How to Protect Both People and Businesses During the COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19, short for Coronavirus Disease 2019, is a highly infectious disease that is caused by a recently discovered coronavirus. A coronavirus is a common type of virus that typically affects the upper throat, respiratory system, sinuses, or the nose. They spread similarly to cold viruses and nearly everyone contracts a coronavirus at least one time during their lifetime, usually during early childhood. Most coronaviruses aren’t very dangerous, but some, particularly those that cause SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), can actually be deadly.
While COVID-19 is a member of the coronavirus family, it’s considered a novel coronavirus. It’s one of seven known types of coronavirus, joining SARS and MERS as one of the more dangerous types. Most coronaviruses are relatively harmless in otherwise healthy people. COVID-19, a new strain of coronavirus, was discovered in Wuhan, China, and has, as of March 24, 2020, caused 18,614 deaths, of more than 417,698 confirmed infections across the world.
What Is a Pandemic?
The word pandemic refers to any disease that has spread throughout a large region or even worldwide (as opposed to an epidemic, which is only widespread throughout a community). The World Health Organization (WHO), has classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. It has spread far across the world from its original location in Wuhan, China. The COVID-19 virus has hit Italy hard and there are cases cropping up all over the world.
The United States, as of March 24, 2020, has seen 44,183 cases, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and has seen 544 total deaths from the disease. There could be many more cases that haven’t been reported.
What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
The symptoms of COVID-19 have ranged from mild to severe and life-threatening. Symptoms can also appear as early as two days after exposure to the virus, but could take as long as fourteen days. Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include:
- Shortness of breath
What Are the Emergency Warning Signs of COVID-19?
The symptoms above are common and don’t necessarily call for medical attention. However, there are emergency warning signs to look out. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek medical attention immediately:
- Bluish face or lips
- Chest pain
- Chest pressure
- Difficulty breathing
Who Can Get COVID-19?
Anyone of all ages can get the virus. However, fewer children than adults have become infected with the virus and there have been no confirmed deaths in anyone under the age of 19 from the disease. There have been hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide and thousands of deaths. No one is immune and even famous people have been infected. Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive for COVID-19 in Australia and more recently, Prince Charles announced that he had tested positive for the coronavirus as well.
Who Is Most at Risk?
Those most at risk for experiencing severe illness or even death as a result of COVID-19 are older adults, pregnant women, people who have HIV, people who have asthma, and anyone of any age who has a serious underlying medical condition. While most healthy adults and children are unlikely to become seriously ill or die from the disease, COVID-19 is extremely contagious and the measures put in place across the world are to protect those who are most vulnerable.
How Does COVID-19 Spread?
Because COVID-19 is a new disease, experts are still learning how it spreads. Currently, the CDC believes that it spreads primarily from person to person through close contact (less than 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets from when someone infected with COVID-19 sneezes or coughs. Although the virus seems to spread primarily once those infected are showing symptoms, it is possible for people to be contagious even if they aren’t showing any symptoms yet.
It is also possible for COVID-19 to be transmitted through infected surfaces. If someone touches a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touches their face, they could possibly become infected with COVID-19. One of the reasons COVID-19 is such a risk is because it spreads quickly and easily.
How Is COVID-19 Treated?
People who have more mild symptoms of COVID-19 can treat the virus at home. The best thing to do is to stay at home and to treat the symptoms. Stay hydrated, stay warm, rest, sleep, and drink plenty of liquids. A hot shower or a room humidifier can help with a cough or sore throat. You can take over-the-counter medicines to help ease the symptoms. Unless you have severe symptoms, it’s recommended that you avoid going to the doctor. COVID-19 is not bacteria-based, so anti-biotics won’t help to treat it.
If you develop more severe symptoms, including difficulty breathing, you should seek medical attention.
Can You Take Ibuprofen to Treat COVID-19?
The World Health Organization recommends that people with COVID-19 avoid taking medicines with ibuprofen or any other anti-inflammatory medication because there’s a risk that it could make symptoms worse. The current theory is that the anti-inflammatory properties of ibuprofen boosted an enzyme that made coronavirus symptoms worse. The WHO is still investigating the claims, but in the mean time has advised that people take paracetemol rather than ibuprofen unless otherwise prescribed by a doctor.
Is There a Vaccine for COVID-19?
There is not currently a vaccine for COVID-19, although health organizations around the world are working on developing one. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) began a clinical trial into an investigative vaccine for COVID-19 on March 16, 2020. There are in total about 35 academic institutions and companies working to create a vaccine and already at least four have candidate vaccines that are being tested in animals. In addition, the World Health Organization has announced a global trial in search of an effective treatment for COVID-19.
What Does it Mean to Flatten the Curve?
The words “flatten the curve” have been appearing online and in the news a lot since the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus. But what does it mean? The term refers to the graph below. The first curve shows what happens if no steps are taken to curb the outbreak. The second curve shows what happens when measures are put in place.
It’s so important to flatten that curve because hospitals only have so much equipment to go around. There are only so many health care workers. If everyone who is going to contract the COVID-19 coronavirus is infected at the same time, hospitals will be overwhelmed. There won’t be enough doctors and nurses to care for everyone who is ill. There won’t be enough face masks to go around. There won’t be enough ventilators to help the seriously ill breathe. More people would die. By flattening the curve and having more people ill over a longer period of time, there could be enough medical supplies for everyone who needs them.
What Can People Do to Protect Themselves and Others?
The best way individuals can protect themselves is by avoiding exposure to the virus. They can help protect others in the same way by avoiding spreading the disease.
Practice Social Distancing
Social distancing is the practice of staying at least six feet away from other people. The virus is primarily spread through person-to-person contact, so staying out of close contact with others can help prevent the spread. If you are able to stay home from work, do so to avoid exposure. Social distancing also means avoiding large crowds and mass gatherings.
Wash Your Hands
Despite the news stories about people buying up and hoarding hand sanitizer, the best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands with soap and water, making sure to do so for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public place, sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose. Soap can break down COVID-19 particles that might be on your hands if you wash for at least 20 seconds. Then, any particles remaining will wash away with the soap.
Hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol is a good option if soap and water aren’t readily available to you. Make sure to use enough that you can rub your hands together for 20 seconds. The disadvantage of hand sanitizer is that although it can help break down COVID-19 particles most people don’t use enough of it for that to happen. Plus, it stays on your hands, so it won’t wash away any COVID-19 germs with it.
Clean and Disinfect Everything
Use household disinfectants to clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces. This includes countertops, tables, light switches, doorknobs, phones, and more. Anything that is used by more than one person should be disinfected regularly to avoid contamination. If new items are brought into the house, such as groceries, those should be disinfected, too.
Don’t Wear a Face Mask
If you are not sick and are merely taking precautions, don’t wear a face mask. They’re in limited supply and should be saved for those who are sick, medical professionals, and people taking care of someone who is sick.
What Are Governments and Organizations Doing About COVID-19?
State governments have been issuing executive orders regarding what people and businesses should do during the COVID-19 outbreak. Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, issued a Stay-At-Home order that Indiana residents should stay home except for:
- Going to work
- Taking care of other people
- For health and safety
- To purchase necessary supplies
Large gatherings of 50 or more people are canceled. Non-essential businesses have been ordered to close, although essential businesses and organizations were allowed to remain open because of the type of service they provide.
Restaurants are able to remain open provided they only provide food for carry-out. Sporting events have already been cancelled. Schools and universities are running classes online. THis will prevent lots of people gathering in one location. Grocery stores are implementing measures to keep people from standing too close to each other in line and many are installing sneeze guards to separate customers and cashiers at the check-out line.
What Can Businesses Do to Protect Themselves and Others?
Unless businesses are considered essential, many have been ordered to close by state executive order, as is the case in Indiana. MessageNet Systems is able to remain open to support our customers because all staff are able to work remotely from their homes in an effort to protect both employees and customers from the virus. Any business, whether essential or not, should still plan a response to the outbreak in order to protect both customers and employees
Operate Remotely if Possible
If possible, businesses should operate remotely. Employees should work from home and limit the amount of time spent in the office whenever possible, communicating with each other via phone, email, and instant messaging services. Of course, this isn’t possible for all businesses, but any employees who are sick should stay home. This may mean offering paid sick leave where possible.
Minimize Employee and Customer Contact
If working remotely isn’t possible, businesses should limit the face-to-face contact their employees have with each other and with customers. Employees and customers should practice social distancing and maintain at least a six-foot distance from each other. Try to assign tasks that minimize employee exposure to the virus. Also try to prevent large groups from gathering in one place. Restaurants, for example, are operating on a carry-out-only basis, preparing food only for consumption off-premise. Other businesses may also be able to prevent the need for customers to come into the business by offering carry-out services.
Clean and Disinfect Everything
Any surfaces or objects that are touched by more than one person should be regularly cleaned and disinfected. This can help prevent the virus from spreading through indirect contact.
Have a Plan
Companies need to plan for a variety of possible scenarios in order to keep businesses running during the outbreak. What will the company do if employees are sick and have to stay home? What are the functions most essential to running the business? What can be done remotely? Because of the pandemic, times are uncertain. It’s important to stay flexible and have a plan for a variety of different scenarios, especially with so much unknown about what will happen with the spread of the virus.
Communication is key to managing any crisis. With more employees than ever before working remotely or avoiding close contact with each other, online communication and digital technology will be more important to the functioning of businesses than ever before. Organizations can use their existing emergency communication systems to keep employees in the loop on any developments. With the MessageNet system, organizations could send one message that is then forwarded on to signs within the organization’s location, but also sent to all users’ email address, cell phones, and even Twitter.