‘Science Says’ Sunday – COVID-19 What we know as of 3/22/2020

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Those of us following the COVID-19 pandemic feel very much like we’re drinking water of out a fire hose. Everyday, there is a massive influx of information. New studies out of China and other countries are being published at an unprecedented speed, mirroring what we are seeing in terms of the spread and manifestation of the disease in different populations.

I do want to remind you, however, that as we share news of reports, studies, or findings, please recognize that what we know about COVID-19 is very much evolving on a daily basis. Not to mention the fact that because this is all so new, much of what is being published are correlations, associations, observations. Very few studies have published information that suggests causality between two things.
So, bear with us – scientists – as we navigate these uncharted waters. I know it’s hard to be patient in a time when so much is frenzied, but without good interpretations, we risk making inaccurate recommendations as we forge this war against COVID-19.

In today’s post, I’m sharing a little about what we know with certainty; and let me tell you, it is not a whole lot. However, putting the things that we know will work (like social distancing) into practice, will absolutely make a difference, so PLEASE, please help us all by staying home, practicing social distancing, and helping to flatten the curve.

What do we know?

  • COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

    “Shown are a schematic of 2019-nCoV (Panel A) and full-length phylogenetic analysis of 2019-nCoV and other betacoronavirus genomes in the Orthocoronavirinae subfamily (Panel B).”

  • SARS-CoV-2 is part of the coronaviruses family. The coronaviruses family includes viruses that cause the common cold, the flu, MERS, and SARS.

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  • SARS-CoV-2 is made up of a small set of genes, surrounded by fatty lipid molecules. This fatty covering can be dissolved by soap/detergents. That means, hand-washing with soap and water for 20 seconds is highly recommended. Ethanol also breaks the virus apart, so hand sanitizers with at least 60% ethanol are effective, in the absence of water. Finally, for cleaning, Windex, bleach water, and soap and water are effective for cleaning surfaces.

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  • SARS-CoV-2 can be spread during the pre-symptomatic and/or mild symptoms phase. That’s partly what is making it so hard to prevent the spread. People may think they are not sick, and inadvertently spread disease during that time. The more people get sick all at once, the more likely we are to overwhelm our hospitals. This also means we risk getting our healthcare workers and physicians sick, which decreases the chances that of all people who need care will get the care they need.

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  • SARS-CoV-2 lives on surfaces for a while. How long? In laboratory settings, up to 3 hours aerosolized, up to 4 hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. These times were determined in a laboratory setting, so in actuality, the virus may live less time in the air/on these surfaces, but nevertheless speaks to the importance of social distancing to avoid coming into contact with surfaces where others may have coughed/sneezed/touched. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2004973

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  • Social distancing works!! We have seen how well social distancing efforts have helped to slow the spread of COVID-19 in China and South Korea for example. Let me remind you, though, that both countries put social distancing measures in place that were a lot more stringent than the ones many of our states have put in place. The Stay Home orders that California and New York have enacted are a good start, but we truly need stronger regulations/requirements for staying home and social distancing in order to make a difference and flatten the curve. I know something longer term and stronger requirements than what we have in place in some states seems harsh, maybe even scary. But, if we are to truly tackle this virus and prevent more infections, hospitalizations, and deaths, it’s what we need to do.

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  • Social distancing means, social distancing! In order for us to truly slow the spread of infection, we need to socially distance ourselves as much as possible. Here’s a guide that can help you figure out what the do’s and don’ts of social distancing are.

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  • This is not going to be easy. It is going to be hard. It is hard to work from home and homeschool and try to pay the rent while not getting paid and and and and…the list is endless. My boys and I have been at home since Friday, March 13th. We haven’t left the house except to go on bike rides or play outside. WHY. Because we don’t want to risk getting sick AND we don’t want to risk getting others sick. The data is still very new in terms of who is at risk in the US. The risk for COVID-19 is bound to be different by country simply because we have different age structures, different potential co-morbidities, different healthcare systems, different governmental structures. The virus alone cannot determine the epidemiology of a disease. The epidemiology of a disease is multi-factorial, and while we can certainly learn a lot about how to stop the spread and how to prevent and treat it, ultimately, we must adapt those lessons to our own environments and populations to find the best fit solution. This, my friends, is going to take time. Could it take months? Maybe. Adhering to social distancing is the only way we will be able to determine how soon we can return to “normal”. Not adhering to social distancing is likely to prolong it all. We have the power to make a change, and to slow the spread. Please, please, stay home if you can.

In case you haven’t already noticed, there is a hub on this website with COVID-19 information. It is being updated regularly with information about some of your most frequently asked questions. I am also taking questions on Instagram and Facebook if you have any that aren’t covered there. Please visit the page when you have a moment. I’m vetting all the information included and hope to continue to update it as we learn more about COVID-19 and all that’s to come.

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So, practice social distancing, and flatten the curve.

Friends, we got this.

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