COVID-19, or coronavirus, impacts us all—it doesn’t discriminate. While 80% of patients experience relatively mild symptoms and can recover at home, we need to stay home and practice social distancing to protect the other 20%. While our current case count seems low, most experts agree the actual number of people infected with the virus is probably 8-10 times the number of confirmed cases, which occur via a returned, positive test. That means with our current confirmed case count is eight, it’s probably 64-80 and growing exponentially.
Who are the other 20%? Think of your elderly neighbor with respiratory issues. Think of your co-worker finishing cancer treatments with a compromised immune system because of chemotherapy or radiation. Think of one of you children’s friends with an ongoing health concern, leaving them vulnerable to this virus.
In our communities, we see and hear that we can do better with our social distancing. This needs to include all areas of our communities—not only those at risk. Young people, parents with young children and adults, young and old, need to follow these guidelines.
As your local Public Health Department, our message remains the same—facts not fear. Now, we need to move our focus to protecting those very ill, or those at higher risk of developing serious illness and requiring hospitalization because of coronavirus. Staying at home, as articulated by the Governor and public health officials, remains the best way to stop the spread. Only leave the house for essential tasks such as grocery shopping, picking up medications, and similar tasks. Consider limiting your trips to once or twice weekly instead of every day. Wash your hands when you arrive home and at regular intervals. Create habits and reminders not to touch your face and cover your coughs and sneezes. Disinfect high-touch surfaces like counters, door handles, tables and handrails regularly.
Work continues to get the testing we need, but widespread testing isn’t critical. Widespread testing doesn’t change our treatment methods, especially for those 80% who experience mild symptoms and can recover at home. Plus, we don’t have the necessary resources for widespread testing, so we need to change our focus to protecting those in our community most at risk of developing serious illness. Our priority needs to move towards caring for those who seriously ill and on the frontlines treating these seriously ill people.
The County continues to offer services, and we linked available mental health, business, and community/volunteer resources at our COVID-19 Response Webpage www.co.carver.mn.us/covid-19. Whether it’s access to unemployment services, resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, or residents needing self-care tactics during this time of uncertainty, our team continues to work to share resources available to all County residents.
As Brené Brown writes, this pandemic tests our collective vulnerability. The noted sociologist, researcher and speaker challenges us to bring our best selves to this situation, despite the uncertainty and fear. “We don’t have to be scary when we’re scared,” she shared. “Let’s choose awkward, brave and kind. And let’s choose each other.”
Let’s choose one another, Carver County—we can get through this together.
Dr. Richard Scott serves as Carver County Public Health Director.