Everything you and I and Cousin Eddie and Neighbor Nancy and Jane at the Farmer’s Market do over the next few weeks is important. Everything.
All these little decisions are actually life and death, and we need to know that and believe that and act accordingly.
Sometimes I just have to put my nursing cap and my public health degree back on. So here goes, because this is really, really important.
How is COVID-19 different than the seasonal flu?
First and foremost, the word “novel” in front of Coronavirus means that we have never seen anything else like this before. That means that we have no natural immunity against this virus and that if it enters our mucosal membranes, we are highly likely to get infected. In a regular flu season, the strains that are around have been around for some time, in some form or another. Some of us have had them in the past and have built up natural immunity; some of us get vaccinations to protect ourselves. Because of that, we create some “herd immunity;” that means you are less likely to be exposed because so many of us around you are immune.
Some of us reading this—perhaps me—are already infected. In some cases that will mean really mild symptoms, or perhaps none whatsoever. But, whenever we go out in public, we are passing this along whether we want to or not. Remember: the cases in New York started with one family.
The presentation of COVID-19 is different than the flu. Unlike the flu, which hits you like a freight train and lays you low for a few days, COVID-19 often presents very slowly. But, having mild symptoms means you are just as infectious as if you have severe symptoms, and those severe symptoms of respiratory distress often don’t appear for several days to a week.
We who are hoarding gloves and masks and Purell, who feel safe if we are using a scarf to cover our mouths at the grocery store—we are kidding ourselves. Yes, washing hands is vital, being careful is vital. But the number one weapon we have to stop COVID-19 is to stop ourselves and stay at home.
I read today that if every American just stayed at home for the next two weeks, this crisis would be over.
So, I ask you: do you really need that extra trip to the grocery store? Are you missing a vital medication or just a few things that you could really live without and get by? Do you really need to get gas so you can get to your job at the hospital or is it habit to ensure your tank doesn’t go below half full?
We pull together in extraordinary times. Let us finally understand how extraordinary these times are and that our biggest weapon is in the hands of each one of us.
STOP. Take shelter. Protect yourself, your family, your loved ones, your community, your nation, your world. It is nothing less than that.