If you are infected – even if you feel ok – you are likely to cause the infection of 45 people within two weeks, and 2,000 people within a month. Of these people, 8 are likely to die. Stay home.Messaging from an Italian Research Study shared by Mad*Pow & the Center for Health Experience Design – Interventions to Encourage Social Distancing.
I know there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty out there right now, and rightly so. This is uncharted territory for most of us. Our daily lives have been upended and there’s no clear return to normalcy in sight. As much as it feels like we’ve lost our sense of control, there is one very important action that the majority of us can each take right now. And that is to physically isolate from others – to follow social distancing measures – and do our part to flatten the curve. Whether you are experiencing symptoms or not, now is the time to act.
Note: Social distancing does not mean socially disconnecting. Our relationships and social connections are more important than ever right now. More on that later...
How YOU Can Make a Difference
Whether you are considered high or low risk for complications from COVID-19, we all have an important role to play in “flattening the curve“. With an estimated 80% of cases being mild (and many people reportedly asymptomatic), the SARS-COV-2 virus is spreading easily and rapidly, at exponential rates, as people continue with their daily activities and interactions. One of the most important things each of us can do right now is adhere to social distancing measures and encourage others to do the same. In doing so, we can buy much needed time for our healthcare system to build up capacity, spread the necessary hospitalizations out over time, and allow scientists and researchers to learn more about this virus and potential treatments.
There is, and will continue to be, a lot of uncertainty over the coming weeks and months, but the preventative actions you’ve been taking, and continue to take, can have a positive impact on the health of your family, your community, and beyond.
To make a slight modification in the opening statement from the Italian study, “If you are infected – even if you feel ok – you are likely to cause the infection of 45 people within two weeks, and 2,000 people within a month. Of these people, 8 are likely to die. This is your chance to be a hero. Stay home and save lives.“
Why Does Social Distancing Matter?
By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard a lot of talk about social distancing and R0. R0 is defined as the “basic reproduction number, or the number of people expected to catch the disease from a single infected person in a population that’s never seen the disease before” (The Atlantic). Right now, many experts estimate that the R0 for SARS-COV-2 is between 1.5 and 3.5, meaning that, on average, every infected person will infect roughly one to four other people.
According to Dr. Paul Grewal, the important thing to know here is that R0 is not solely determined by the properties of the virus. It involves both the infective ability of the virus, and the ability of the virus to infect new hosts. While we don’t yet fully understand the infective abilities of the virus, we do know that we can reduce R0 by decreasing the virus’s ability to infect new hosts through strategies like social distancing, good hygiene, and proper hand washing.
According to a study comparing aerosol and surface stability of SARS-COV-2 and SARS-COV-1, the current SARS-COV-2 virus can remain viable in aerosol form for several hours, similar to SARS-COV-1 (which was responsible for the 2003 SARS outbreak). This could, in part, explain the “superspreading” that happens when one individual is responsible for a number of secondary cases. The paper also mentions early indications from other sources that patients may shed and transmit the virus while pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic, thus increasing the importance of preemptive social distancing measures for limiting the spread of the virus and flattening the curve.
By implementing early and aggressive social distancing measures and self-isolating at home with your family, you reduce the ability of the virus to spread at exponential rates. Britta Jewell, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Imperial College London, illustrates the impact that early action can have on the spread of disease. Based on her calculations, by implementing social distancing today, instead of 1-week later, “you will have averted four times as many infections in the next month: roughly 2,400 averted infections, versus just 600 if you wait one week” (NY Times). That’s a huge difference! And can lead to vastly different loads on our already burdened healthcare system.
What About Hand Washing?
Hand washing has always been an important tool to limit the spread of disease. There’s nothing new here, except the broader realization that most of us haven’t been washing our hands correctly. We’re still learning about all the different ways in which the SARS-COV-2 virus can spread, but one way that we do know it can be transmitted is by touching a contaminated surface, and then touching our face. So how long can the virus survive on a given surface? A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine attempted to answer that question. Their research suggests that the SARS-COV-2 virus can remain viable for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel, around 24 hours on cardboard, and as little as 4 hours on copper surfaces.
Because the SARS-COV-2 virus can live on surfaces for so long, hand washing remains an important tool for limiting the spread of this virus. We should all be washing our hands with soap and water (hot or cold) for at least 20 seconds (CDC). One statistical analysis found that if 60% (rather than the study’s estimated 20%) of air travelers maintained properly cleaned hands, we could slow the global spread of infections by almost 70%!!! (Study: Hand‐Hygiene Mitigation Strategies Against Global Disease Spreading through the Air Transportation Network. December 2019).
Yikes! Imagine that – just by washing our hands correctly, we can slow the spread of infections by 70%! So, as simple as it sounds, proper hand washing is another action that is within our control and can enable us to tap into our inner hero and save lives.
What Else Can I Do?
For tips on staying safe, healthy, and happy during these challenging times, as well as opportunities to connect virtually during this period of social distancing, subscribe to my mailing list, schedule a free introductory coaching session, or email me directly and let me know how I can help. If you’re looking for resources, you can also check out some of my favorite stress management tools, learn how Tapping/EFT can help the whole family (pets included!), and pick up a few quick and easy breathing exercises to support your nervous system.
In every challenge lies great opportunity. Let’s find those opportunities, remain positive, and stay resilient as we navigate these difficult times together.