Our doctor son, Robert, has written an email to us about the novel Corona virus (Covid-19). It contains some good counsel, and, with his permission, I pass it along to you. I send it with prayers for all who suffer from this crisis, whether from anxiety, actual illness, or the stress of taking care of those who are ill.
Dear Mom and Dad (and family),
First of all, please don’t think me panicked or “crazy.” We are in the Lord’s hands, and the hope is that, in a few weeks, the rate of new cases will have slowed. Still, the future is unknowable, and so discretion is the better part of valor… With this in mind, permit me a comment or two encouraging a bit of wisdom and hypervigilance. After all, many of us are “older,” and we have some health conditions to boot.
As you know, the first thing for a people group to try when a threatening virus is identified is containment. In other words, identify those infected and all of their contacts and quarantine them, hoping to keep the disease from becoming widespread.
Containment is no longer possible here. This is because there are so many unexplained cases without recent travel or exposure to someone who is ill that the virus must be considered to have “escaped” into the general population. And there is no “herd immunity” to this virus since it is “new.”
The next strategy therefore is mitigation. That is, trying to avoid a dramatic spike of cases that overwhelms the medical system, causing shortages, for example, of ventilators for the gravely ill. Mitigation not only aims to reduce the height of the spike but also to spread the cases of infection across a longer time span so that needed resources can be cycled into use across time rather than all at once.
Possibly the most powerful means of mitigation is exaggerated hand hygiene. Another is self-imposed social distancing. That means actually staying six feet or more away from others when appropriate, but also avoiding crowds. The incidence curve in a population is really flattened and broadened if the population practices these things. And it is important for young people to practice this even if they feel no personal threat because the disease is routinely so mild for them. Young people who feel fine can spread the virus to their community, parents, and grandparents.
I’m not thinking the situation is all that urgent (at least for the moment) for us who don’t live near a cluster of cases. Don’t let me make you crazy… But it is projected that the number of clusters will increase quickly in the next few weeks. Consider that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife now has the virus. So do Tom Hanks and his wife in Australia. Apparently, there were exchange students who “jumped” / disobeyed quarantine restrictions and spread the virus into the Australian population. And President Trump and Vice-President Pence had dinner a few days ago with a man who has fallen ill. He was sitting right next to President Trump. (The president did get tested, and does not have the virus.)
My point only is that the fewer people we come into contact with, the less likely we are to contract this illness. Obvious measures (which we are already taking, particularly meticulous hand-washing and avoiding touching your face) include:
- No handshaking. Elbow bumps at most.
- Stay six feet or more away from people when possible when out in public.
- Stay away from anyone you see blowing their nose (even though this is not a major symptom of Covid-19) or especially if they are coughing.
- Sanitize carts at stores (if you must go there) and be extremely aware of your hands and where they have been. Sanitize hands very frequently especially when out and about. Probably six times during/after any necessary shopping visit.
- Consider having on hand a week’s worth of canned or frozen food. And, yes, you can easily live on buttered pasta or oatmeal and canned peaches for a few days so no need to empty out the supermarket.
- Consider just staying away from any group activities. That actually includes church! And hospitals and primary care doctor’s offices. How about we ALL move to the basement!
- Humor has a role, even if the gallows variety.
Again, we of all people should not panic, because, to paraphrase the song slightly, “We know who holds the future, and we know who holds our hand.”