COVID-19, the fast-moving disease caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is spreading around the world. It has, as of March 2nd, infected over 1 million people worldwide, caused over 50,000 total fatalities, and has badly disrupted global economies.  Although the disease has claimed tens of thousands of lives, doctors and health workers on the front lines of battling this virus have seen more than 200,000 recover.
Still, the virus is new to us, there’s tons of misinformation floating around, so before we get into how to protect ourselves, let’s clear the air about what this virus is and how it’s spread.
First, let’s start with the virus itself. The coronavirus currently sparking a global pandemic is a lay term for a type of virus. There are a total of 7 coronaviruses that can infect people. Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface that seem to form a sort of corona around the virus.
SARS-CoV-2 is a novel coronavirus, meaning it’s one entirely new to humans and has never been previously studied. The acronym stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus. SARS-CoV-2 causes the disease now famously known as COVID-19. COVID-19 causes fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath.
Advice from a Lung Doc
According to a Viral Zoom call Dr. Andrew Price, a New York City pulmonologist (lung doctor), SARS-CoV-2 is spread through “sustained contact with someone who has the disease (is showing symptoms) or is about to have the disease (about to start showing symptoms).” To Dr. Price, sustained contact means spending at least 15 minutes close to an infected individual, touching the same surfaces as them, touching them, and breathing the same air.
“The vast, vast, vast majority of COVID-19 transmission is droplet-based,” says to Dr. Price. “This means touching your face with infected hands that likely picked up the virus on a dirty surface.” According to Dr. Price, the virus is transmitted “almost exclusively” by touching virus-infected hands to your face.
Dr. Price says that transmission through the air can happen, but it’s far less common.
So how do you protect yourself from SARS-CoV-2 and keep your family from getting COVID-19?
Wash your hands like it’s your full-time job.
Dr. Price puts it plainly: Keep your hands clean, and you will not get the disease.” Boom. There it is. Keep your hands clean. Be conscious of what your hands touch. If it’s even remotely possible that you’ve touched a surface that could be tainted by SARS-CoV-2, don’t touch your face until you’ve had a chance to wash your hands.
If you can, carry hand sanitizer with you wherever you go. It’s not as effective as washing with soap and warm water, but it can reduce the number of active viruses on your hands immensely. When soap and water are available, wash your hands for a total of 20 seconds, making sure to scrub each finger, between the fingers, the thumb, wrist, and under your nails as well (by scratching the palm of your hand.)
Before reading further, go wash your hands for good measure.
Ok great, thanks for washing your hands. Let’s keep going.
Don’t touch your face
As Dr. Price has already mentioned, touching your face with hands that have the virus on them is the best way to get COVID-19. Don’t you think you touch your face often? Think again. According to one study, we touch our faces up to 20 times per hour.  SARS-CoV-2 loves it when you touch your face. It makes it significantly easier for it to end up in your mouth and nose where it can then go about its business of reproducing and making you sick.
Dr. Price suggests that you wear a mask, but not to block particles. Wearing a mask of any kind can help train you not to touch your face. All you need is a cloth surgical mask, nothing fancy.
Keep your distance from others
“Social distancing.” You’ve probably been hearing this term for weeks now. But how important is it really? As it turns out, very. In the U.S. state of Oregon, it appears that the stay-at-home directive ordered by the governor and the closure of non-essential establishments has been effective at slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.  But why?
As Dr. Price said before, sustained contact with someone with COVID-19 is an effective way to have the disease transmitted to you. Staying 6 feet away from others to avoid breathing air that they may have coughed or sneezed into and opting not to shake hands or hug others is an important part of slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
You should even avoid people who may be in your close social circle. It’s difficult to know where they’ve been and who they’ve come into contact with.
I feel sick. Should I go to the hospital?
If you feel like you can’t breathe or you’re short of breath, immediately go to the hospital. If you have a fever and cough, two other symptoms of COVID-19, you should not go to the hospital. If you think you might have COVID-19 but are not critical, avoid being tested for it. Testing is currently fairly limited in most places and should be reserved for critical cases.
If you suspect you have COVID-19 but you live with family, especially if someone in your family is at high risk of complications from COVID-19, try to find somewhere else to stay while you recover. If you can’t, do your very best to avoid being in the same room with them or coming into contact with them. Sanitize and disinfect all surfaces frequently.
So, in conclusion, you drastically reduce your chances of getting COVID-19 by washing your hands, using hand sanitizer when in public, not touching your face, and keeping your distance from others as much as you possibly can.
Stay safe, stay informed, and most of all, stay calm. We’ll get through this together.
Thanks Dr. Price!
If you want to see his entire zoom call (it’s about an hour). You can watch below!
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