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The Virus, The Pandemic — Getting Back to Basics

Over the past six months our world has changed to a degree we could not have predicted. The impact of COVID-19 to most of us has been challenging, for many overwhelming, and to others, devastating.

On a daily basis all of us, lay people as well as health care professionals, are presented with a dizzying array of information and recommendations from many sources, some more reliable than others.

Most acknowledge that we are in the early stages of understanding this ‘novel’ or ‘new’ virus, and as such suggest that we stay tuned as new data may result in a different directive from the days or weeks before. In essence, we are in a ‘fluid’ situation.

Fortunately, some directives haven’t changed, and these time tested suggestions form the basis for the most important recommendations the medical community can offer in the setting of this nasty, highly contagious respiratory virus:

¯ Keep your distance. If unmasked, do your best to stay at least 6′ away from others, inside or outside.

¯ If you are ill — coughing, feverish, sore throat, etc., or awaiting a COVID swab result — stay home and keep your distance.

¯ Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, and be aware of commonly used handles, phones, remotes, etc., that you touch and that others use as well. Hand sanitizers help.

¯ And, most importantly — wear a mask. COVID-19 is a respiratory bug and as such is spread primarily though breathing, talking, socializing, and sharing space. This is the key. This is why surgeons wear masks, and why the citizenry of other countries have been wearing masks on subways and in crowds for years. Any mask is better than none, covering the nose is important, wash your cloth masks regularly, and shields are no substitute for a mask but better than nothing. Also, valves on masks are not good as you are exposing others to your expired air.

We are in the midst of a life changing pandemic. We will get through this in time. Continue to keep your guard up. Be careful. There are experts in the field evaluating the behavior of this new virus on a daily basis, and essentially all point to the basic recommendations noted above as the key to reducing the spread of illness in our communities.

More recently it has been noted that if 80% of our population were to wear masks appropriately, the data suggest that COVID 19 would fade in four to six weeks. Yes, that’s weeks.

One final healthy suggestion– if you’re at your grocer’s, and someone is without a mask in the dog food aisle, at risk of bodily harm I wouldn’t try to educate them on the spot. If it’s not clear by this point it’s most likely not happening. Or, they might have forgotten their mask.

The Chautauqua Health Network Medical Leadership Group includes Wolf-Dieter Krahn, MD; Robert Berke, MD; G. Jay Bishop, MD, FACP, FSVM, RPVI; Patrick Collins, MD; Lynn M. Dunham, MD, FAAP; William A. Geary MD, PhD; Tariq Khan, MD, FAAP; Elizabeth (Betsy) Kidder, MD, PhD, MPH ; John LaMancuso, MD, FACP; Tat-Sum Lee, MD, FACP, FACEP; Lillian Vitanza Ney, MD, FACP, FACC; James M. Sherry, MD, PhD; James E. Wild, MD, FAAFP.

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