To fight COVID-19, we have to change our strategy.
When my husband first started reading the news about the novel coronavirus to me over our breakfast table, I shrugged it off. It’s another virus, one of many. At the time, the outbreak was still in China. It felt so far from my backyard that I trivialized the significance of the virus. How many wars and health crises have we averted before? I never even thought about how we would develop a strategy to fight it. I wasn’t worried.
My initial reaction was to blame the media for sensationalizing the outbreak as a crisis. Let’s be honest. It’s easy to remove ourselves from the reality of someone else’s circumstances, particularly when they’re an ocean away.
I started to read more about COVID-19 and its spread. The fact that my husband (who usually doesn’t worry about anything) thought this virus was something to monitor, gave me pause. I read more, and the more that I read, the more I thought about the families in China who were suffering. I thought about the quick spread of infections. I thought about the risk for those with compromised immune systems.
There are several reasons why that last bit hit close to home.
I have (mild) asthma. I have a congenital heart defect. I have an autoimmune disease. I have older parents, and grandparents, some with serious health issues of their own. There are a plethora of compromised immune systems in my orbit.
Concern started to creep in, a little at a time, as the infections spread out of China. I kept watching the news. I stopped focusing on the statistics because that’s all I could see people focusing on in my Facebook feed. I reminded myself that these aren’t just numbers. These are real people, just like you and me, who didn’t want to die.
I read how China was beginning to change their strategy in how to fight the virus, by closing down business and having people stay home. It seemed a harsh step, but their strategy of containment seems to have worked. Unfortunately, the virus had already been spread beyond their borders.
I realized at this point that this virus could become very real for my family. After all, a viral infection had almost killed me when I was a toddler.
I remember bits and pieces of that time. I woke up every night to run to the bathroom and throw up. I remember being pulled out of my preschool class to take medications while the other kids were napping. I remember the fridge door stocked with different medications, none of which were making me feel better. I remember getting a scan on a table, surrounded by a team of doctors, and being told not to move. I remember my dad moving back home (my parents were split up at the time), because my organs were starting to shut down, and the doctors didn’t think I had much time left.
I eventually recovered from that illness, but I still remember being sick and fragile for a long time, and all of that was from a virus.
I’m grateful that this particular strain of coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is unlikely to cause serious symptoms in most young people, because I have a toddler of my own now. Remembering all that I do from my viral illness as a child, I want to protect my son from that same fate.
Just because most young people aren’t likely to get serious symptoms, doesn’t mean they are immune.
They can get sick. They can get very sick. Some young people will die. The kids that don’t get sick can also easily spread this virus to those they are in contact with—those even more likely to suffer serious symptoms, or even die.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I was not panicking, and I’m still not, even though it’s here, in my backyard now, with the number of infected growing daily. I’m worried for so many reasons, but I’m not panicking, because viruses have been around us our whole lives. We’ve fought many before, and we can fight this one too. We just have to be vigilant, and we have to change our strategy immediately.
We cannot go to the beach now. We cannot go to the playground now. This isn’t a vacation.
As a UN News article recently stated, China showed that the COVID-19 Coronavirus was “stopped in its tracks” due to the containment measures. WHO representative Dr. Gauden Galea said that this was a “lesson that other countries can learn from.” Just as they did, to fight this virus, we have to change our strategy. This is a time of self-sacrifice for the greater good, because we cannot all be sick now. I promise you that if you get this virus, you won’t have a team of doctors standing around you on a table like I did when I was young, because there won’t be that many doctors available to help you. Those are the statistics to remember, and that is why we collectively need to help flatten the curve.
Our lives have all been changed in so many ways because of this one virus. We’re sheltering in our homes. Our children are home from school for the remainder of the school year. Countless among us have lost jobs, at least temporarily. We are in a recession. Not one of us wants a cure that’s worse than the disease. We’re all making sacrifices, and yes, it sucks. What we are doing right now is a really hard strategy, but it appears to be the only viable strategy we have until an effective treatment and vaccination are available. The alternative, continuing with our lives unchanged, will result in deaths exceeding anything this world has ever seen.
To fight COVID-19, a virus with no known treatment or vaccine, we have to change our strategy.
For the social distancing strategy to work, we have to collectively commit to it, to stop the spread, so we can collectively return to the lives that we love when this pandemic is under control. If only some of us commit, we may find ourselves with a prolonged period of high infections, in a prolonged state of shelter and recession. Yes, inevitably we all may get COVID-19, but the more we can slow the spread, the better the chance we all have at receiving care, and perhaps even a vaccine. This is our moment of sacrifice so that we can be the ones who persevere, and not the virus.