According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published on March 19, 2020, there has now been more than 10,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States. With the global pandemic expected to continue, it’s important that you arm yourself with information you can use to protect yourself, your family, and your community. Remember, if you are not in or have not traveled to or had contact with someone who traveled to an area with a high number of cases, your risk of contracting the novel coronavirus is low; however, it is still important to take steps to help lower your own risk, as well as the risk of others around you.
Here, we’ve compiled helpful information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the most recent COVID-19 information (as of March 19, 2020). Continue reading to find general information on COVID-19 symptoms, what to do if you feel ill, travel recommendations, and how you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
Flattening the Curve
You may have heard or seen things recently that talk about “flattening the curve.” What exactly does this mean?
Put simply, flattening the curve refers to lowering the total projected number of COVID-19 cases. According to LiveScience.com, the “curve” refers to a graph that shows a theoretical representation of how many people may become infected based on what scientist’s know about how the novel coronavirus spreads and how quickly it can be passed from person to person. The phrase “flattening the curve” means bringing that projected possible number of cases down so that the curve itself represents a hill rather than a mountain.
So, why does flattening the curve matter? First, the fewer people that become infected, the better. Fewer cases means fewer illnesses and deaths which, on its own, is important enough. Second, however, the fewer COVID-19 cases, the less the strain on our healthcare system. One of the primary concerns with COVID-19 is the effect it will have if hospitals are suddenly flooded with a number of people they simply aren’t equipped to handle. Flattening the curve helps reduce this risk.
So, How Can You Help to Flatten the Curve?
The best way to help flatten the curve, or reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, is to practice “social distancing.” As LiveScience.com notes, there is no current vaccine for COVID-19, so stopping the spread will require community cooperation. This means avoiding large groups of people, staying home whenever possible, and limiting contact with others.
According to the CDC, “the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.” The CDC also notes that, in order to avoid exposure, you should stay at least six feet away from others, as the virus is known to spread through person-to-person contact, particularly in the respiratory droplets expelled when someone coughs or sneezes. The CDC also recommends that you wash your hands frequently and for at least 20 seconds with warm water and soap and wipe down surfaces with a sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
What to Do If You Feel Sick
If you feel ill or have been around someone who was sick, stay home as much as possible, except to seek medical attention. If you feel that you may have been exposed to the virus, it is important to self-quarantine in order to avoid spreading the virus to others, especially those most at risk, like the elderly and individuals with certain underlying health conditions. If you do get sick, the CDC reminds you to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or by coughing/sneezing into your elbow when a tissue is not available. The CDC also recommends that you wear a facemask to prevent spreading the virus to others if you must go into public. However, you should not wear a facemask if you are not sick, unless you are caring for an ill person who is not able to wear one. Currently, there is a shortage of facemasks and other personal care equipment for healthcare workers; the CDC notes that facemasks should be saved for these individuals as much as possible.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
According to the CDC, the symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Shortness of breath
If you believe you may have the virus or have been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, the CDC recommends that you contact your primary care physician and alert them to your situation. Your healthcare provider can determine whether you need testing based on their professional assessment of your symptoms and exposure. Remember, however, that there is no designated treatment for COVID-19; if your symptoms are mild, you will likely be able to self-treat at home, thereby limiting exposure to others.
Traveling During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Is It a Good Idea?
While the CDC does not typically offer recommendations regarding travel, they are currently providing a list of considerations for those who wish to or need to travel both within and outside of the U.S.
For those traveling domestically, the CDC recommends that you consider the following:
- Are you traveling to an area of the U.S. with a large number of reported COVID-19 cases?
- Will you be in close contact with others (think: on an airplane, in a car, etc.) while traveling?
- Are any of your traveling companions or people you are visiting considered high risk (e.g. older, have underlying conditions, etc.)
- When you return, will you be able to self-quarantine? Do you have a plan for avoiding others (e.g. staying home from work or school) after returning?
- Do you live with any high-risk individuals, such as grandparents, parents, or anyone with a respiratory condition?
- Do you currently live in an area where the virus is spreading?
When determining whether you should travel or cancel your plans, the CDC recommends that you take these factors into account. Always prioritize your own health and the health and well-being of others in your household, social and professional circles, and community.
In regards to international travel, many countries, including the U.S., are enacting certain travel bans. You can find more information on the U.S.’s official international travel advisories on the Department of State’s website.
Currently, there is a lot of misinformation being spread about the novel coronavirus. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) put together a list of “myth busters” To help dispel some of the inaccurate information circulating across social media and the internet. We encourage you to turn to reliable sources of information to learn more about COVID-19.
You can learn more by visiting the following websites:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Medline Plus (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration