US Takes Emergency Actions to Stem the Spread of COVID-19
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By Dr. Carol Hoban MPH, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Public Health, American Military University
With the emergence of the novel strain of the coronavirus and the ensuing pandemic people are being asked to stay home, distance themselves from others, and protect their elderly family members and loved ones who may have underlying health conditions. So what does all this mean?
Health professionals in the United States are trying to prevent what is currently happening in Italy. There, health professionals are being overwhelmed by cases – 21,215 and counting – and unfortunately, 1,441 deaths from COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.
Italy’s Healthcare System Is Being Stretched Thin by the Sheer Number of Cases
Italy’s healthcare system is being stretched thin and is undoubtedly overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases turning up on a daily basis. According to an article in the Boston Globe on March 13, many of these cases could have been prevented if more people had taken the virus seriously and just stayed home and away from crowds.
Even though about 96 percent of all sufferers will recover from the coronavirus, according to an article in the Lancet, this also means the mortality rate from COVID-19 will be around 4 percent.
To Prevent the Spread of the Virus, People Must Distance Themselves from One Another
So we still want to prevent the spread of the virus and as many new infections as possible. In order to accomplish this, people must distance themselves from one another. What health officials are worried about is an exponential spread of the virus that will get out of control and overwhelm our healthcare system, much like what it is now doing in Italy. The Washington Post published an article on March 14 that demonstrated what can happen if this virus is not contained but allowed to spread exponentially.
An illustration in the article showed how if we don’t take measures to contain COVID-19, our healthcare system will become overwhelmed. By keeping people home and away from others we can reduce the spread or flatten the curve and prevent the numbers of infections from rising.
We won’t prevent some people from getting the virus because it will continue to spread. But those numbers will be drastically reduced, allowing healthcare providers to handle those who are sick and others needing assistance to get the medical attention they need.
The main problem is that COVID-19 is new. Scientists are still learning about it, and we don’t have a vaccine yet for it. That makes it more dangerous for those who are immunocompromised or have underlying health conditions.
However, the effects of new federal, state and local measures designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 – and prevent the overwhelming of America’s hospitals – will soon be felt across the nation. Many of the nation’s largest school systems are closed, including New York City and Los Angeles. Restaurants and bars have been ordered closed in New York City, Los Angeles, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington State and Puerto Rico. It’s likely that other jurisdictions will follow suit soon.
So let’s not panic. Instead, let’s all take those measures necessary to protect ourselves and our loved ones to reduce the number of cases, get ahead of the curve, reduce the onerous burden of disease control, and get back to life as we know it.
About the Author
Dr. Hoban earned her Ph.D. in cellular molecular biology and physiology from Georgia State University in 2008. She earned her MPH degree in 1997 from the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Dr. Hoban has worked in maternal and child health and vaccine-preventable diseases. She was the project director for the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) in Georgia for over six years and was also the project director for the Georgia Immunization Study for over seven years. Dr. Hoban has numerous published articles based on her work in both vaccine-preventable diseases and maternal and child health. She is also currently a peer reviewer for the Maternal and Child Health Journal.