You’re Not ‘Stuck at Home,’ You’re ‘Safe at Home’
No, ingesting bleach, Lysol, hydrogen peroxide, or any other disinfectant will not kill the coronavirus in the body (but it will kill you). Nor will spraying these substances on your skin. Nor will cocaine, colloidal silver, Neosporin, or any of the other wild “cures” you’ve heard about in the last few weeks.
What will? Actually, there are no known treatments for those unfortunate enough to contract COVID-19, although science is working frantically to find some. To date, the best protection is not becoming infected in the first place, and the best way to do that is to stay home.
Our family practice doctors understand that the sudden shift in lifestyles due to the coronavirus restrictions are making many people restless, depressed, and anxious; they feel trapped in their homes as outings they used to take for granted are—for now, anyway—unavailable to them. Then of course, is the incredible economic pain of those who have lost their jobs or businesses.
But perhaps it will help if we think of our sacrifices as being our contribution to the general welfare. Because COVID-19 is not only deadly, it is remarkably contagious.
How COVID-19 is transmitted
We have cautioned you from the beginning not to panic or become unduly alarmed by the possibility of contracting the coronavirus, but to take sensible precautions.
Although there is much we still don’t know about COVID-19, we do know this: Its primary mode of transmission is through droplets in the air, left by humans who have coughed, sneezed, talked, or even breathed in the area surrounding them. This so-called “puff cloud” can then infect the mucus membranes of others who encounter it, either through their nose, mouth, or eyes.
Eventually, these droplets land on surrounding surfaces, which can then be picked up by others and transferred to their nose, mouth, or eyes.
One of the most unusual aspects of this virus is the fact that people can be infected without showing symptoms, but can still infect others. Two new studies released Friday show the extent to which this can happen.
One study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Washington State, tested residents at an unnamed nursing home in Seattle-King County. It found that more than half tested positive for COVID-19, but had no symptoms at the time. Of that group, 56 percent went on to develop symptoms.
Another antibody testing study of 1,800 random people in Miami-Dade County found that about six percent of those studied tested positive for the virus. The researchers, from Miami-Dade County and the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, extrapolated from that figure to the county at large and estimated that as many as 165,000 residents have currently been infected.
That number is far lower than the 10,701 figure reported by the Florida Department of Health, which means that the actual rate of infection could be as much as 16 times higher than actually thought.
These findings correlate with other studies conducted elsewhere, including Boston and Iceland, prompting Miami Mayor Carols Gimenez to caution against reopening the economy too soon or relaxing social distancing guidelines before the virus is clearly under control.
“Identifying the number of asymptomatic individuals is critically important for public health,” he said at a news conference Friday. “Like I have said before, those are the folks who can pass on the virus to the most vulnerable.”
Lessons from the past
We understand how difficult it is to adapt to the new reality of life in COVID-19 times. We identify with the streak of independence in the American spirit that resists being fenced in (or quarantined, in this case). We also know the feeling of cabin fever, when the walls start to close in and you just want to get out.
But we’ve seen in the past what can happen when health-imposed restrictions are relaxed too soon.
On November 21st, 1918, residents of San Francisco celebrated the end of a city ordinance that had required all city residents to wear masks to ward off the so-called Spanish flu since October 18th of that year. Officials believed they had “flattened the curve” of the flu pandemic that ultimately killed millions around the world.
“But shortly after the New Year in 1919, the city was hit with 600 new cases in one day, prompting the Board of Supervisors to re-enact the mandatory mask ordinance,” according to NBC News. “With 45,000 cases and more than 3,000 deaths, the city was reported to have been one of, if not the hardest-hit big city.”
Cites that stuck with social distancing, closed public venues, and instituted mask ordinances fared far better. Some places have remembered that lesson for today’s pandemic, including San Francisco, which took early and drastic steps to curtail the spread of COVID-19, and it’s paid off in far fewer cases and lower deaths than, for example, New York City.
Think of it this way: There’s a category five hurricane raging outside . . . would you say you were “stuck” at home while it rampaged through Delray Beach, or would you feel you were “safe” at home?
Eventually, this will pass. In the meantime, if you’re experiencing unusual stress, depression, or other such reactions, please let us know. Alternatively, call 911 if you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, or call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
You can also visit the Disaster Distress Helpline, call 1-800-985-05990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746. If you’re in a domestic violence situation, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline, call 1-800-799-7233, or text LOVEIS to 22522.