Coronavirus COVID-19: Don’t Be An Idiot

1. STAY CALM. For MOST healthy kids and adults, infection with COVID-19 will produce mild to moderate flu-like symptoms (key symptoms are fever, cough, difficulty breathing, aches). There is no treatment at present, but with rest and plenty of fluids, most people seem to recover without incident.

2. ARE YOU AT HIGH-RISK? If you are over 60, or have underlying conditions, especially heart or lung problems, or are immune compromised (or taking immunosuppressive medication), then you should be extra careful — you are in the “high-risk” group. COVID-19 has a significantly higher fatality rate for these individuals.

3. DON’T TURN OFF THE NEWS. Sure, the media tends to get carried away. Reports may seem contradictory at first. One expert says this, another says that. Many programs have pundits or guests talking with authority about COVID-19 who ARE NOT experts at all. The world doesn’t have a lot of experience dealing with outbreaks of this scale, so some chaos is not surprising.

BUT you need to be aware of current reports so that you can take steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Even if you’re not in the high-risk group, odds are you have friends and loved ones who are. ALL of us need to pitch in to ensure that those in the high-risk group avoid infection.

The MAIN THING we need to do together is minimize transmission of the virus. The following points address this concern.

4. DO I NEED TO CANCEL MY TRAVEL PLANS? You should if you’re in the high-risk group. Probably a good idea to cancel if you interact with someone in a high-risk group. If the trip is nonessential or can be rescheduled, that is a good option because it will help minimize spread of the infection.

5. WHY YOU NEED TO COMPLY WITH RECOMMENDATIONS. COVID-19 in the US is just beginning to ramp up and it is becoming clear that our country is grossly ill-prepared for an outbreak of this scale (largely due to chronic underfunding of CDC and NIH). If too many of our healthcare workers become ill around the same time, this could spell disaster for those who need care for ANY medical condition. Moreover, our hospitals could be overwhelmed with patients and there simply isn’t enough rooms, equipment, and staff to handle this. You put those two situations together and we have a very serious problem that affects everyone. Together, we can help prevent this from happening by minimizing the spread of the virus:

If you suspect infection, you should isolate yourself (you should do this for any contagious illness!). Most likely you will recover in a few days. If you are in the high-risk group and suspect infection, you should contact your doctor or hospital right away for a test.

Review the CDC website for the most accurate, up-to-date information.

6. WHAT ABOUT SCHOOL, CHURCH, AND LARGE MEETINGS? Tougher to call. If no reported cases, most schools and business are remaining open. Don’t be surprised if one case closes a school — this is already happening, so be prepared for it. Some universities have already ceased face-to-face classes as a precaution. General rule: the larger the group and tighter the quarters, the higher the risk of infection. Most large conferences are being cancelled. Smaller group meetings in areas with no reported cases with no one showing symptoms, probably okay, but follow recommended practices of hand washing, not touching your face, avoiding handshakes, keeping your distance, etc.

UPDATE (3/22/2020): As COVID-19 escalates, people are strongly encouraged (or required) to “shelter in place,” which means to stay at home as much as possible. Conduct all business, school, and meetings virtually from home.

This is not Obama’s fault. It’s not Trump’s fault. It is not China’s fault. It is not the work of mad scientist. It is the fault of a naturally occurring virus — blame Mother Nature. That said, scream at your representatives to increase funding for biomedical research and outbreak surveillance so that we are better prepared.

Listen to the experts, not those pretending to be experts.

It is not a hoax. It is not “just a flu.” Sure, you can list other things that kill more people, but that does not negate the severity of COVID-19. Thousands have died and many more will die from this infection. Be sensitive to that fact.

Anyone who says they know what is going to happen knows a lot less than they think.

You do not have super immunity: you need to listen and do what experts recommend. If you are sick, avoid interacting with others.

You can’t prevent or beat this with herbs, magic crystals, magnets, mega-vitamins, or goop.

The economy will recover. Thousands of people will not. We need to worry about saving lives right now more than saving money.


Bill Sullivan is the author of “Pleased to Meet Me: Genes, Germs, and the Curious Forces That Make Us Who We Are” (National Geographic Books).

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