This information is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider. If you have a concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment.
By Ryan G. Bosch, MD, FACP
While many of us are confined to our homes and are feeling overwhelmed with the 24-hour news cycle, it’s important to look at facts first. Knowledge is powerful in uncertain times and just because we are isolated, does not mean we are alone in this battle. There are steps we can take to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Fact 1: The Coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented health crisis and simply, we are not prepared. Globally, millions will be infected, hundreds of thousands will be hospitalized, and many will die.
Health leaders are making critical decisions each day. We have a lack of personnel and supplies and there is scarcity in any health system. Our state governments and health systems need to know where the communities of greatest need are located and what decisions they are faced with.
What we can do: There are steps we can take to protect ourselves and our community. Most importantly, wash your hands. Wash your hands before you eat and after you come into contact with others. Social distancing and staying at home are currently the best strategies to flatten the apex of the coronavirus infection curve. These steps help support our health system to better match their care resources with the onslaught of demand.
Fact 2: Coronavirus infections and deaths are both projected to be greater than that from Influenza.
We may never look at the flu season the same way again. The Case Fatality Rate (CTR) for Coronavirus is now estimated at 1.2% while the CFR for Influenza is 0.1% (reference: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). Coronavirus is 10x more lethal, especially to the aged and infirm. Over the past twenty years as a primary care physician, I have seen this risk play out in my practice. But there are steps we can take to protect the vulnerable among us.
What we can do: Take extra efforts to protect your family members who are over 65 years old and those with chronic medical conditions such as chronic lung, heart, or kidney disease, as these patients are the most susceptible. This may mean having them occupy a separate part of the house and encourage more frequent cleaning and disinfecting.
Fact 3: Coronavirus, much like Influenza, disproportionately attacks the infirm and aged. Transmission is primarily through airborne droplets moving from person to person.
Many infections originate from an asymptomatic individual since the incubation period of Coronavirus can be a week or more before symptoms develop. A cough can expel the virus into the air or onto a surface, leading to infecting a person nearby.
What we can do: To prevent viral transmission, self-isolate if you feel sick and contact your health provider. While our healthcare providers are on the front-line and need personal protective equipment when interacting with patients, makeshift or homemade masks are reasonable to prevent an individual from infecting the air around them. A bandana, scarf, or even a turtleneck covering your mouth and nose may be reasonably effective.
We must be humble enough to say what we do not know about the virus. But we also must be arrogant enough to say what we do know. Facts, science, and data matter. Disinformation abounds—know your sources. The CDC website is foundational and is my primary reference throughout this crisis.
We will need resolve and stamina to get through this crisis. There are small but important ways that each of us can play an important role in mitigating the impact of COVID-19, as outlined above. In addition to those strategies, predictive analytics are powerful to support the management and deployment of scarce resources. Our team developed the COVID-19 Social Susceptibility Index to look at the impact of the Coronavirus across the U.S. at the sub-neighborhood level. Our partners are using this capability to allocate critical resources and generate and refine their emergency response strategies. This work will have an immediate impact to support the supply chain to get resources to our most vulnerable communities.
Times will get worse before they get better. Continue to care for your family and community by staying home and frequently washing your hands. Take positive steps each day to reduce your personal risk and support the critical actions of our healthcare professionals. This is how we will prevail in these unprecedented times.
Ryan G. Bosch, MD, FACP is Socially Determined’s president and co-founder. Dr. Bosch is a board-certified Internal Medicine Physician, Fellow of the American College of Physicians, Veteran (Major in the U.S. Air Force – Physician Corps), public health expert, and flight surgeon. He can be reached at email@example.com.