Letter: Coronavirus Questions

Last week in the Community Spread of COVID-19 article, I said “We’ve done well.  We’ve been lucky.  The contest is not over.  It’s crunch time.”  Some of you contacted me about that article.  The question most often asked was “What more can I do?”   Here’s the list:

1.  Stay home.  That is easier said than done.  It is easier for retired people.  It is more difficult for workers, teens, and children.  Your entire family functions as a single unit; if one person puts themselves at risk, everyone in the unit is at risk.  With nicer weather coming, you will want to cheat a little.  Don’t cheat.

2.  If you can’t stay home, don’t go to St. Clair County or St. Louis.  Those areas are virus hot zones with community spread of the virus.  You just can’t tell who is contagious.

3.  If you must go to St. Clair of St. Louis, stay in your car.  Do a pick-up or a drive through.

4.  If you must get out of your car, social distance at least 6 feet, wear a mask, and get back in your car as quickly as possible.  That minimizes your risk and shortens your exposure time.

5.  If you touched anything in a store, use a hand sanitizer when you get back to your car.  Wash your hands when you get back home.

6.  Think of yourself as already exposed.  Wear a face mask in public areas to protect yourself from others AND other people from you.  If you have been visiting community spread areas you might be infected with minimal or no symptoms.

7.  Leave non-perishable groceries, mail, and packages in the garage or a spare room for 24 hours before bringing them into the main house.

8.  Share these recommendations with your family and friends.  When your friends or family from St. Louis, St. Clair County, or any virus hot zone call, ask them not to come visit you until this epidemic passes.  Tell them not to cheat.

9.  Ask yourself “What did I do this week to prevent coronavirus from coming to my home or to Washington County?”  If you’re doing the things listed above, you are doing your part to prevent the spread.  If you haven’t done these things, do better next week.  Don’t cheat.

10.  Be a part of the solution.  Don’t get sick with coronavirus and become a statistic in the problem.  It may be a while yet, but we will get to the other side of this crisis.  Don’t give up.  Continue to do the right things now so you can look back and say “I did everything that I could do.”

We are still in that contest.  Here’s the scoreboard:  Washington County still has only two reported cases.  On Monday, April 6, the St. Louis metro area reported 1,809 cases and St. Clair County had 94 cases.  On Monday, April 13, St. Louis metro area had 3,333 cases and St. Clair County had 189 cases.  The number of known cases in both of those areas essentially doubled in one week.  The virus continues to spread into our neighboring counties.  Clinton County has 37 cases.  Randolph County has 40.  Washington County is at increased risk each week.       

On the front side of an epidemic, we get accused of doing way too much.  But on the back side of an epidemic, we get accused of not doing enough.  If and when we have dozens of cases in Washington County, avoiding the virus will be even more difficult.  We are all in this community together.  Do your part today.

Michael Ainscough, MD, MPH

Editor’s Note: For Dr. Ainscough’s Column “Coronavirus: Lessons from the 1918 Epidemic” click here

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