COVID-19 is coming to the US… what should you be doing?

Updated: Feb 27

I’ve said this before but the absolute first step is to avoid panicking! The new coronavirus, or COVID-19, still has a lot of unknowns but the good news is that it is mild in about 80% of patients.

Let’s start with the facts (keep in mind these facts are constantly changing as we get new information regarding the outbreak and characteristics of the virus itself.

  • COVID-19 emerged in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China.

  • The known cases of infection globally are currently totaling around 80,000 – the actual number is likely much higher.

  • About 80% of cases are mild.

  • Almost 3000 deaths have been attributed to this virus.

  • It is estimated that the death rate with this virus is around 2%.

  • Those who do unfortunately succumb to the virus are typically the elderly or those with chronic health conditions.

  • There is community spread in numerous countries now including Italy, Iran, Germany, South Korea, Japan and others.

  • There are 57 people currently in the US with confirmed cases, thousands more are being monitored or are in quarantine either at home or on military bases.

  • The virus is not believed to be currently spreading in the US as all confirmed cases have so far been contained.

The CDC is stating that we should expect “significant disruptions” to our everyday life – so what does this mean? Just like when there a major flu outbreaks schools sometimes shut down, non-essential workers are asked to stay home and major events may be cancelled – this will probably happen with COVID-19. This is an effort called “social distancing,” the idea is to limit social interaction to slow the spread of the virus.

Once community spread is occurring in the US, you should follow the advice of the CDC and state health departments. This will likely be to stay home if you feel ill, avoid unnecessary social interaction and practice good basic hygiene – hand washing. While a recommendation to wash your hands may sound silly and even a little insulting, it truly is the best way to prevent infection, and you’d be surprised how many people do not wash their hands regularly. If you do feel ill, don’t immediately rush to an ER or Urgent Care – these facilities will likely be overwhelmed and if you don’t have the virus you will likely be exposing yourself to it anyways. If you feel ill, call your primary doctor and ask what they suggest you do – they may say to come in to confirm the diagnosis or if the virus is very widespread they may just tell you to stay home and call again if you feel worse. If you feel ill and are having difficulty breathing or it feels significantly worse than a mild cold/flu then seek medical attention right away.

What should you do NOW? Talk to your employer, your kids’ school or daycare and your family. Come up with a plan for childcare if school will be closing, find out if your employer will allow you to work from home. Just having these discussions can help you and your family feel more prepared and safe. If you have elderly or ill family members come up with a plan to minimize their contact with others – do their grocery shopping, cancel unnecessary activities and even if you are not ill, wash your hands frequently when you visit!

Last updated 2/26/2020 4:30PM

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