Social distancing, Quarantine, Shelter-in-place – These are all new word and terms now swirling through our daily conversation, and influencing our activity. With the increase in cases as of March 26th, the US is now seeing both the most new and largest total number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) of infections in the world. We are seeing a steady spread from urban centers across the US. Here in NC, state health officials expect a peak level to reach us by mid-April. Everyone in the US must join the effort to control this pandemic.
Why is social distancing so important?
First, we know that “the flu” (influenza virus) is spread with a cough or sneeze from one person to an average of 1.3 people around them. The average means that some infect two, others infect one, but it all balances out to 1.4. So, if each person passes it to on an average 1.3 others repeated across 10 different people that would mean approximately 14 new cases of flu.
In COVID19, we are noting that roughly three people can be infected around any one person who does the same sneezing or coughing. This may not seem like much of a difference, but if three passed it to three, who all passed it to three, across 10 different repeats, that would be 59,000 new cases of Coronavirus. It is this rapid spread that is affecting densely populated areas like NYC so hard.
Second, we know that we must wait about 10-14 days after beginning shelter-in-place before we can determine what kind of spread happened prior to starting the sheltering in place. This is because, on average, the incubation time, meaning the amount of time the virus is replicating in a person before they feel any symptoms, is about that length. So even if one does start to feel sick, they’ve been potentially spreading it for almost two weeks before.
Third, I urge us to remember that even though other diseases, accidents like car crashes, etc., are more dangerous per person than this new virus, those things are still occurring! Our healthcare workers now much bear the burden of a new challenge, on top of all that they normally face now. If we let Coronavirus spread across the US as is has in China, Italy, Spain, and now New York, the US healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
I hope this message lets you feel empowered in your ability to help protect the America we value. Coronavirus knows no class, race, gender, or political party. This is the time to feel unified in our sacrifice of our daily routines for the good of our community. I hope we can feel strength and understanding that is bigger than the struggle to avoid what feels normal. It is much easier to pretend that you or I don’t make a difference, but we do. We are all in this together, and the sooner we reduce the spread, the sooner we can go back to the daily lives we all miss so dearly.