Thoughts on COVID-19 and How to Stay Safe
The recent headlines and our social media feeds have been dominated with news about the coronavirus (officially called SARS-2-CoV) causing COVID-19 illnesses in one country after another. Since it has already spread from Wuhan, China to Europe and now the United States, I believe it is safe to say that we are in the beginning stages of a global pandemic.
Admittedly, it’s been hard to make sense of this coronavirus. There’s a lot we don’t understand about it. There seems to be two schools of thought about COVID-19. First, we see all these proclamations about the influenza virus killing far more people than the coronavirus ever has, and therefore, the flu is the bigger danger, especially to the elderly or those with weaker immune systems.
On the other hand, the SARS-2-CoV is a new virus for which we have no immunity and that so far, it has a mortality rate somewhere between 1% and 5%, at least ten to fifty times the mortality rate of the flu (0.1%).
First, I must preface this with a disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nor a virologist. Please refer to the CDC or the WHO for the latest official information, and talk to your doctor for qualified medical advice.
Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, my personal thinking is somewhere between the two schools of thought.
My completely unqualified opinion is that I don’t think it is as bad as some people are making it out to be (like the second round of the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 50 million in a world with a much lower population and lower cross-border mobility).
However, I do think it presents a bigger threat than the seasonal flu – not just in terms of mortality rates, but also in terms of the healthcare infrastructure with a limited number of hospital beds. In the more serious cases, people with COVID-19 may develop pneumonia and require hospitalization. If a bigger portion of the population requires hospitalization from COVID-19 than the seasonal flu, our healthcare system can easily get overwhelmed and many people will be left without the care they need.
We just don’t know at this point.
However, in the meantime, there is a lot we can do to protect ourselves and support our immune systems.
SEVEN TIPS ON HOW TO PROTECT OURSELVES
Below are some tips I would like to give to our families, friends, clients, and independent contractors on how to stay safe from the coronavirus.
There’s no doubt that we’ve heard tips such as washing hands with soap, using hand sanitizers, covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue (and putting it in the trash immediately afterward), but these tips cannot be repeated too many times.
1. Use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol
Viruses can stay alive on hard surfaces for hours or even days. This is especially true on surfaces frequently touched by many people, such as doorknobs, sink faucets, staircase rails, and even cash! Anytime you touch these surfaces, use a few drops of hand sanitizer and rub your hands together to kill any virus you might have picked up.
Hand sanitizers should have at least 60% alcohol content, but less than 90%, for them to be effective.
2. Don’t touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth
Easier said than done, I know. I struggle with this, too. But our hands have all kinds of microbes on them at all times, and when we touch our faces, we transfer these microbes to our nose, eyes, and mouth. This gives bacteria and viruses a chance to enter our bodies and cause infection.
Therefore, the less we touch our faces, the less chance for infection.
3. Wash hands with soap for at least 20 seconds
Many of us do wash our hands, but don’t do it long enough or rigorously enough. Let’s face it, lots of us have poor hand-washing habits. Some of us don’t even use soap. Just running water over our hands for a few seconds won’t cut it.
Instead, taking at least 20 seconds to rub our hands with soap and warm water will greatly reduce the chance of transferring pathogens to your body. If the soap lathers in your hands, you’re likely doing it correctly.
4. Disinfect frequently used surfaces
Surfaces such as laptops, iPhones, glasses, and utensils get touched frequently. We don’t give a lot of thought to smartphones and iPads, but they are full of viruses and bacteria. The good news is that most pathogens on these surfaces are harmless.
However, viruses such as the flu and SARS-2-CoV can survive on these surfaces well. Plus, using hand sanitizer or washing your hands won’t protect you from a dirty iPhone or spoon.
So don’t forget to disinfect these first, and then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. This also applies after you cough or sneeze (cover those up with a tissue and toss it in the trash after!).
5. Postpone or avoid nonessential travel
If you have planned travel to the current hot spots experiencing outbreaks (including China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, and Japan at this time of writing), it may be best to cancel or postpone those trips. Some airlines will be happy to accommodate you, especially if there is a government travel warning on those countries.
But we’re not just talking about traveling in outbreak hot spots. Public transportation hubs, airports, and train stations are actually high-risk places to be even if you’re in an area where there are few or no confirmed cases. This virus always seems to stay ahead of confirmed reports, especially COVID-19 with an asymptomatic incubation period of up to 14 days. Anyone infected with the virus may still spread it at an airport or a busy public transportation hub, infecting dozens of others without anyone realizing.
Best to keep away from these high-risk hubs, as well as any major events or crowded areas.
6. Telecommute with online meetings
Another thing we can do to protect ourselves is to stay home, avoid crowded areas, and work from home. I’m a big proponent of working from home, since it reduces traffic, emissions, and energy use. And yet, the pandemic is yet another reason to work from home to protect from getting infected and subsequently infecting your family.
Instead of having in-person meetings at the office, arrange meetings using teleconferencing tools like Zoom or Skype for Business.
7. Eat healthy and get plenty of sleep
Finally, eating healthy (more fruits and vegetables, less processed foods) and getting at least 8 hours of sleep every night helps make sure our immune system is functioning properly. When our immune system is functioning properly, we have a greater ability to fight off pathogens, reducing the chance for hospitalization or worse.
The reality is that we’re probably not getting enough sleep, we’re probably not eating well enough, and our immune systems are compromised one way or another. To prepare what may be coming, we should take the chance to clean up our diet and get as much sleep as we can, so our bodies have the ability to fight off COVID-19 if we do get infected.
Stay healthy everyone!