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  • On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization made an announcement.

  • In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold.

  • COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.

  • The coronavirus, or COVID-19 disease, had already overwhelmed China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy.

  • And this was a warning to other countries where it was now spreading quickly.

  • In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number affected countries climb even higher.

  • The spread of COVID-19 was no longer something that could be stopped.

  • But we can still slow it down.

  • We just have to act right now.

  • Someone with COVID-19 usually develops a fever and a cough.

  • Aches, pains, and other mild symptoms are also possible, but are less frequent.

  • But the severity of those symptoms varies, and for some people who get the virus, you might never show symptoms at all.

  • Based on the data from China, the vast majority of cases are not life-threatening.

  • In 80 percent of cases, people experience only mild disease.

  • But in 20 percent of cases, the disease can manifest in a more serious way.

  • It can develop into quite a severe pneumonia, where people need to be hospitalized and put on ventilators.

  • Overall, it seems like about 1 to 2 percent of known cases lead to death, but that rate is much lower for young people, and much higher for the elderly.

  • And it also seems as if people with unmanaged underlying chronic diseases, they also have a tougher time overcoming the virus.

  • The virus also seems to be very contagious, more contagious than the flu.

  • All you need to do to spread COVID-19 is cough or sneeze on someone else.

  • Touch a surface where the virus still lives, and then put your hand in your mouth or your eyes or your nose.

  • After getting infected, it can take an average of five to six days before you feel sick, and your symptoms start to appear.

  • But you can already spread it to other people in that period, even if you feel healthy.

  • Just as people realize they're sick, they seem to be at the most risk of passing it along to others.

  • That's how the virus has been so effective at spreading across the world so quickly and why the WHO was now calling COVID-19 a pandemic.

  • But what they said next was just as important.

  • We cannot say this loudly enough.

  • All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.

  • And that depends on something each of us needs to do as individuals.

  • So diseases become really dangerous when everyone gets sick at once, and the health system becomes overwhelmed.

  • In any hospital, the capacity to treat patients is limited by how many beds they have.

  • Think of this as the number of beds in your local hospital at any given time.

  • A couple are already filled by patients receiving treatment for things like a car accident injury or a stroke.

  • And this dot represents one person who's healthy and decides to go out like usual.

  • They jump on the subway and head into the office, where they catch COVID-19.

  • But they don't feel sick right away, and might not for several days.

  • So, later they go to a basketball game, where they unknowingly infect two or three more people.

  • Most of these people will have relatively mild cases, but one might be an elderly person with a severe case who will eventually have to go to the hospital.

  • But these three, who are all infected but don't feel sick, go out again.

  • On the subway, into the office, and then out after work, infecting several more people, twenty percent of whom will need to go to the hospital.

  • Over a short period of time, this process multiplies the number of people going to the hospital each day.

  • Before long, the hospital is full and a crisis begins.

  • People with severe cases of COVID-19 can't get treatment, and some who could be saved, die.

  • Plus, people with other issues can't get treatment either and some of them die.

  • This surge of severe cases causes avoidable deaths.

  • That's what happened in South Korea, Iran, and Italy, all of which went from 100 to more than 5,000 cases in less than two weeks.

  • A lot of people died because they couldn't get into the hospitals.

  • This surge is made up of only the severe cases, but it was generated by people who didn't feel sick spreading the disease in public.

  • Which means the people who can do the most to avoid these unnecessary deaths, are these people.

  • And that means all of us.

  • To slow the virus down, you need to act as if you already have it.

  • By avoiding public transportation, the office, crowded places, and even small social gatherings, you decrease your chances of both getting the disease, and spreading it.

  • This is called social distancing.

  • If enough of us do it, the virus still spreadsbut much slower.

  • Over time, many people might still get infected, but fewer severe cases show up to the hospital each day, never overwhelming the system.

  • This trendline gets flatter, these people can all get treatment, and fewer people die because of it.

  • These are the two ways the COVID-19 pandemic can play out.

  • But this one only happens if everyone does their part.

  • And it's why experts and officials are urging people to "flatten the curve" by social distancing, and staying home as much as possible.

  • It's also why In the U.S., many companies are helping by requiring employees to work from home and major sports leagues have canceled their games for the time being.

  • It may seem drastic but it's worked before.

  • In 1918, the cities of Philadelphia and St. Louis were both hit by a flu pandemic, but they responded in different ways.

  • In Philadelphia, health officials allowed a huge parade to go ahead.

  • While in St. Louis, officials prepared.

  • They closed schools, theaters, and bars.

  • Philadelphia's hospitals were overwhelmed and many more died as a result.

  • But St. Louis was able to avoid those excessive deaths.

  • A hundred years later, these are the two scenarios we face.

  • A difference not in whether you get the coronavirus, but when you get it.

  • That could mean the difference between life and death, maybe for someone you know.

  • We have to act now.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization made an announcement.

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Why fighting the coronavirus depends on you

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    Estelle posted on 2020/04/05
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