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Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve

March 25, 2020

Social distancing and flattening the curve

In the last week the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives in many ways.

There’s things to help:

1.Social Distancing

2.Flattening the Curve

These terms are explained in detail on the CDC website, Facebook posts, and the national news.  Here are some questions and concerns that I have heard from my co-workers and acquaintances in the Hermann area:

Q:  I (or my children) are young. Will the Coronavirus not affect us or we will have a very mild asymptomatic form of the illness?

No, this is FALSE.

You need to follow the same precautions with social distancing as all other age groups.   According to the CDC four out or every ten hospitalized patients is under the age of 55.  Although few young people die it can cause severe lung damage and may require a ventilator to keep you breathing.

Q:  If my child goes to her friend’s house it’s just one other person so it’s not going to matter, right?

No, this is FALSE

Each and every person matters. We are in the middle of a pandemic. Don’t take chances.  No precaution is ‘too much’.  Don’t play with this virus.

Q:  “This was my senior year” or “I just turned 21 and I’m going to party”, ‘”It was only a few people.”

You might survive and not even exhibit symptoms while you spread the disease like Typhoid Mary.  The people you infect may work with the elderly and people already sick from other medical conditions.  Don’t say, “I don’t care if I burn down the neighborhood as long as my house is untouched.”

Q:  We live in Hermann (or surrounding areas) which is rural so we at are low risk for spread.

This is FALSE.

There has already been a patient who tested positive in Franklin County, a county next to us. Several people tested positive in Boone and Saint Louis counties.  We need to ramp up our precautions NOW. We have had very limited testing in this area so we don’t know our true situation.

Being in a rural area, the healthcare/hospital system is not routinely or regularly equipped with an ICU or ventilation equipment, especially in numbers that may be required with COVID-19. At this time the country as a whole is at risk of ventilator shortage. As a rural hospital we are limited on the number of ventilators or critical care specialists that are available. It is CRITICAL to create a TIME DELAY for use of ventilators, etc., by Social Distancing.

To “FLATTEN THE CURVE” means to not create a peak of sick individuals all at once and create more patients than the hospitals, ICUs and ventilation equipment can handle.

Q: Some ask, “This is really not much different from the flu is it? Doesn’t influenza causes more deaths than the Coronavirus? 

There are some similarities between the flu and COVID-19 such as being a viral illness, having respiratory symptoms, body aches, spread by respiratory droplets but there are several really important differences. The death rate varies by age and even by location.  In people over 80 the death rate may go up to 15-20 percent.  There is no vaccine against it nor anyone with resistance to it. There is no proven medication for it. Even though the risk to people with advanced age and underlying medical conditions is higher, it can cause severe acute ARDS (Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome) in relatively healthy individuals which is different from influenza which requires ventilation equipment and can severely damage the lungs or kill.

Jaya Parker, M.D.

Chief of Staff