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The NSPA Blog

Life After the Quarantine

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Posted on May 26th, 2020 by Bettina Carlson, under Social, Social Distancing, Take Charge, Tips & Resources

After two months of shelter in our homes and life limited to essential activities and businesses, we are getting close to venturing out of our homes and carefully opening up life again. Many of us longed for that day to happen. Now that it is close, I hear from many people how they are experiencing doubts and anxiety around this prospect. This is very normal and to be expected. 

In talking with people of various walks of life and various experiences during these past two months about their concerns and expectations, in having followed the updates on things coronavirus the last few weeks, and with my own observations, I would like to provide my (non-medical) opinion based on the aforementioned gathered observations on this issue in this blog post, with the intention it may provide you some encouragement as we carefully attempt our first steps outside our homes.

What we learned so far

We’ve come a long way since March, although many uncertainties remain. In the beginning, all we knew were the quickly spreading cases of infection, the lack of knowledge of successful treatments, the lack of PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), and overwhelmed hospitals (especially through the news from Italy, who was hit extremely hard). On top of it, the estimates for infections and deaths were so confusing and ever-changing. Many of us were scared.

We implemented the “shelter at home” and we “flattened the curve”, preventing our hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and hence avoiding a greater number of deaths. While we have not found the one treatment yet, we’ve learned about different treatment options, what worked and what didn’t work and we will continue to learn. We’ve implemented preventive measures, particularly good ole’ hand-washing and physical distancing; and this worked! Actually, these were our best tools in prevention! 

What most of us were most curious and anxious about, understandably, are the numbers!  The infection rate, but more curiously, the fatality rate. We saw the fatality rates go up quickly, but we didn’t know the infection-fatality risk ratio. 

And finally, just recently, the CDC came out with a report that for the first time attempted to offer a real estimate of the overall death rate for COVID-19, and under its most likely scenario, the number is 0.26%! That is very encouraging news overall!!! Not a reason to stop all preventions we have implemented, but encouraging enough to find hope.

The CDC estimates a 0.4% fatality rate among those who are symptomatic and project a 35% rate of asymptomatic cases among those infected, which drops the overall infection fatality rate (IFR) to just 0.26%. (I had a math mind calculate that IFR number, as it left my brain twisted. Feel free to do your own math). 

Please read the report for a more detailed look at the broken down numbers in various scenarios and age groups.

(https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html?fbclid=IwAR1Qq9L4LZ32wWNlmpibArmmGFGUO30Udi50q9tXlYkioV8qWA3t1U-ucxA)

Hence we are learning that Covid19 is very contagious but the vast majority of people who get it, survive. Although, some of those recovered, unfortunately seem to experience longer-term symptoms. 

We also learned of risk groups. And for those, the infection fatality rate is higher. (You can look up those estimates in the CDC report mentioned linked above). 

Those risk groups are largely the people over 60-70 years, with increasing risk as they get older and particularly those with comorbidities, like COPD and heart disease. Other diseases like obesity, immune disorders, asthma may increase risk too, we are still learning about the health implications in regards to infection with Covid19, we assume there are some. 

How do we return to work and public life

First of all, despite the overall hopeful estimated data, it is becoming clear that this virus is not going away for some time. And now with our state “opening up” again, we have to find ways to learn to live with this virus and draw on our current knowledge to do what we can to decrease our personal risk and that of our households. Nobody can decide your level of risk but you. 

Since we are fortunate enough to have identified high-risk groups for complications of an infection, individuals in those groups (and their household members) can implement targeted preventative measures to decrease their risk of infection.

People over 60-70 years old and older and particularly those with certain diseases as described above, should probably continue to be very careful about limiting their exposure. 

However, one common issue that has arisen particularly among the elder group is the emotional burden of the isolation. Not seeing their families can cause serious emotional stress, which can impact their overall health. But what to do now? Is it really safe to interact with others again? That will depend on your actual health condition and what level of risk you are comfortable taking. 

Here is what some families shared as possible guidelines for others. Some families have said, how they have felt comfortable seeing each other again after they had been isolated for weeks with no symptoms. Some of those were comfortable enough to hug each other; some sat around the table next to another, others kept their distance around the table; others only met outside; others only with masks.

These were individual and family decisions based on their circumstances, personal  risk assessments, and comfort levels. And these are decisions that are now knocking at our doors with the lifting of the restrictions.

Higher risk group, lower risk group, all of us will now have to make these decisions. There is no one size fits all decision, none of us have the same circumstances nor the same motivations for re-emerging from the shelter in our homes:

• Some people are still planning to stay home because of being in a risk group, and wait and see what unfolds.

• Some people are still planning to stay at home because they are still scared of getting infected.  

• Some people can’t wait to get back out there, back to work, back to school.

• Some people need to get back out there to rebuild their businesses.

• Some people need to get back out there to find a job after they lost their previous one.

• Some people are looking forward to finally getting the surgery that has been postponed.

• Some people are looking forward to getting a haircut. And even that is okay.

I hope whatever our approach, we all go out there with respect for each other and common sense and responsibility towards ourselves and others. It’s easy enough for us to:

• Keep up the hand washing.

• Avoid touching our faces. 

• Keep up the physical distancing where possible. 

• Wear a mask in crowded places like grocery stores or public transportation, maybe our workplace.

• Cough or sneeze away from people, and wash or sanitize our hands right after.

• Stay home when we feel sick and definitely when we are sick!

Finally

Whatever your perspective, please be kind of others’ perspectives. Everyone has their own, based on their own circumstances and needs. And we all need each other, we are after all social creatures. We have survived other disasters and diseases before with the support of each other and because of each other. We can do it again!  If we fear each other, we risk shutting each other out and miss meaningful supportive connections beneficial to building a safe environment as we venture into life again. 

And while our “new normal” will not look like our previous normal for the time being and maybe never again, at least it will give us an opportunity to again enjoy some of the activities that we have been unable to engage in over the last couple of months, and restore parts of our lives that have been suffering. And maybe even create a greater new “normal”?!

Be well! 

My opinions and observations above are mine not those of my employer or team partners. And they do not reflect any judgment of your opinion. 

Resources

COVID-19 Pandemic Planning Scenarios. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/planning-scenarios.html?fbclid=IwAR1Qq9L4LZ32wWNlmpibArmmGFGUO30Udi50q9tXlYkioV8qWA3t1U-ucxA

Coronavirus (COVID-19). CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

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