Step up by Stepping Back

By: Tanvi Maharaja

I labored over days to write this blog. Mulled over the options, reflected on the content in the face of the dynamic nature of the situation. I thought people had enough information about the ongoing epidemic, so it would be needless to say more on this subject. There is so much out there already, is there really more I want to add? The other thought was, maybe I should write on a different topic just to take the mind off of this situation. The second option I struck down forthwith. It seemed tone-deaf, insensitive.
Then I started reading some of the comments on news sites and on people’s social media pages, questioning the legitimacy of government guidelines, adding wrong information, citing obscure studies of remedies for the virus, spreading panic through incorrect information of supply shortages.
So, I decided to go ahead with the blog as I think that a few things need to be cleared up.

Why is this virus affecting so many people all over the world?

Here’s why:
  1. This is a novel virus. A new virus, transmitted from animal to animal, then animal to human, and finally human to human.
  2. Since this is a new virus, we don’t have the advantage of decades of exposure and thereby the antibodies built up to protect us.
  3. We do not have a vaccine that can prevent us from getting the virus. We don’t know how long it will take for the vaccine to become commercially available once it is discovered.
  4. We do not have any medication to kill the virus. Most treatments are palliative, meaning treatment is directed at the symptoms.
  5. The symptoms are latent. You won’t even know you are infected until about 10-14 days. This gives the virus enough time to take root and spread throughout your lungs.
  6. During this time, since you could carry a virus without knowing it, if you continue being out and about, you take the chance of spreading it throughout the community.
  7. This virus has been known to spread faster and further, mostly through touch/surface contact, but possibly lingers in the air for several hours too.
  8. Most young people will survive the virus as their bodies will go through mild symptoms and the body will be able to fend it off.
  9. If a person’s immunity is compromised, as in the sick and the elderly, they will have a hard time, show severe symptoms, and may not respond to treatment. These are the most vulnerable and the virus can be fatal to them.
  10. Young, healthy people–even if they show no symptoms–could be acting as carriers now. So even if you don’t think it will affect you, by not following social distancing, you could be carrying the virus around and causing others to fall sick and are putting their lives at risk.
Wash your hands frequently, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds

How do we prevent being infected with the COVID-19 virus?

The best way to manage this pandemic is:
  1. Keep at least 6 feet distance from people around you.
  2. Stay at home to avoid carrying the disease around.
  3. Wash your hands frequently, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Avoid touching your face.
  5. Cover your coughs and sneezes.
  6. Clean and disinfect surfaces often.
  7. If you are sick, contact your PCP and they will guide you on what to do next.

Personally and socially, here is what you can do to help:

  1. Be responsible with social media. Do not spread rumors: avoid forwarding or sharing information that you are not sure is authentic.
  2. Do not hoard: be it medical supplies like masks and gloves (unless you are sick and the doctor has advised you to), or household items like toilet paper, sanitizing wipes, food items, or paper towels.
  3. Avoid going out without a valid medical or work-related reason. Follow the shelter in place guidelines issued by the government. You do not want to be the reason this epidemic worsens.
  4. Be kind. Be it on online interactions with strangers (you do not know what they are going through), or checking on your neighbors to see if they need any kind of support.
  5. Use the time. Revisit an old hobby, watch that movie you always meant to, spend time with family.
Practice Social Distancing by staying at home unless absolutely necessary

What you feel is what most people feel:

This is a tough situation, it is ok to feel anxious, apprehensive, scared, angry, frustrated. This is unprecedented. Everybody is feeling more or less the same way. Everybody is doing the best they can in any way they can. It is ok to have these emotions, to vent, and to feel vulnerable. We are all going through this, it is called being human. But, having done that, we have to look ahead. One step at a time, without assuming the worst, but still planning a little ahead. You cannot control everything, so do not stress about things you have no control over. See what you can do, what you can change, and do your bit.
There are some who still choose to ignore and float conspiracy theories. This is not the time to find fault or look for scapegoats. This is the time to rise to individual responsibilities and do your civic duty.
If you are active on social media, here’s your chance. Spread the awareness, spread the message. Explain to people why social distancing is important.
This is how you can save lives, this is how you can be a superhero, this is how you can step up: by stepping back.
Disclaimer: views expressed are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer and are not meant to replace the advice or recommendations of medical professionals, hospitals, or health organizations such as the CDC.

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