Pennsylvania families and organizations must prepare for the “community spread” of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19, state Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said at a news conference Wednesday. She urged residents to follow the state Department of Health for the “most accurate and timely information” regarding the outbreak. Later Wednesday, at a White House news conference, President Donald Trump “sought to minimize fears as he insisted the U.S. is ‘very, very ready’ for whatever the COVID-19 outbreak brings,” The Associated Press reported. Trump named Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration’s response.
“Let me be clear: It is impossible to predict which direction this epidemic will take.”
That statement was made recently by Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization.
His words speak to something about COVID-19 we must accept: There is much we simply don’t know about the new coronavirus.
There is still a void of knowledge.
For some, that void can open the door to alarmism, overreaction or the spread of misinformation. Nature, as they say, abhors a vacuum. In our anxiety, we may rush to fill it with speculation or rumor.
For others, the dearth of complete information can be a reason to be dismissive, to stop paying attention.
Neither of these reactions is good.
The best response to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak is to focus on what we know and acknowledge what we don’t know.
Let that inform our decision-making.
Understand that the situation is fluid, and that we should remain both attentive and flexible.
And take a deep breath.
Things to know
A good place to start is with Levine’s news conference Wednesday. She outlined the tangible steps we can take at this time to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.
“(Levine) said that while there is a lot still to be learned, COVID-19 seems to be more contagious and to have a higher fatality rate than the flu, with those most at risk for serious illness or death including seniors and others with serious medical conditions,” LNP | LancasterOnline’s Heather Stauffer reported.
Levine was asked about the possibility of COVID-19 being spread by people who display no symptoms or few symptoms. “She acknowledged there are concerns about that,” Stauffer reported. “Though it’s still being investigated, it appears that a person does not have to have full-blown symptoms to spread it.”
But there are steps we can take to limit the spread of both the flu and COVID-19. The state Department of Health offers these tips:
— “Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Do not use your hands!”
— “Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.”
— “Clean surfaces frequently, including countertops, light switches, cellphones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.”
— “Contain: If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better.”
Additionally, the World Health Organization recommends avoiding close contact with anyone who has a fever, a cough or other respiratory symptoms. Stay at least three feet away from those who are sick and avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing people with these symptoms.
And — as difficult as we know this sounds — the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urges us to avoid touching our eyes, nose and mouth.
There is one thing we shouldn’t concern ourselves with. Health officials say members of the general public don’t need to buy or wear medical masks. Following the aforementioned tips provides the greatest protection. And buying masks means fewer masks are available for medical workers and others who truly need them, Stauffer reported.
Overall, the preparedness measures we take for other potential emergencies are the best steps we can take now, Levine said.
“It is best to prepare now,” she stated in a news release. “The same family emergency plans and kits that we use to prepare for flu or norovirus, and even snowstorms and floods, are important now.”
Listed below are some websites we should check regularly and some Twitter accounts to follow for trusted information on the COVID-19 outbreak.
It’s important to pay attention to the sources when so much information is being thrown at us.
“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an infodemic,” the World Health Organization’s Tedros said. “Fake news spreads faster and more easily than this virus, and is just as dangerous. … We’re concerned about the levels of rumors and misinformation that are hampering the response.”
And The Lancet, a respected weekly medical journal, wrote this Feb. 22: “The ease through which inaccuracies and conspiracies can be repeated and perpetuated via social media and conventional outlets puts public health at a constant disadvantage. It is the rapid dissemination of trustworthy information … which is needed most during this period of uncertainty.”
The ongoing worldwide spread of COVID-19 has made this a stressful time for many. We shouldn’t compound that stress by allowing misinformation to also spread unchecked.
CDC main COVID-19 website: bit.ly/CDCmain
CDC statistics for U.S. cases: bit.ly/CDCstats1
Pennsylvania Department of Health COVID-19 information: bit.ly/PAcovid19
Pennsylvania Emergency Preparedness Guide: bit.ly/PAemergency
World Health Organization COVID-19 website: bit.ly/WHOcovid19
Twitter accounts to follow
- Public health expert warns virus not going away – KSAT San Antonio
- Tesla asks employees to resume production at Fremont car plant despite coronavirus health orders – CNBC
- Major health groups and charities urge Trump to reverse World Health Organization funding decision – CNN
- Public health officials push back on May opening | TheHill – The Hill
- Analysis | The Health 202: Los Angeles is racing to discover the true coronavirus infection rate – The Washington Post
- Some Public Health Officials Not Releasing Coronavirus Hospitalizations : Shots – Health News – NPR
- Covid-19 health-care crisis could drive new developments in robotics, editorial says – The Washington Post
- Lost Your Health Insurance During the COVID-19 Crisis? Here Are Your Options – The Motley Fool
- El Paso virus cases jump to 35 as health leaders warn of increased risk of ‘community spread’ – KVIA El Paso