Indiana, where I live, like most states, is gradually opening back up. I heard someone on the radio last week say that we should remember that COVID – 19 is a health emergency that has caused economic hardships. It’s true. The quarantine has been difficult for many and disastrous for some. I understand why people want the world to reopen. So, should you hunker down at home or not?
I’m fortunate in many ways, I work from home, and I get to spend my time with my best friend, my wife. However, I remember times when we lived paycheck-to-paycheck. In those times, I don’t know how we would have survived a shutdown. So, although I’m blessed, I can appreciate those who want to go back to work, go out to eat, go to church – I get it, but is it time?
Our Governor, Eric Holcomb, and Indiana State Health Commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, have strongly urged that those who are at higher risk continue to hunker down regardless of the status of the quarantine. “If you’re 65 and older with underlying health conditions, you’re going to be living in a new normal for a while,” Holcomb said.
That’s me — over 65 and chronic conditions. Don’t get me wrong, I work out, and my health issues are under control. Before the quarantine, I was playing half-court basketball ball with teenagers at the YMCA. However, If I contracted the virus, the odds aren’t in my favor.
What About You?
So, should you hunker down at home? If you’re over 65 or have underlying health issues, yes, without a doubt, you should not be out. But what about the rest of you? Is it safe?
My 14-year-old brilliant, pretentious, and smart-ass granddaughter called COVID – 19 the Boomer Remover (Her mother told her to quit being mean, but that’s another story). As on-point as that statement might be, it’s also dangerous. You see, we don’t know if it’s safe at any age. Those who go out are the Guinea pigs, the canary in the mine.
Last week I heard stories of young well-conditioned victims of the virus. And yes, the odds are against healthy young adults succumbing to the disease, but it can change and change quickly.
For example, the flu pandemic of 1918 began less deadly and mutated into a stronger virus. (I am not a virologist, so if you are and I get anything wrong, please correct me – thank you.) It’s called drift, which is a slight mutation, and shift, which is a mutation so complete that antibodies may no longer recognize the virus.
As the 1918 virus became stronger, it affected younger, healthy people more, exactly because they were young and healthy. According to John M. Barry, in his book The Great Influenza the segment of the population that was hit the hardest and had the most deaths was 20 to 25-year-olds. Many would have their first symptoms in the morning and be dead by nightfall. The reason was their immune system attacked the virus so ferociously that it clogged their lungs and took away their ability to breathe. They drowned in their own immune system.
The Truth is – We Don’t Know
Should you hunker down at home or not? There’s a lot we don’t know about COVID-19. There’s much conjecture, comparison to other viruses, and speculation, but at this point, that’s all it is.
The epidemiology of a disease is how it behaves and how it spreads. We know COVID-19 is an airborne virus, but we don’t know much more than that. Does it require direct contact from a sneeze or cough or is it in the air? For example, it has been found in the stool of infected patients, so, can we breathe it in if we use the same bathroom? Maybe. How long does it last in the air and how far can it travel haven’t been definitively answered.
How about surfaces? There were reports that on some cruise ships, the active virus was found days later. Does the type of surface make a difference? Can it be passed on paper? What about deliveries? The bottom line is we don’t know enough about how this virus behaves or how it spreads to tell anyone exactly what to do other than avoid it.
The pathology of a disease is the course it takes within the body. Although there are similar cases of COVID-19 patients, not all those infected experienced the same symptoms or to the same degree.
“The severity of COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe. Some people may have only a few symptoms, and some people may have no symptoms at all.
Some people may experience worsened symptoms, such as worsened shortness of breath and pneumonia, about a week after symptoms start.
Other less common symptoms have been reported, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.” — Mayo Clinic – Coronavirus Symptoms
So, should you hunker down at home or not?
It’s difficult to combat any disease until the pathology is understood.
To create a vaccine to prevent the disease, or a serum to cure it, we need to know more, and that takes time.
For me, the answer is easy; I have time. I can wait. Can you? Should you? Is not waiting worth the risk? I don’t know, but I’d rather err on the side of caution. Stay safe.