COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by novel coronavirus (otherwise knowns as SARS-CoV-2), was first spotted at an outbreak in Wuhan, China. The subject of coronavirus has dominated the news waves since its initial emergence in December 2019. The spread has since intensified, infecting over 200,000 people in 172 countries and territories as of March 18.
On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared novel coronavirus a pandemic. WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized that the virus can be contained and controlled with “urgent and aggressive action.” COVID-19 has resulted in lockdowns, border closures, flight restrictions, work from home policies for many employees, canceled and virtual schooling, and a surge of demand for our industry in particular.
We’re currently chartering through unseen territory, and the plethora of accessible information can leave many feeling overwhelmed, frightened, and unsure of what information is right or wrong. To help alleviate worry, we’ve gathered the most common community questions in order to gather and deliver credited answers for your benefit.
Question #1: How much should I worry?
While scientists are still trying to decipher how worrisome COVID-19 is and how long it will take to develop a vaccine, everyone should err on the side of extreme caution and courtesy. Practices like social distancing and washing hands frequently with soap and water are just two examples of how we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the many around us who may be especially vulnerable to the disease.
Truck drivers in particular are one of the largest and most vulnerable groups, given the prevalence of diseases like diabetes and heart disease amongst them — not to mention the older age ranges. In addition, a recent study from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that truck drivers are twice as likely as the average American to not have health insurance.
The CDC states that the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are:
- Pregnant women
- People with asthma
- Older adults
- People with HIV
- People who have underlying medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease
Question #2: How can I practice social distancing without losing my mind?
Social distancing refers to actions taken to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. It equates to taking action like avoiding all nonessential travel, keeping at least 6 feet away from people at all times, and staying at home as much as possible. The Coronavirus Resource Center at Harvard emphasizes that slowing down the rate of COVID-19 infections is critical to not overwhelming hospitals. When hospitals are overwhelmed, critical patients aren’t able to receive life-saving care. Heavy projections show that we must be practicing extreme social distancing now, otherwise hospitals will not be able to handle the number of patients.
Healthcare professionals, grocery store employees, and truck drivers are just some of the people who don’t have the luxury of staying home, so it’s imperative that everyone who can practice social distancing do so for the protection of those who cannot.
With that being said, social distancing isn’t easy. Here are some tips on how to make your time at home more enjoyable:
- Something for the body: Get out and walk — just remember to keep at least 6 feet away from others. Carolyn C. Cannuscio, a social epidemiologist at the Center for Public Health Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania, suggests that people walk on streets that are less busy and avoid stopping and speaking to people. You can also meditate, practice yoga, or join these fitness studios who are live-streaming free classes.
- Something for the brain: Think of this time as a creative exercise, and make what you want to out of it! Read that book you’ve always wanted to read, pull out that 1,000 piece puzzle, or watch that nature documentary you keep hearing great things about.
- Something for fun: Now is a better time than any to stay in and binge watch that great show you haven’t gotten around to starting. And the best part is you don’t have to feel guilty about it because you’re actively helping your community stay healthy. Grab the popcorn, pull out the remote, and get comfortable!
Question #3: What will happen?
This is perhaps the top question on everyone’s mind. Every day, the answer seems more and more complex and uncertain, but we’ve tried to gather as much relevant and accurate information as possible for your benefit.
On March 18, WHO Director General Dr. Ghebreyesus emphasized that extreme social distancing efforts can help slow transmission of the virus and reduce the burden on healthcare systems. He pointed to countries like South Korea for their innovative testing strategies, mask rationing, and education initiatives in the wake of their COVID-19 outbreak. As a result of these measures, South Korea has severely flattened the accelerating community transmission. “These and other efforts give me hope that together, we can and will prevail,” Dr. Ghebreyesus said in his closing statement Wednesday.
A new CDC projection estimates that anywhere between 160 million to 214 million people in the U.S. can become infected with COVID-19, resulting in anywhere between 200,000 to 1.7 million fatalities if no action is taken to slow the spread of the disease. For further visual proof on why social distancing measures are so imperative to slowing the spread of COVID-19, the Washington Post put together four stimulations highlighting how extreme social distancing can greatly benefit the general public and flatten the curve — otherwise known as greatly reducing the number of people infected.
Question #4: What are the symptoms to look out for?
The CDC states that reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe respiratory illness and death. Symptoms are likely to appear between 2 and 14 days of exposure, and the most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough (usually dry), and shortness of breath. The CDC recommends that you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, sudden confusion, and bluish lips or face. Upper respiratory symptoms, like runny nose and sinus congestion, are very uncommon in COVID-19 cases thus far. Those infected typically start showing symptoms around five days after exposure, according to WHO.
Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine Dr. Peter Hotez said that in most cases when symptoms are present, those symptoms come together.
Question #5: How does the virus spread?
The CDC continues to emphasize that they are still learning exactly how the virus spreads, but the most common belief is person-to-person via respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.
People are thought to be most contagious when they are most symptomatic, or at their sickest, but some spread might be possible before people show symptoms. Based off of current data, the virus is thought to spread more easily than other viruses, which is why it can easily spread to communities.
Studies on other coronaviruses have found that they can survive on glass, metal, and plastic for as long as 9 days. Health experts have conducted preliminary research on how long SARS-CoV-2 can survive, and first results show that droplets can survive for up to 3 hours after being coughed in the air, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and between 2-3 days on plastic and stainless-steel surfaces.
Be sure to review this extensive information from the CDC on how to best protect and disinfect your home.
Question #6: How can I stay informed without losing my mind?
If you’re working to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community to the best of your ability, take comfort in knowing that you are doing your best to play an active role in the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.
It is essential to remain in the know on important updates related to COVID-19, but information overload in these trying times especially can result in high stress levels and paranoia. Here are a few tips on how to remain educated without feeling overwhelmed:
- Set a time for yourself to review the news every day. This can be a 20-minute window at the beginning or end of the day – whatever you may prefer.
- Set a breaking news notification for your favorite news app. This why you know you’ll always be notified of any breaking news right away, and you won’t have to keep checking the news or social media every few minutes.
- Pay special attention to what is happening in your city and state. Government officials are consulting public health officials to protect their constituents, so it is imperative you remain aware of their advice.
- Take a few minutes each day to check back in with trusted organizations like WHO and the CDC. These orgs are working around the clock to monitor the pandemic and provide you with the most relevant information in order to best ensure your health and safety. They also have great resources for you to review.
- Listen to trusted healthcare professionals, pandemic experts, organizations, and reputable media outlets, and always confirm information you hear by making sure it’s accurate. The entire world is focused on COVID-19 right now, and chances are everyone has an opinion or word-of-mouth tidbit they’ve heard. Not everything you hear is correct, so stay knowledgeable and share information responsibly.
Question #7: How much should I stock up?
Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen echoed what many grocery store heads have been saying during the pandemic. “As long as customers buy what they need and don’t hoard, there will be no problems at all — there’s plenty of food in the supply chain,” McMullen said.
Alyssa Pike of the International Food Information Council recommends a variety of food items for longer-term storage:
- Canned goods
- Breads, meats, veggies, and fruits that you can store in your freezer
While lockdown rules vary by area, we can look to San Francisco’s “shelter in place” guidance that currently requires residents to stay inside their homes and leave for only essential needs, like grocery shopping, police visits, and pharmacy pick-ups. This is on the stricter side of lockdowns, and people are still able to visit grocery stores.