In our last Coronavirus article, we explained how the virus originated and spread based on science. As a nation, the government, talk show pundits, and politicians have slowly moved from inaccurately describing this Coronavirus as a hoax, minor problem, no worries, and “we are doing a great job” to a “National Emergency!”
Let’s continue our discussion with the facts:
Are we overreacting? Crisis experts note that when people are fed inconsistent messaging, misinformation, untruths, inaccurate perceptions, and conspiracy theories by leaders, they panic. Grocery stores’ empty shelves and the devastating stock market display the hysteria that is growing. More than 100 American college campuses have cancelled in-person classes, most large events have been eliminated, businesses are sending employees home to work, school districts are closing, and churches are dismissing services. In my 70 years, I have been through many crises, both personally and as a business owner, and never have I seen such traumatic events unfolding. President Roosevelt once said that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” As humans, we are hard-wired by evolution to react to fear and threats aggressively. It’s overwhelming how the Coronavirus unpredictability impacts our society daily! I think everyone will agree that we are headed into dangerous, uncharted waters and where we land is unknown. The New York Times reported “It’s time to get comfortable with chaos!”
When I compared the flu with more than 30,000 Americans dying in the last five months and the Coronavirus, the facts didn’t support this virus would exceed the flu. After all, as of the writing of this article, CBS News reports “COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has killed at least 95 of the more than 5,200 people who have been diagnosed in the United States. Globally, the death toll is over 7,500, with the most aggressive outbreaks still spreading in Europe and Iran. In South Carolina, 33 local cases have been diagnosed in Kershaw (18), Lexington, and Lancaster counties with the first death occurring. A surge in coronavirus cases in the state could overwhelm our hospitals, resulting in a shortage of beds and vital equipment needed for treatment, a Post and Courier analysis found. Consequently, non-virus life-threatening cases unable to find a hospital bed may cause the most deaths. “A crush of new cases would put intense pressure on the availability of ventilators —machines that help vulnerable patients breathe while their lungs fend off a viral attack. It would also lead to a shortage of intensive care units and sterile masks and gowns. If the number of cases spike as they have in other countries, such as Italy, hospitals in South Carolina simply won’t have enough beds to house ailing patients.
South Carolina has about 12,000 hospital beds, records from the state’s public health agency show. On average, some 60 percent or about 7,000 of these beds already are filled. But in a typical pandemic, about 12 percent of those who contract a new virus would need to be hospitalized, according to models developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Germany expects that more 60+% of its population will be infected with the virus. Anthony Fauci, Director of the national Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reported to Congress that things will get worse before they get better. One major item that Dr. Fauci kept saying was that this virus is 10 times deadlier than the flu! The CDC quietly predicts that millions of Americans will be infected and more than 100,000 could die. And, this virus could last for months or even over a year and stagger over different communities. Currently, South Carolina has a low incidence of the virus, but because we have not tested individuals with symptoms, and hundreds, if not thousands in South Carolina, are walking around without symptoms, we really don’t know the full extent of the Coronavirus in SC. Let’s examine practical ways you, as an individual, can help stop the spread of this exploding virus:
Don’t become hysterical but be prepared! “Hoping for the best and planning for the worse” has been our family’s motto which has served us well! Planning and being prepared for the worse is good, provided it doesn’tparalyze you.
Should I wear facial masks? They’re effective in preventing the spread of viruses since they slow liquids being expelled when infected persons sneeze or cough. One must purchase masks certified as N95 or higher, which are in short supply, to prevent your inhalation of others’ germs. We aren’t to the point where everyone should be wearing masks, although the time may come. If you wear a mask, try to avoid touching it.
If I have travel plans, should I cancel them? More than 30 large, global companies like Twitter and Amazon have instructed employees not to travel domestically or internationally. Airlines, hotels, and transportation companies have taken aggressive means to disinfect their environments before and after each use. Airliners have HEPA air filters which kill bacteria. Regardless, viruses can be transmitted by humans via their breath within 6 feet of an infected person and if these individuals touch things, it can be transmitted to you since viruses can live on surfaces four hours or more! In other words, don’t travel!
What plans are in place to produce a vaccine and treatment? Eight companies are working on a preventative and treatment vaccine and 2 million testing kits have been distributed to healthcare workers nationwide. However, Harvard Medical School reports trials take several months to secure data and then, it could be an additional 12-18 months (probably 2021) before serums are mass produced. Scientists have warned that if we rush any medicine without full clinical trials, faulty vaccines and treatment side effects could cause more damage than the virus!
Should I stock up on home, food, and medical supplies? Every family should have enough food and other supplies to last 30 days for any emergency. Keep in mind that many products like canned items have a shelf life of less than a year. The best advice is to prepare responsibly but don’t panic or hoard items that others desperately need. The main concern is that you have medication to last several months. If you’re on monthly prescriptions, ask your physician to change prescriptions to three-month-scrips. Insurance companies often allow you to renew meds at 61-days so you can build up extra supplies. Many of the generic meds are made in China and may become supply short!
Avoid virus carriers! Smartphones will likely be the major culprits that spread the virus nationally. We touch hundreds of things each day that infected others have touched: (gas pumps, home and car doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, touchscreens, work-related-items, keyboards, automobile devices, grocery buggies, etc.). After touching infected surfaces, we use our cellphones which become carriers and we take the germs home with us to infect others. You should wipe your cellphone with alcohol several times a day or use an effective device called PhoneSoap Charger which sanitizes your phone of all germs in 10 minutes with ultraviolet light. It’s a great investment for less than $100 that could save your life and others!
Don’t shake hands, hug, or kiss: We are social creatures, but we need to carefully think about not making physical contact with others!
Sanitize your hands and objects you or others touch: Wash your hands with soap vigorously for 20 seconds. If you do, regular soap is sufficient. Carry bottles of sanitizer and disinfect your hands regularly. You can mix your own sanitizer with 1/3 alcohol and 2/3 aloe. While it’s difficult, avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth.
Who are the most vulnerable? Those over the age of 60 begin the highest rate of deaths when infected with the Coronavirus: Ages 60-69—4%; 70-79—8%; and 80+ 15%. When you add in high-risk populations, the mortality rates increase: heart disease—10.5%; diabetes (where the virus thrives in high blood sugar levels and diabetics have a lower immune system)—7.3%; high blood pressure—6%; and, cancer patients—5.6%. Children ages 0-9 had less than 1% infections and none died, although they can be carriers.
Limit your television and on-line reading: If you hear the same frightening messages over and over, your brain will go into a “fight or flight” switch which creates significant anxiety and depression, even to the point of being paralyzed. Based on my experience with the media, they hype fear. If you want unbiased, science-based information, visit cdc.gov or Sirius/XM 121 which is an excellent source where epidemiologists, virus experts, medical and emergency professionals provide understandable information.
If I obtained the two pneumonia shots (13 and 23), will this prevent pneumonia in case I get the Coronavirus? No! Harvard Medical School reports that vaccines against pneumonia only protect people against very specific bacterial infections often caused by the flu. However, everyone, especially over the age of 50, should obtain both pneumonia and flu shots to ward off pneumonia in flu strikes.
Can I be infected with both the flu and Coronavirus? Yes! Both share common symptoms and a person can be simultaneously infected with both viruses.
What are the most common symptoms with the Coronavirus? Fever(88%), dry cough(68%), fatigue(38%), mucus(33%), shortness of breath(19%), sore throat and headache(14%), and chills(11%). Once you areexposed, it takes about 5 days for the virus to incubate and display symptoms.
If I begin having flu-like or Coronavirus-like symptoms, what should I do? If you are currently healthy, develop a relationship with an experienced physician. Internist Surb Guram, MD in Irmo (803-749-1111) is one of the best with an excellent team of nurse practitioners. You want a medical group who knows your history (not a Doc-in-the-Box) who is a single-point-of-contact you can call. While you need to consult with your physician, if you begin to come down with symptoms, it may be a cold or the flu and with a mild fever, stay home in quarantine. Most people with the virus (81%) will have a mild illness and recover in two weeks. You may need to be tested for the flu so you can obtain Tamiflu medicine to reduce the symptoms. But, if the symptoms rapidly advance during the day, especially if you have a hard time breathing, seek medical help!
Will this virus drastically decline the spread when warmer weather comes like the flu? Scientists don’t know since this is a novel virus. It could take a Summer respite only to return in the fall or it could continue to ravage America.
Practice Social Distancing: Avoid large crowds and stay 6 feet from others. Remaining at home is the most effective to prevent the disease unless carriers come in. But walk outside (the virus does not travel in the air more than 10 feet) and enjoy life when possible. Staying isolated in your house can lead to other social and mental health problems.
Be kind and look after your neighbor: While it’s tempting to take all the toilet paper off the shelves, leave a few for the people without any. There is an old saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself!”
What about the stock market? I’m very concerned about the losses I’m seeing: We go through financial crises,but the stock market always bounces back. For the time being, don’t check your holdings and just wait. In 12 months, while no promises, the markets should rebound! Consult with your financial advisor but my advice is to hold and not sell when the market is low. A Recession is inevitable where businesses will decline, and many people will be laid off!
Pray: If you study history, God creates situations that we cannot control to remind us that He is in charge and to focus on Him. If He created the universe, then He can save us from this virus. It’s time for all us to pray and thank God not only for our many blessings but also to help us with this disaster!
The Bottom Line: All of us have been inundated with the Coronavirus and how to deal with it. Currently, we are sitting on a beach with a Category 5 virus hurricane approaching, though the weather outside looks great. But all of us need to pull together “as one” to fight this virus! If each one of us would aggressively follow many of the precautions outlined in this article, perhaps we can save a few lives! Remember that in the darkest of nights, we can see the most stars! Hang in there!
Visit Mike DuBose’s nonprofit website www.mikedubose.com for 100+ published articles on business, travel, retirement, and personal topics, and health columns written with Surb Guram, MD. You can secure a free copy of his book, The Art of Building a Great Business, based on his 30 years of experience with DuBose Family of Companies and the 100 bestseller business books he read. Mike is a retired staff member of the University of South Carolina’s graduate school.