Right now if you consume any media it seems like the world is all coronavirus and elections. Frankly, that’s pretty bleak. Remember Baby Yoda? That was like, three months ago. But as much as we’d like to spend the whole day gushing over small alien puppets or any number of other dumb things we surround our lives with, this whole coronavirus situation is getting pretty serious and demands to be treated as such.
Currently, there are over 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection in the United States, spread throughout 12 states with six deaths. Meanwhile, reports of inadequate testing have been called “a national scandal,” defective testing kits have surfaced, and global landmarks are shutting down. There is lots of pandemic talk but, in a glimmer of good news, China seems to have begun to contain the virus.
With the chaos engulfing the national conversation, it’s time to get educated on COVID-19. Because our best line of defense begins with us. So before you head to your nearest Walgreens to pick up a grip of face masks, let’s just find out if you actually need them. Here’s where in America COVID-19 is now and what you can do to keep yourself safe:
Where Is COVID-19?
For a global distribution list, this site is updated by the hour. In the United States, according to CNN, there are 58 confirmed cases of COVID-19 spread across 12 states including California (20), Washington (18), Oregon (3), Illinois (4), Massachusetts (2), Florida (2), Georgia (2), Rhode Island (2), New York (2), Arizona (1), New Hampshire (1), Wisconsin (1), and 48 additional cases from passengers of the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship who are currently quarantined at military bases in California and Texas.
All six of the deaths caused by COVID-19 infection have occurred in Washington state, with four deaths coming from the same nursing home, and the other two occurring in the same county, according to CBS News.
Meanwhile, ProPublica reports that initial tests meant to identify COVID-19 sent out by the CDC were largely faulty, effective tests were limited to state labs, and the lack of a reliable test prevented health officials from practicing what is known as “surveillance testing” in possible COVID-19 hotspots, a crucial first step in stopping the spread of a possible outbreak. Similarly alarming, HuffPost reports that an infectious disease expert and Manhattan physician at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital, Matt McCarthy, has said that he has to plead to get COVID-19 testing done, remarking that “In New York State, the first person who tested positive is only the 32nd test we’ve done in this state… that’s a national scandal.”
Other countries are reportedly testing 10,000 people a day. That’s a frightening fact when you take in that currently around 80% of people infected with COVID-19 express mild symptoms, which means it’ll be easy to spread the infection around without even knowing you have it, and with the lack of sufficient testing, we can expect those numbers to continue to climb.
How Do I Protect Myself From COVID-19?
It’s taking a lot of discipline to write this, but you’re going to have to take the CDC’s word on this for now. Yes, the same CDC that we just talked about botching COVID-19 cases. It’s easy to lose confidence in the CDC given recent news, and the often misinformed allegation that Trump fired the pandemic response team and cut the CDC’s funding. (While it’s true the critical roles in the National Security Council are currently vacant, Politifact reveals that they weren’t fired, and while Trump did try to cut funding to the CDC, it was restored by Congress.)
So trust us here, while the CDC site hasn’t been updated since yesterday, it still has the most accurate information on safety precautions. Here are some quick points to keep in mind about COVID-19 spread and keeping yourself safe.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick
Come on, duh. If you know someone who is sick, just text, FaceTime, or Skype them. Being sick sucks whether its COVID-19 or not. Stay away.
Watch your hands
Especially if you’re in a public place. If you’re out in public, its good practice to refrain from touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. You’re an adult, do you realize that people who wear make-up have trained themselves to not touch their face for an entire day? That’s amazing, but if they can do it, so can you.
Wash your hands
A lot. Especially if you’re in public. With soap and water is the best way, but if all you have is an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, you’re good. If you’re out in public and you have an opportunity to wash your hands, might as well do it.
Stay home if you’re sick
Seriously. Even if you know you don’t have COVID-19 (though we wonder), walking around sick is going to literally freak everyone else around you out. That seems like something that is “their problem” until they’re flooding hospital emergency rooms because a stranger coughed in their direction at the market.
In the event that you are sick, it’s good practice to cough and sneeze into tissues and then throw that sh*t straight into the nearest trashcan.
Don’t horde facemasks
Facemasks are a critical line of defense for health workers and an awesome tool for people who are sick and don’t want to spread what they have. They will not, we repeat, WILL NOT, prevent you from contracting COVID-19 if you’re around it, they protect you from transmitting sickness though, so if you’re sick, wear one.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces
We’re talking phones, tablets, keyboards, steering wheels, and doorknobs. Anything. you touch. Clean surfaces, regularly.
Know the symptoms
This is incredibly important. The symptoms for COVID-19 infection include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Not a runny nose, not a headache, not pink eye or whatever you’ve got. Please do not flood emergency rooms because you feel something “coming on,” health workers are spread thin and they don’t have time to manage false cases.
Having said that, if you do have COVID-19 symptoms, visit your healthcare provider immediately. Don’t wait it out, you put yourself and others at risk when you do that.
Anyone selling you a cure, a preventative measure, or advice that isn’t included here, is probably misinformed. A vaccine does not exist for COVID-19 yet, so any other home remedy isn’t going to cut it. If you’re sick go to the doctor and limit contact with otherwise healthy individuals, simple as that.