Culture

A Doctor On The Frontlines Shares His Impressions On How People Are Getting The Coronavirus

The United States of America now leads the world in the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases — surpassing Wuhan, China, the origin of the virus, and Italy, the epicenter of the European outbreak. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy And Infectious Diseases (and America’s expert on all things coronavirus), has said that it’s “entirely conceivable” that over 1 million people will contract COVID-19, which would likely amount to roughly 100,000 deaths. As such, it’s a very real possibility that you or someone you know will contract COVID-19, which probably has you more than a little freaked out. We’re right there with you!

Let’s remember the facts though, as of Sunday evening, March 29th, there were 722,289 cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with 33,984 deaths, and over 151,901 recovered cases, with many more hundreds of thousands on their way to recovery. This disease is certainly scary, but we will beat it and every day we’re finding out a little more about the virus. The more we know, the safer we’ll be.

Late last week, Dr. David Price of the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City shared a video discussing his firsthand impressions of coronavirus transmission. Price is an ICU doctor who is on the frontlines at the center of the U.S. outbreak, at a hospital where 20% of New York state’s coronavirus cases are being treated. However, his Q&A — posted on Vimeo — should be taken with a grain of salt. Our understanding of the coronavirus is changing daily and while the doctor’s guidelines fall in line with the current CDC guidelines this is certainly a time for extra precaution.

The full hour-long interview is fascinating for those looking for first-person impressions on coronavirus transmission, but we gathered the most essential points so you could get back to binge-watching ten-year-old television shows. Here is everything you need to know about contracting coronavirus according to Dr. Price — from how people are getting it and how you can keep you and your loved ones safe, to what to do if you already have it.

If you don’t have time for the whole video, we broke out some key moments below:

What are the symptoms for COVID-19?

This is one of the most common coronavirus-related questions and one of the most difficult to answer. Searching “what are the symptoms of the coronavirus?” might as well direct you to a GIF of someone shrugging. According to Dr. Dave, “What commonly people have is fever, cough, and then sore throat… Your lungs will primarily be affected. 80% of people just don’t feel good, mild cough maybe a little headache.”

So while your paranoia and your stuffy nose and sudden diarrhea is alarming, take a breath, it’s probably not the coronavirus.

How do you get COVID-19?

“The overwhelming majority of people are getting this from physically touching someone who has this disease, or will develop it in the next one to two days, and then touching their face.” Dr. Dave repeatedly stresses in his video that we must all become “hand nazis.” Under no circumstance should we be touching our face if we’re out in public, so do whatever you have to do to make this your new favorite habit.

“The vast vast vast majority of COVID-19 transmission is droplet… A droplet — something that comes from the mouth — either goes onto your hand or falls onto a surface and then is very quickly taken up, touched, and then put on your face.”

So… you can’t get it from the air?

While it’s certainly possible, “The thought at this point is that you actually have to have very long sustained contact with someone… I’m talking about over fifteen to thirty minutes in an unprotected environment, meaning you’re in a very closed room without any type of mask.” This will likely put a lot of us at ease. It’s highly unlikely that we’re going to get this thing from picking up food from our favorite restaurant, or by saying “hi” to whoever is delivering your food.

How do we keep ourselves safe in public?

Again, don’t touch your face. “Know where your hands are and know that they’re clean at all times… Walk around with Purell… when I leave my apartment, everything that I see that I’m going to touch, I make sure I Purell first. When I leave my apartment door and I go to the elevator, it’s okay if I touch it with my hand, but then I Purell,” says Dr. Dave, stressing, “This is not a disease that we’re getting because someone is sick and then touched something, and then an entire community of 10 people get it because they touched it… it’s mostly from sustained contact with people who have COVID-19… keep your hands clean and you will not get this disease.”

But just because you have good hand discipline, doesn’t mean you’re above smart social distancing, “If you’re going to go to the grocery store, if you’re going to touch the cart — just clean the handle. If you go into the store and you see people around, don’t touch them… distance yourself. You don’t have to wait directly in line with somebody, you can stand a couple of feet back.”

Should I be wearing a mask?

Dr. Dave is all for wearing masks, but mostly because having a mask on your face is an easy way to train yourself now to touch it. So don’t hoard medical masks, donate your supply to your local hospital and tie a bandana around your face, bandit-style.

“You don’t need a medical mask. These masks that people are wearing are not preventing them from getting the disease… the general community has zero need for N95 masks.”

I’m still hanging out with my friends on the weekend…

What is wrong with you. Stop doing that. Please. Do you want us to be quarantined longer than April?!

“You have to shrink your social circle,” says Dr. Dave, “Find your isolation group, find your group of three people, four people, your family — and set boundaries. The people who are going to get this are people who maintain large social circles at this point.”

I’m a great social distancer… but what if my less responsible housemate gets it?

Despite the fact that a large majority of this virus’ spread comes from family transmission, according to Dr. Dave, “Simply being in the home with someone who has COVID-19 will not get you that disease.” However, please understand that even if you feel fine, you’ll essentially have to be quarantined for as long as the infected person in the event you’re an asymptomatic spreader.

“Isolate yourself from your family… if you’re able, have the person in a separate room… have the person who is sick have their own bathroom… if the person has to come out and interact with the family, this is the perfect indication for one medical mask for the person who is sick.”

What if I just have a cold?

Might as well play it safe, just so long as we’re all in quarantine. “I think if you have something that feels like a cold or you feel like you’re getting sick, take the precautions like you have COVID-19 for one to two days. If in one to two days you’re feeling much better and this is like the thousand other colds you’ve had in the past year… you don’t have COVID-19.”

How safe is interacting with take-out or grocery delivery people?

“I think it’s a reasonable idea to have the delivery person leave the food that they’re delivering to you outside your door. You can probably pick it up with a glove and open the bag and all the inside contents are fine. That’s an overabundance of caution, but it think it’s reasonable,” says Dr. Dave, adding, “What you don’t want to do is high-five the delivery man, you don’t want to shake the delivery man’s hand, you don’t want to pick up the plastic bag you’re getting… and have a huge long interaction with that bag… but if you follow the rules and everything you touch you just clean your hands, you will not get it.”

So it’s not just old people getting it?

No, so it’s time to stop acting like this is someone else’s problem. The way we beat this is by being responsible. “This disease affects everyone… 23-year-olds, 35-year-olds, 45-year-olds with zero medical problems are getting this disease, people like that are coming to the hospital, people like that are going on ventilators. There is a very evil narrative early in this disease that said that this is only a disease of old people and people that have hypertension and diabetes, that is not true… it hits the entire spectrum of ages.”

Okay, I have it, how do I keep the people isolating with me safe?

Keep your distance, from everyone. “If you have a vulnerable population in your family… you need to find another living arrangement for that patient or practice incredibly strict isolation of that family member.” It’s also not a bad idea to contact everyone you’ve seen up to two days before you first developed symptoms (see why social distancing is important?). Dr. Dave explains, “It’s likely that people who get this disease are shedding the disease one to two days before they have a fever… If you develop COVID-19 and have a fever, know who the people are in your life who you interact with over the prior 2-3 days and let them know.”

Should I get tested?

Look, we all want to get tested, especially those of us who still have to go to work or those of us who live with a vulnerable population. Unfortunately, even on a state level, we’re not really where we need to be in terms of testing availability. “It depends on the availability of testing in your community. If you have symptoms like the flu, it’s likely you have COVID-19,” but Dr. Dave is quick to clarify that even if you did get tested, when it comes to your treatment, “not a lot would change by knowing that test result.”

Should I go to the hospital?

Depends. If you think you might have COVID-19, absolutely don’t go to the hospital — you might be putting people at risk. Instead, call your health care provider (or your county’s public health office if you don’t have insurance) and await the next steps. In all likelihood, you’ll be able to self-treat at home, only those who are having trouble breathing should consider treatment at a hospital.

“If you’re feeling short of breath come to the hospital… it’s not, ‘I have a fever,’ it’s not ‘I think I have COVID-19,’ it’s not, “I can’t stop having these body aches,” it’s ‘I feel short of breath when I get up to go to the bathroom,’ those are the people who should come to the hospital and be evaluated.”

What’s this I’m hearing about Ibuprofen making symptoms worse?

This is a weird one, but it would appear that some early data suggests Ibuprofen is not an effective treatment — no one can say why yet. “There is really good data from Germany that there are worse outcomes and more inflammation from people who are using Ibuprofen. If you have a fever take acetaminophen.”

What are my chances of needing to go to the emergency room?

If you’re generally healthy and not an at-risk population, you’re likely going to get through this with little more than a handful of awful days. “Of the entire population of people who get COVID-19, about 10% need to go to the hospital because they get short of breath. Of the 10% who are coming to the hospital, about one to two to three percent of those are requiring admission to the ICU and should be put on a ventilator.”

What if I need to be put on a ventilator?

Don’t panic — it’s not the end. “The vast majority of people come off the ventilator… usually seven to ten days later. Going to the hospital is not a death sentence, it’s a safe place to be.”

Is there a chance of the coronavirus weakening?

It’s too soon to tell if warmer weather will have a strong effect on the coronavirus, but time is guaranteed to have an effect on this virus. It won’t be tomorrow, it won’t be next year, but according to Dr. Dave, “as it mutates it’s going to get milder and milder, five years from now you’re going to get coronavirus, this exact COVID-19, and it’s going to feel like a cold.”

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