Where are we with COVID-19?

By JAMES D. LOMAX
Posted 7/1/20

For the past few months, we’ve been instructed to be confined to our homes; we’ve experienced disruption from work, school and daily routines; and our families and communities have been …

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Where are we with COVID-19?

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For the past few months, we’ve been instructed to be confined to our homes; we’ve experienced disruption from work, school and daily routines; and our families and communities have been dealt financial hardship. All is due to this highly infectious coronavirus, COVID-19. Global and national statistics reveal that millions have contracted this infection and there is no sign that new cases are decreasing. Our area in the Upper Delaware River Region appears to have stabilized any significant increases in positive testing, hospitalizations and deaths.

Since mid-March, it quickly became apparent that most communities and hospital systems were woefully unprepared with the onslaught of people needing hospitalization, many requiring ICU level of care and ventilator support. Medical personnel quickly exhausted their supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), face masks and shields, gloves and other supplies. The availability of tests were also in short supply from the beginning and only now is barely reaching the appropriate number to accomplish comprehensive tracing of contacts.

There have been many other changes in our lives. The travel industry has been severely disrupted and will take many months to recover. The same applies to the food industry, restaurants, agricultural production, entertainment venues and small businesses of all kinds. Many of our local businesses will not be able to reopen. Additionally, depending on where you live, you may still be experiencing a shortage of food items necessary for proper nutrition for your family. Food banks are still in need of donations because of a continued demand to assist families.

In recent weeks, governors of all states are allowing specific types of businesses to reopen under varying amounts of restrictions. These include the requirement of wearing face masks for employees and customers, a reduced number of customers and revamping spacing requirements. At the time of preparing this article, there were 24 states that, despite an increasing number of daily positive cases, continue to allow for more businesses to reopen, higher numbers of group assembly, and more close-proximity activities to resume. The requirement of using a face mask is inconsistently enforced.

Fortunately for New York and Pennsylvania, the statistics show a continued decline in the number of positive cases and hospitalizations, but this is due to the tremendous sacrifices of our healthcare workers and essential employees, along with many people making an effort to stay home.

However, because there is an uneven approach to opening up the economy nationwide, there continues to be at least 20,000+ new cases reported daily. Experts such as Anthony Fauci, MD predict that there will be either be a continued high number of infections or a second spike in the number of new positive cases in the fall months extending into 2021, unless a vaccine is developed.

Who is at high risk?

Statistics in all states indicate what has been reported from the beginning: The elderly and individuals with chronic health problems may have the poorest outcomes. Younger people and children do better with this disease than other age groups, yet they may be asymptomatic and infect other people around them.

In very young children, a new syndrome has been described called Multi-System Inflammatory Syndrome. This presents as inflammation and swelling of multiple body systems. Fortunately, this appears to be a rare complication of COVID-19.

There is an international effort to develop a vaccine for this virus. There are drug trials being performed, but it often takes months to years to develop an effective vaccine that is safe with minimum side effects.

For treating seriously ill COVID-19 patients, many drugs have been tried. There are many studies using already-existing drugs that may show promise in keeping people off of ventilators and improving survival. However, determining the safety of a new or existing drug takes time.

What can you do to protect yourself and your family?

The only proven method of keeping you and your family protected is to follow time-proven public health actions. Spacing yourself six feet from others in public, washing hands with soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently, disinfecting surfaces, avoiding being close to people who appear ill and coughing, staying away from crowds are all important standards for us to continue to follow.

The most important action we can take is to continue to wear face masks when out in public. The CDC recommends that people wear a cloth mask covering the nose and mouth in a community setting. The mask is not intended to protect the wearer but to prevent spreading the virus from the wearer to people close by; wearing a mask in public has become known as an act of mutual respect.

What is disturbing, I am sure for many of you, is to see people refusing to wear masks. Most people, fortunately, are responsible. The recent street demonstrations in many cities showed that the majority did wear masks but did not practice social spacing; whether this has resulted in more COVID-19 cases is being studied. States have opened bars, swimming pools, theaters and restaurants but have not enforced the use of masks. The only outcome is that the number of infected people will increase with many more unnecessary hospitalizations and deaths from this virus.

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