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How Communities Can Prepare for a Coronavirus Outbreak

6:58 PM · Feb 26, 2020

"Everything we do before a pandemic will seem alarmist. Everything we do after will seem inadequate" -M. Leavitt The virus that first started out in China, is now entering a stage of community spread to countries all over the world. It’s becoming more obvious by the day that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will not be stopped anytime soon. “It looks to me like this virus really has escaped from China and is being transmitted quite widely,” says Christopher Dye, an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. “I’m now feeling much more pessimistic that it can be controlled.” “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country. It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.” Dr Nancy Messonnier, a director of CDC said in her briefing on Tuesday Feb 25th. Messonnier continued, “I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe, but these are things that people need to start thinking about now.” Here is a quick breakdown of the seriousness of the Coronavirus At this point, from all available data, it appears that the death rate is significantly higher than the common flu. Death rate for the seasonal flu is approximately - .1% Death rate for COVID-19 is approximately - 2.3%, or roughly 20x worse than the seasonal flu. There is no vaccine, and soonest we might see one is possibly Feb of 2021 14 Americans recently tested positive for the virus and they showed no symptoms at all. They felt totally fine. Approximately 20% of cases are severe and require weeks of hospitalization. So how can Communities prepare? A term you are going to start hearing a lot more of is non-pharmaceutical interventions, or NPIs. Currently there is no vaccine and no drugs that can help with Coronavirus, which leave us with NPIs. Personal NPIs - Staying home when you are sick or you have been exposed to a family or household member who is sick. - Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue. - Washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available. - Touch your face less. - Come up with alternatives to handshakes Other considerations: - If you or a loved one has medications, try to get a few extra months supply if possible. - Develop a plan for taking care of sick family members while at the same time not getting infected. - Storing extra food and supplies if/when you or your family needs to stay at home for a prolonged period of time. - Build a preparedness kit Community NPIs Community NPIs are policies and strategies that organizations and communities can put into place to help slow the spread of illness during an infectious disease outbreak. Two of the most common measures - Social distancing: Creating ways to increase distance between people in settings where people commonly come into close contact with one another. Specific priority settings include schools, workplaces, events, meetings, and other places where people gather. - Closures: Temporarily closing child care centers, schools, places of worship, sporting events, concerts, festivals, conferences, and other settings where people gather How should businesses prepare? The CDC has some helpful suggestions here, including things such as “Cross-train key staff at work so one person’s absence won’t derail our organization’s ability to function.” Yesterday, Messonnier spoke some personal words about a conversation she had with her daughter. “I had a conversation with my family over breakfast this morning, and I told my children that while I didn't think that they were at risk right now, we as a family need to be preparing for significant disruption of our lives. You should ask your children's school about their plans for school dismissals or school closures. Ask if there are plans for TeleSchool. I contacted my local school superintendent this morning with exactly those questions. You should think about what you would do for childcare if schools or daycares close. Is teleworking an option for you? Does your health care provider offer a telemedicine option? All of these questions can help you be better prepared from what might happen.” - Dr Nancy Messonnier I hope this is helpful and I will update this document with more information as things progress. Sources CDC: Personal NPIs CDC: Community NPIs CDC: Environmental NPIs CDC Telebriefing Feb 25th Transcript of the CDC Telebriefing Feb 25th John Hopkins COVID-19 dashboard - Summary of 72k COVID-19 cases from the Chinese CDC Science Magazine Preparedness kit Paper by Jody Lanard and Peter Sandman


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