The Coronavirus

The Coronavirus

Stay Informed: This is Not a Hoax

S.E. Williams Contributor

Today, the future of the coronavirus (COVID-19) remains uncertain and the U.S. is testing fewer people than almost anywhere else on earth.

As of February 28, 2020, China had reported 78,959 cases of COVID-19 including 2791 deaths. Although China remains the epicenter, the disease continues to spread. By the end of the month there were no less than 4351 cases in 49 countries, 67 people had succumbed to the illness. 

Such continued increase in the number of cases across so many countries in recent days is clearly a matter of concern. 

Symptoms of the virus range from mild to severe fever, cough and shortness of breath that can lead to pneumonia, kidney failure and/or in some instances, death. The virus can kill through something called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). For most people, it starts with a fever and a dry cough, not a runny nose. Most people will have mild disease and get better without needing any special care

COVID-19 is considered more infectious than the flu because it spreads so easily and can be passed like the common cold—it comes from the same family of viruses. 

Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of (coronavirus) COVID-19 to very high at a global level.
– World Health Organization

Currently, there is limited access to test kits in this country to screen for the disease; the White House has put a choke hold on official information regarding the spread of the illness; there appears to be three cases of “community spread”—i.e. someone with the illness with no apparent link to any of the countries where the illness is continuing to spread; and the Commander in Chief and his supporters are referring to the virus’ spread and health dangers as a hoax. 

The disease spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets when they speak, cough or sneeze. The spray, however, only travels about one meter and quickly settles onto nearby surfaces—the exact time the virus remains on the surface is unknown. A meter is a little less than three and a half feet, and this may be a good distance to keep in your interactions until more is known about the illness. Some experts have recommended six feet.  

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness that range from the common cold to more sever diseases such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).    COVID-19 was first reported to the World Health Organization from Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019 and yet, two months later America appears unprepared to respond. 

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom gave an update on the coronavirus in California. One of his most prescient statement was, “This changes quite literally, not figuratively, by the hour.”

According to the governor, California is currently monitoring 8,400 people possibly exposed to the coronavirus but has only 200 kits for diagnosing it—even as the state is operating with a sense of urgency. However, the governor stopped short of a state-of-emergency declaration but noted that could change. 

The governor said the state is working closely with federal officials to expand testing capacity and California should soon receive more (working) test kits from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). 

Health officials in both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties continue to work with the CDC and the California Department of Public Health to respond to reports of COVID-19 as it evolves. To date, no cases have been reported in either county.  

As concerns regarding the spread of the virus continue to escalate, face masks are selling out in many places. State officials do not currently recommend civilians wear masks during their day-to-day activities although masks are critical for health care workers and patients. Regular masks offer little if any real protection. Instead, N95 respirators are high-grade can offer more protection from bacteria and viruses.

With so much uncertainty including a filtering of information from the White House, defective test kits, whistleblower claims that U.S. workers received coronavirus evacuees without proper precautions, and inconsistent and sometimes perplexing statements from the president, are doing little to inspire confidence the nation has a good handle on the potential pandemic and whether or not it is being appropriately managed at a national level. 

According to Tedros Adhanom, Director of the World Health Organization, “[M]ost cases can still be traced to known contacts or clusters of cases. We do not see evidence, as yet, that the virus is spreading freely in communities.” He continued, “As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus, if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients and trace contacts.”

Late last week we learned of possible incidents of “community spread” in California, Oregon, and Washington State, where individuals are potentially diagnosed with the virus who have no travel history or known contact with another case. 

In the meantime, it is important that every citizen does his/her part to keep the virus from spreading. Here are some recommendations:

• Clean your hands regularly with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Touching your face after touching contaminated surfaces or sick people is one of the ways the virus can be transmitted. By cleaning your hands, you can reduce your risk.

• Clean surfaces regularly with disinfectant

• Educate yourself about COVID-19. Make sure your information comes from reliable sources including federal, state and local. In addition, there is a lot of useful and current information available from the World Health Organization https://www.who.int/. 

• Avoid traveling if you have a fever or cough, and if you become sick while on a flight, inform the crew immediately. Once you get home contact a health professional and tell them about where you have been. 

• If you cough or sneeze, do it into your sleeve, or use a tissue. Dispose of the tissue immediately into a closed rubbish bin, and then clean your hands.

• If you are over 60 years old, or if you have an underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, a respiratory condition or diabetes, you have a higher risk of developing severe disease. You may wish to take extra precautions to avoid crowded areas, or places where you might interact with people who are sick.  

• Everyone who feels unwell, stay at home and call your doctor or local health professional. He or she will ask some questions about your symptoms, where you have been and who you have had contact with. This will help assure you get the right advice, are directed to the right health facility, and will prevent you from infecting others.

• If you are sick, stay at home, and eat and sleep separately from your family, use different utensils and cutlery to eat.

• If you develop shortness of breath, call your doctor and seek care immediately.

In an unscheduled press conference on Saturday, February 29, 2020 President Donald J. Trump said, “We are prepared for any circumstance.” He then implored the media and politicians not to incite panic. “There is no need to panic,” he admonished. The president attempted to rebuild his credibility after having called the whole coronavirus situation a hoax. 

After commending himself for restricting travel from China early on as he announced expanded travel restrictions on Iran to include any foreign nationals visiting Iran in last 14 days. The State Department also implemented a Level 4 travel advisory to areas in Italy and South Korea most impacted by the coronavirus. 

During the press briefing Vice President Pence warned, “The risk remains low but this can change rapidly.”

The World Health Organization has a series of educational videos online to inform you about the illness, how it is spreading throughout the world, and what we can do as individuals to protect ourselves and our loved ones https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019.

On Saturday, a woman in the State of Washington became the first American to succumb to the coronavirus. She had not traveled abroad and there was no apparent connection to anyone who had.

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