It’s time to Break It Down!
As I start this post it is with the purest intent to keep it brief. First of all because I am not a doctor, and certainly no expert on this or any other strain of virus. Second, because there is probably very little that I will say that you haven’t heard before. Just maybe, you have not heard or seen it all in one place.
Why then, am I writing about it, you might legitimately inquire? I’m writing about it because I think it’s an important topic, and if I can convey that to even one person, it will have been worth the effort.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) is part of a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, the viruses typically result in respiratory tract infections. As a group, the viruses were discovered in the 1960’s, and include SARS and MERS, as examples. COVID-19, the currently active strain, was first identified in Wuhan, China on December 31, 2019, after having been cited as the source of a pneumonia outbreak in the area. To that end, basically, COVID-19 is shorthand for Coronavirus Disease, the 2019 version.
Over the past three months, the Coronavirus, as its commonly called, has been identified in a number of countries outside China, including Japan, Italy, and most notably, for most of us, here in America, the United States. Yesterday, CNN medical experts upgraded the description of the virus to the level of pandemic.
Now, before going any further, take a deep breath. Characterizing the way the disease is spreading as a pandemic, does not mean you should expect to die. At least not from the Coronavirus. It does mean you should take appropriate precautions.
Here is a Wikipedia summary description of pandemic:
A pandemic (from Greek πᾶν pan “all” and δῆμος demos “people”) is an epidemic of disease that has spread across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or worldwide. A widespread endemicdisease that is stable in terms of how many people are getting sick from it is not a pandemic. Further, flu pandemics generally exclude recurrences of seasonal flu. Throughout history, there have been a number of pandemics, such as smallpox and tuberculosis. One of the most devastating pandemics was the Black Death, which killed an estimated 75–200 million people in the 14th century. The only two current pandemics are HIV/AIDS and Coronavirus disease 2019. Other recent pandemics are the 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish flu) and the 2009 flu pandemic (H1N1).
Note that pandemics have come and gone, and most of us who were alive at the time survived. Coronavirus should be no exception to that trend. At the outset, it’s important to know a few key elements regarding COVID-19. According to the White House Coronavirus Task Force:
- Older people and people with chronic diseases are a higher risk
- The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus
- Wash your hands often
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick
- Put distance between yourself and other people
- Stay home if you are sick
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, or use the inside of your elbow
- Throw used tissues in the trash
- When washing hands do so for at least 20 seconds, preferably with soap and water
- If you are sick, wear a face mask
- You do not need a face mask if you are not sick, unless you are caring for someone who is sick
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
- The principal symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath
There are people who believe, and others who claim to believe, reaction to Coronavirus is overblown. My first thought in reaction to such bravado is prototypical bromide, straight from mother wit; better safe than sorry.
Case in point:
One day Congressman Matt Gaetz is mocking the hoopla over Coronavirus by wearing a gas mask. The next thing I hear is that one of his constituents died from it. That was followed shortly by news of the Congressman self-quarantining himself, because of…you guessed it, COVID-19. It’s not for me to say whether The Honorable Mr. Gaetz was just too cute for his own good; I’ll let karma speak to that. What I will say is, in all you do, think before you do, act responsibly, proceed sensibly, and use restraint and common sense. It may be hard to do, but more often than not, it will inure to your favor.
Governments and business of all ilks, including airlines, sports franchises, conference planners, schools, universities, houses of worship and of course hospitals and medical practices are devising special circumstance behaviors to deal with the fallout from this pandemic. Last week, Wall Street temporarily halted trading. Even Mr. Trump has formed a task force (referenced previously), so you know it’s got to be, for real, for real! We are at the point where nearly all the market gains for the entire year were wiped out in a matter of days. This virus is real, and it is really serious.
The total number of COVID-19 cases worldwide neared 120,000 by this morning, with more than 80K in China, and more than 10K in Italy. In Iran and South Korea around 8K confirmed cases have been reported, and other nations are suggesting they will reach similar levels soon.
Across the United States, there are now more than 1,000 reported cases of the virus. At least 19 states have declared a state of emergency; yesterday these included Colorado, North Carolina and Michigan, the latter reporting its first two cases.
The COVID-19 virus in the U.S. has spread to at least 35 states, according to the latest reporting from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with more deaths in Washington state and California. As of yesterday, 26 Americans had died from the virus.
To place this in context, by contrast last year, 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. The annual death toll from the Flu in the U.S. ranges from 27,000 to 70,000. As you can see, we are not even in the ball park. Our collective challenge is to make sure we are working proactively to keep it that way!
I started this post by conceding that I am by no means an expert in this field, and/or on this subject. I certainly didn’t become one over the course of a thousand words. So, in conclusion, I invite you to seek the counsel of individuals versed on the matter before you stake out a course of action. Whatever you do, just remember I told you right here in this post…”Coronavirus: The Next Big Thing!”
I’m done; holla back!
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