like the Ouachita Challenge, Warm Hearts fish fry, Master Gardener Plant sale (just as examples) are cancelled or postponed. Many personal service businesses like Turtle Cove Spa and some beauty shops are closed. Restaurants are limited to takeout only.
Voila’ no crowds – at least we hope…
Who actually gets sick
The good news is that healthy people including most children who are infected (many of whom won’t even get symptoms) will develop antibodies to the virus, protecting themselves at least for a while from future infection. This could be up to 80% of infected people.
The bad news is old people and any unhealthy people (regardless of age) with underlying health conditions like autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension – the other 20% – can get very sick and some will die. The problem is, this 20% may well get the virus from the 80%. We are a mixed population.
How do we treat the 20%
The 20% may require intensive care in a hospital.
It only takes a few extra patients in the intensive care unit of a hospital to overwhelm the system. From the medical system perspective anything we can do to slow down infections helps assure that the hospital can take care of the 20%. New York, California, and Washington are examples of overwhelmed medical systems.
Step two is your job
After avoiding crowds it is up to you to protect yourself and anybody around you. Minimize close contact with others.
- Wash your hands vigorously for 20 seconds with soap and water, making sure to get soap into every nook and cranny including under your nails. Do this as often as possible and for sure after touching any public area or another person.
Both the Covid 19 and flu viruses have a fat layer that protects the virus. Nothing beats soap and water for breaking down that layer, allowing the virus to come apart and disappear.
- Do your best to keep your hands away from your face. That virus is looking for a track into your nose or mouth. Not breathing is the best but will kill you for sure.
- Keep your symptoms to yourself. Coughing, sneezing, etc. on others should be avoided because you are spewing a virus around to others. If you have symptoms, put yourself in isolation at home.
- Avoid shaking hands, hugging, kissing, sharing drinks. I know you don’t like that. Neither do I. But its necessary.
- If you are older than 65 or have underlying health conditions stay home and limit excursions outside to necessities like grocery shopping.
What to do if you are sick
- If you have symptoms of any kind call your personal doctor or the following hotline. They will ask questions, assess your situation and tell you what to do. In Arkansas that number is 800-803-7847.
- DO NOT go to the doctor’s office or the emergency room without taking step 1 unless its life or death. Remember, we want to keep any unnecessary pressure off of the medical system. And beside, those people at the hospital are sick.
- Do what the hot line tells you to do. If those directions tell you to go home and stay there, do exactly that. If they say go to the hospital, then go.
- About half of the population will probably not get the infection at all. Having COVID 19 will not be an issue for about 80% of those infected. In fact, having the flu is not an issue for the majority of people. But, as I said above, you are in a mixed population of varying susceptibility.
Don’t be like Karen. Act like you have the virus and don’t want to give it away.