How serious are you about avoiding the coronavirus?
By Richard C. Culyer III
Yes, I know you will likely give a positive answer to the question. But are you serious enough to take the necessary steps for you and yours? Read on and decide.
First, let’s make some safe assumptions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the coronavirus may be with us through July or August. In other words, we are not talking about a short-term change in lifestyles.
Second, approximately half of those infected are NOT senior citizens. The most recent figures suggest 50 percent are younger than 50, and they include infants as well. Children and other young people often think they are immortal, or at least invulnerable. Persuading them to take the situation seriously, even when it interferes with their own pleasures, may be extraordinarily difficult.
Third, although the death toll rises every day – and will continue to do so, thanks to the increased availability of test kits but also no thanks to what I can only call stupid actions of people who should know better but don’t care — the percentage of deaths from coronavirus in the United States is in the 1 percent range. With further testing and more sensible behavior of the entire population, it can actually decrease.
Fourth, contamination by the virus comes from other people who acquire it from other people who acquire it from still other people we do not even know.
Now, what do we know, either from science, which is still finding new ways for us to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, or from good old common sense?
Unless young people have become addicted to technology, even they know the importance of washing their hands REGULARLY (in warm soapy water) every time they come inside.
Young people (and older ones as well) often place their fingers on their face (pimples, scratching, picking one’s nose, biting fingernails, etc.). Dirty hands (invisible germs) and sneezes and coughing dropouts (either invisible or almost so) can transmit the germs to the nose and mouth areas.
Coughing into one’s arm is better than coughing into one’s hand, but any germs remain on the clothing for further transmission to the face. Then, too, door handles to businesses, money and credit cards that are exchanged, service station equipment, and countertops are high frequency usage areas. Items purchased at a store, whether canned goods or fresh food, have been handled a number of times during the supply chain. Handling a mailbox is another possible source of infection. If hand sanitizers are available (and often they are not), use them as well.
Regular bathing should be obvious, remembering that anyone who goes outside returns indoors with germs on the shoes and clothes, not to mention a football kicked back and forth among buddies.
So what can we do when we must go outside? Perhaps you have an essential job and must report to work. And you have to shop. Some simple steps. If possible, only one person should do all of those things. Therefore, only one person is exposed.
The breadwinner should shop right after work if some of the items are perishables. To the extent possible, that person should shop at the same one place to minimize the number of store personnel who are nearby.
If fast food is to be picked up, try to buy enough for several meals (to decrease the frequency of stops). As soon as possible, sanitize the money or credit card as well as your hands. On the job, sanitize all possible surfaces on a regular basis.
That is not always possible if the job is working in a store or service area as a senior care center or community agency or volunteer service. Notice, that use of these precautions eliminates the possibility of children accompanying a parent on a trip. Because of their tendency to touch interesting objects (even when commanded not to do so), they can also be exposed as well.
What not to do? Avoid any trips that are not essential. These include visiting friends out of town, going to events (however small) – such as birthday parties and other social situations. For teenagers, that means curtailing social get-togethers with buddies or dates – how much fun is it to be two yards away from a friend – that is two yards away for the hands as well as the rest of the body?
Once they leave the house, there is no oversight in terms of where they will go, what they will do, and with whom they will associate. Avoid anyone who has a cough or sneezes or who does not take proper precautions as noted above.
That person is a more likely candidate as a carrier of coronavirus, even without acquiring the disease. Now is the time to use the cell phone to stay in contact. No member of the family should visit – even for a few minutes – a friend or neighbor.
That person might infect you or, if you have been infected but do not realize it for 2-14 days, you might infect that person. Obviously you will not shake hands or hug or kiss folks outside the home.
And how do you monitor your own health as well as those in your home and those of friends and family? First, remember that people with compromised systems are especially at risk. They include those with heart or lung problems and other health issues.
Knowing the research on tobacco use and second-hand smoking dangers, not to mention the vaping disaster, I fail to see why anyone would smoke – especially at a time such as this. Remember that even so-called healthy senior citizens are also especially at risk of serious consequences from the coronavirus.
Second, remember that a temperature above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit is a possible precursor of coronavirus, especially if it is accompanied by a dry cough and shortness of breath. Other flu-like symptoms include sore throat, runny nose, tiredness, and aching.
Some anecdotal reports indicate that people temporarily lose their sense of smell. However, some people actually acquire coronavirus without any of these symptoms, which sometimes appear 2-4 days after exposure.
If your symptoms include some of the preceding conditions, especially the first three, contact your doctor and, over the telephone, explain the situation and ask for guidance. Try to avoid going to an emergency room or even to the doctor’s office (without specific instruction), which may have other patients with coronavirus.
Also, maintain distance from the other family members. Easy? Of course not, but one patient is bad enough; a houseful is far worse. Provide regular medicines and plenty of clothes, which should be placed in a clothing bag or hamper each day and collected periodically for washing.
Provide a TV or radio or computer or books or magazines to occupy the waking hours. If there is only one bathroom, use a bedpan for the person being isolated; take meals to the door of the bedroom and pick up the bedpan no more often than is needed. Whenever possible, use paper plates and plastic utensils. Communicate by cellphone if there are two in the household. Otherwise, speak through the door. Use sanitizers and soap, of course.
Throughout, be as positive as possible. One way is to avoid stressing over the non-stop media attention. The evening news should be sufficient! In the meantime, make as many simple preparations as possible, hoping that they will never need to be used. And keep in mind that studies show that while many are diagnosed, the vast majority of the people recover, often with only minor effects. Prevention is the way your efforts can make a significant difference.
Culyer, of Hartsville, is professor emeritus of education at Coker University and a columnist.