Time to get serious
To the Journal editor:
The covid-19 pandemic is going to ask a lot from each of us. Only a widespread and likely prolonged “social distancing” will save the United States from the horrific rationing of health resources and the avoidable deaths that Italy is currently experiencing.
Beyond the obvious “stay home if you’re sick,” what does this mean for us as individuals? In simple terms, it means we need to avoid unnecessary social contact with other people, especially in large groups, and we should attempt to keep a six-foot distance from others when we must be together.
Another way to think about it is to try to “avoid breathing the same air as people around you” because the main way the virus spreads is through respiratory droplets. Spread from contaminated surfaces or objects does occur, but appears to be less prominent than the respiratory route.
There is a misconception that as long as individuals who feel fine get together, there is no danger. While people are most contagious when they are symptomatic, some people experience mild symptoms or none at all.
The disease can also be spread before symptoms appear. These types of presentation may account for much of community spread. For that reason, all unnecessary social contact should be restricted–something that is both counter-intuitive and highly inconvenient.
It is too late to stop this virus, but slowing it down can save lives. Critical care beds and ventilator capacity is essential for the small percentage of people who need those life-saving technologies. If enough people get sick at once, however, these resources will be overwhelmed and people may die for lack of necessary care.
Slowing the spread of the virus can be accomplished by social distancing. It will continue to spread through the population, but more slowly. Less people will be sick at the same time and the very sick will receive the care they need.
This requires a sacrifice from all of us. Some people must, of course, continue to interact to keep the necessities of life flowing–things like groceries and medicine. But other activities can be postponed until the virus can no longer cause dangerous health resource shortages. Education and worship activities are important, but already these and many other events have been canceled. As individuals, surely we can eliminate optional social activities.
We must hunker down for the good of our community.