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Much of what we see in the press about this specific virus is sensationalistic and designed to scare us into wanting to read, see, and click more. US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams was recently quoted as saying, “Caution is appropriate, preparedness is appropriate, panic is not" and the best way to avoid panic is with facts. With that in mind, I wanted to channel my best Sgt. Friday from “Dragnet” and stick to “just the facts.”
“Coronavirus” is a generic term used to talk about a family of viruses that are passed from animals to humans. There are a total of seven known coronaviruses, including COVID-19 which is the one we’re dealing with now.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. Older people, and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.” The WHO provided a weekly update this morning and shared that, “there is now a total of 92,943 reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and 3,160 deaths.”
It started in Wuhan, China [here’s a map: https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/jan/23/map-confirmed-cases-of-wuhan-coronavirus/]. Scientists believe it started at a market that sold both live and dead animals.
It’s spread like the cold and flu via “respiratory droplets” (sneezes, coughing, exhaling). People may come into contact with these droplets and either inhale them or transfer them to their mouth, eyes, or nose.
They are a lot like the cold and flu – fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Symptoms can start between 2 and 14 days after exposure. COVID-19 seems to focus on the respiratory system and can result in pneumonia and other issues which makes this more severe than a cold or flu.
Older people with compromised immune systems or existing respiratory issues seem to be the most impacted.
Approximately 120 Americans in 16 states have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
There have been nine confirmed deaths all in Washington State. Eight deaths have occurred in King County, WA. Five of those died lived in the same nursing facility. [Source: https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/news/2020/March/3-covid19-8-deaths.aspx]
States with confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 are Washington, California, Nebraska, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Arizona, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Georgia, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Utah.
This information is changing rapidly and may be out of date by the time you read this. Please pay attention to local news for the most up-to-date information in your area.
From the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus … everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including: Avoid close contact with people who are sick; Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; Stay home when you are sick; Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash; Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
Stay home except to get medical care, and isolate yourself to prevent passing it to others including pets. If you have to leave your house, put on a mask to minimize the exposure to others and call ahead to your doctor’s office so they can be ready to receive you. Cover your coughs and sneezes and wash your hands and any “high touch” areas frequently.
Not at this time, but according to the WHO, “Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.”
Yes. The U.S. State Department has put China and Iran on the “Do Not Travel” list. Further, South Korea, Italy, and Mongolia are listed at “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” due to COVID-19.
We are encouraging people who are not feeling well to stay home and seek medical treatment if they have symptoms similar to COVID-19.
We are looking at all pending travel to see if it is required and working to curtail travel to the greatest extent possible and use VTC and other means of communication.
At Headquarters, we are adding hand sanitizers to our buildings and bringing in additional cleaning services and supplies so people can wipe down their work spaces. I know that other organizations are doing the same.
We are encouraging people to become telework ready should they be required to stay home for an extended period of time.
World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus
U.S. Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
Prince George’s County, MD Government: https://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/3397/Coronavirus
State Department: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/
Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html
DoD & DON: https://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/program-and-policy-support/pages/novel-coronavirus.aspx
I understand that the above may not answer every question you may have. However, I’m confident that between the CDC and WHO sites you’ll likely find the most important information you’ll need at this point.
It is difficult to know what will happen next, but keeping up to date on accurate, fact-based information from professional medical sources is key. COVID-19 may disappear relatively quickly, but it’s more likely that it will continue to spread. We have to be ready to adjust to whatever comes. Case in point – we have Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Centers in Naples, Italy, and Bahrain. If someone from Naples needs to travel to Bahrain, they will have to go through a two-week quarantine to minimize the risk that COVID-19 enters the country. This is something we have to take into account when scheduling travel to support the ships we have in that Area of Responsibility.
There is also the personal side – many of us have vacations planned for spring break and beyond. I’m not going to tell anyone what to do with regard to their personal health and travel, but I do recommend taking practical precautions. For example, if you’ll be traveling on a plane or train, consider bringing sanitary wipes to clean commonly-touched surfaces and hand sanitizer to help reduce your risk of illness.
And my last thought – we have a culture that puts service above self, and that has allowed us to do some amazing work. Part of that is a tendency to come to work when you’re sick to support the mission. That has to stop. Coming to work sick means you’re potentially spreading germs and viruses that could infect co-workers. With COVID-19 getting so much attention, it would be extremely detrimental for someone who is not feeling well to come to work and infect others.. That could result is a disruption to your work team and negatively impact our mission.
So, if you’re not feeling well, call in sick or telework. You do not want to be the one who introduces COVID-19 .
Maryland Department of Health Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak