I know everyone has been inundated with information about the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) which causes the sickness known as COVID-19. Cutting through all the noise and information, there are three main facts that are very useful in terms of staying safe/well that are important:
ONE: The Coronavirus can persist in air for hours and on surfaces for days.
Research conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine found:
[SARS-CoV-2] was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The results provide key information about the stability of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 disease, and suggests that people may acquire the virus through the air and after touching contaminated objects.Source: Science Daily.
This finding sheds light on why the virus is spreading so rapidly: we can acquire the virus from a surface that has been infected hours or days before. This is why it is so important to wash our hands constantly and not touch our eyes, nose, and mouth unless we’ve just washed our hands. We should assume every surface we touch might have the virus on it.
TWO: Coronavirus is contagious before and during the first week of symptoms
Research out of Germany found that people with COVID-19 are contagious BEFORE they are symptomatic and remain contagious for about 7-10 days after the onset of symptoms.
In other words, people walking around without symptoms are spreading SARS-CoV-2. Combine this fact with point one above, and it explains a lot about how/why COVID-19 is spreading much more than SARS and other infectious diseases.
This means that you should treat every other person as if they have the virus. Socially distance! Stand six feet away if you have to be in contact.
THREE: There May Be More Than 10x Actual Cases of COVID-19 Than There are Reported Cases
Epidemiologists at Harvard estimate that there may be around 10-50 times as many actual cases of COVID-19 as compared to the reported cases. This means that the virus has spread much more than reported. We can’t take comfort if our local community has few reported cases of COVID-19. There are many more people than reported walking around with this virus. If the Harvard scientists are right, we should take the reported number of cases and multiply by 10 – 50.
Note that this is a gross estimate. It’s currently not possible to know the actual number of cases of COVID-19 currently or people who have been infected and recovered.
PUTTING ALL THREE POINTS TOGETHER
Putting the three points above together goes a long way in explaining why COVID-19 infections may be doubling as quickly as every three days. What we should do individually is:
- Act as if everyone has the virus
- Wash our hands constantly. Also – clean your phone, iPad and computer frequently as well
- Social distancing means isolation but also means staying six feet away from people
The report from Imperial College that was the impetus for the Trump administration’s change in tune has just been released. I’ve read it – here’s a great twitter feed summary of the report. It’s a must read IMO: Twitter Thread
One other point: We are the United States of America! The greatest nation that has ever existed! We ushered in the nuclear age, have advanced science more than any other country, have found cures for other serious diseases, and are the technological leaders of the world. We are now being asked to social distance and take some simple steps. We can do this! Paradoxically, if we all take these steps we’ll be successful in limiting the effects of the virus and we’ll look back and think we overreacted. This meme is funny but spot-on: