COVID-19—What you Can Do and What you Should Not Do.

This afternoon, WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom held a press briefing on the current situation and recommendations surrounding COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Following is a summary of the WHO recommendations, and information on what you should and should not be doing right now.

An important fund has been established to collect funds from individuals around the world and provide much needed protective equipment and knowledge to affected countries.  See below for the link and share it with everyone you know or go directly to the World Health Organization home page and click the orange donate button. 

Adhanom began with some context for the current WHO response.  Europe is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a daily growth in cases that exceeds the growth in China during its peak expansion phase.  The world death toll has exceeded 5,000 as of this morning and the infection has spread to at least 123 countries.  To date, the WHO has sent 1.5 million diagnostic tests to affected countries.

The WHO is now making firm requests to all countries of the world, urging a comprehensive approach.  Adhanom notes that social distancing, alone, is not enough.  Aggressive testing, alone, is not enough.  Providing treatment is not enough.  Countries must combine strategies and emphasize aggressive testing and aggressive preventative measures overall.  In perhaps his most blunt directive to date, Adhanom warns that any country that thinks it will not happen to them is “making a deadly mistake.”

Current WHO directives for businesses and governments are:
  1. Prepare and be ready: know the symptoms. Make sure everyone in your department knows the symptoms.  All health care workers should know what to do and all medical centres should have a strategy to deal with COVID-19.
  2. Detect, protect, and treat: find it, isolate it, and test for it. Treat every single case of COVID-19 to limit its expansion.
  3. Reduce transmission: quarantine all people who are in contact with those who are infected for two weeks. Cancel events where there will be large gatherings.
  4. Innovate and learn: all countries must share the lessons they learn as they confront COVID-19 locally.
The WHO also has requests for individuals (AKA, what you should do):
  • clean your hands regularly with soap or alcohol-based hand cleaner
  • cover your mouth and nose when you cough
  • stay home when you are sick
  • avoid groups and unnecessary travel
  • comply with your local health authority’s instructions
  • find and share reliable information
  • and most importantly, please give to the new “COVID-19 Response Fund.”
The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund

This is newly created by The United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation to support WHO and partners in helping affected countries to prevent, detect, and manage the COVID-19.  Funds will be distributed where they are most urgently needed.  A key aim is to address is the shortage of personal protective equipment endangering health workers worldwide.  Funds will be provided to buy or locate mask, gowns and gloves, to distribute COVID-19 test kits, and to further research and training of medical personnel.  Japan has reportedly given $155 million to the fund, but donations from individuals are urgently needed.

Everyone is urged to donate what they can using the orange link on the site.

Adhanom strongly emphasized voluntary social distancing as the most powerful weapon to flatten the curve of COVID-19 expansion.

What You Should Not Do

To address Tedros Adhanom’s request to share credible information and limit the spread of misinformation, we note the following:

DO NOT believe the internet rumour that you can test for COVID-19 by taking a deep breath and holding it for more than 10 seconds, and if you can do this without coughing, discomfort, stuffiness or tightness it proves you do not have the infection.  This is bogus. First, COVID-19 starts in the throat and nose, and may be limited to muscle pain and fever, so a lung test in these cases is irrelevant.  Also, a person who has poor lung health may cough when holding their breath even without a COVID-19 infection.  When COVID does impact the lungs, it causes pneumonia, not the “fibrosis” some versions of this test say you are trying to detect.  Relying on such bogus tests could prompt infected persons to go out and infect others.  Only a medical test can determine if you have COVID-19.

DO NOT panic about running out of supplies.  There are many reports on social media of people panic buying toilet paper and meat at local Costco and grocery stores.  Some reports indicate people are aggressive or highly agitated.  Alberta health has again clarified that people only need a few days of supplies and there are no expected supply shortages.  The reason for the stocking up recommendation was to help people limit the amount of time that people need to spend outside of their homes, not to address supply shortages.  I can personally attest that each time Costco has run out of toilet paper this month, the shelves have been fully stocked again the next day.  Dr. Deena Hinshaw of Alberta Public Health notes that the panic buying behaviour itself is causing these shortages, thus this is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

DO NOT believe the bogus claim that drinking tons of water can prevent coronavirus transmission.

DO NOT turn to harsh chemicals to wash your hands, in the belief that the novel coronavirus is hard to kill.  It’s not.  Simple soap and water can easily kill this virus if it is on your skin.  The virus is harmful, but not overly resilient.

DO NOT panic.  Coronavirus is worse than the flu.  But the vast majority who get it will recover within a week or two.  Home care is the same as for the flu: fluids, rest, a hot shower for some steam.  This is not the plague.

DO call Alberta HealthLink at 811 to get tested if you have any symptoms, especially a fever or muscle pain.  But don’t panic.  Prepare for a very long wait on the phone when you call 811.  Healthcare workers are doing everything they can.  Expect to be on hold a few hours, relax and watch some TV while you wait.  And do not call 911 to complain about wait times for Alberta health.  Only call 911 if you are urgently ill or reporting a crime.  Abusing 911 puts others at risk because it delays help for those who are in urgent need.  Alberta police have requested people be patient with HealthLink.  Remember, having symptoms doesn’t mean you will become severely ill.

On Toilet Paper

The reason that many people are panic-buying toilet paper remains a mystery and is a hot topic for discussion, as is the reason that this behaviour has been noted as much more prevalent in Western Canada.

For many, dealing with people who are panicked is scarier than the virus.  Try to reassure those around you, and stay safe, everyone!

%d bloggers like this: