In the last couple of days, there has been some early discussion about relaxing some of the social and travel restrictions that have been put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This is a serious misstep if it were to occur.
And we need the public's help, we need your help in suppressing the coronavirus. There is no longer any debate—all medical experts agree that the spread of coronavirus is now on pace to overwhelm the U.S. health care system. The most powerful tool we have left to change this alarming projection is social distancing. Yet far too many people are falling short of what's needed. It’s in the news every day.
The purpose of this note is to help ensure the public is fully embracing social distancing and enforcing the practice among all of those around us. Of course, you should self-quarantine if you have any COVID-19 symptoms or have been exposed to the virus. Social distancing applies to everyone else and seems straightforward, at least in theory:
- Avoid public places;
- Avoid large gatherings; and
- Keep six feet between you and anyone with whom you don't have to regularly interact.
Unfortunately, this means sacrifices, such as not going out for coffee or food you can make at home, standing six feet apart from others in line at the grocery store, and moving kids' playdates to FaceTime or Skype. You need to determine right now with whom you must have live contact and keep away from all others. When necessary to interact with others, keep at least six feet away at all times. And please limit your travel to only that which is required – think groceries or medical care etc.
I recognize that there may be exceptions due to health or safety concerns, but such exceptions should be rare. I also recognize that consistently practicing social distancing will require personal sacrifice and at times may be painful or even isolating. But this is the best tool we have right now. Italy's first case of COVID-19 occurred on Feb 17 and by the second week of March, their healthcare system was overwhelmed. Limiting the spread of this virus is simply necessary right now. Please help us.
Joseph Scopelliti, MD
CEO, The Guthrie Clinic