How do I contract the coronavirus (COVID-19)
COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, begins with droplets from an infected person’s cough, sneeze, or breath. Those infected droplets could land on a surface, such as a counter, or a plate. While the virus doesn’t live very long on surfaces, if you touch those surfaces when they are infected, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you could contract the virus.
More often – very much more often, those droplets are expelled from a virus infected person into the air. If you inhale those droplets, that gives the virus a passage to the mucous membranes in your throat. Think of these droplets as “invaders.” Once the virus enters your body, it attaches itself to healthy cells. Once on board in your body, the virus makes copies of itself, and multiplies.
How does it attack?
The coronavirus attaches itself to healthy cells using “spiky surface proteins” in your throat, and notably to cells in your lungs. These attacks are executed by ACE2 receptors, that hijack healthy cells and take command. In so doing, healthy cells (some) are killed.
We don’t know enough about the new coronavirus to explain clearly why some people carry the illness without showing any effect, but there is ongoing research to discover the answers to this – and in part, the fact that a person can be infected without knowing it is what makes this virus so dangerous. Typically, an infected person will experience symptoms within two to 14 days.
Three Keys to Slow the Spread
That includes your friends. That includes anyone outside of your immediate household, including relatives. In fact, we’re now learning that your home may be a hothouse for COVID-19 infection.
To reduce the threat, use these three tactics to make yourself safer:
Wear a face covering – and a mask is the only consistent and effective face covering to use.
Stay a minimum six (6) feet apart from other humans who don’t live with you. This includes your golf buddies, your shopping pals, your hobby partners, and even your musician bandmates. Everyone. To be very safe, try to keep yourself 10 feet away from strangers. It sounds totally weird, but it’s the way things are right now. The medical community refers to this as social distancing. More accurately, it’s physical distancing.
Wash your hands often, using soap and water for at least 20 seconds (sing “happy birthday” twice). When you’re out of the house, use hand sanitizer that is made up of at least 60% alcohol (not the kind we drink).
IF YOU HAVE AN UNDERLYING CONDITION: You’ll be at severe risk if you have heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, or other medical conditions.
IF YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT YOURSELF OR OTHERS: You’ll be at severe risk if you ignore science and medical professionals. If you reject wearing a mask, attend parties with lots of people close together, dine indoors with or near strangers, wash your hands only occasionally, and act as if it’s 1917, you’re at severe risk. If you read this and are angry to see this risk assessment, don’t stress. Just cover up, wash your hands, and practice social distancing, and your risk will drop like a stone in the sea.
Very High Risk
IF YOU’RE OVER THE AGE OF 65: Unfortunately, father time isn’t our friend when it comes to COVID-19. Many serious or even fatal cases related to COVID-19 occur in people over the age of 65. This means you need to take precautions even more seriously than you ordinarily might.
IF YOU THINK YOU KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU: You’ll be at very high risk. What does this mean? If you wear a mask to impress others, or to be allowed into a business, but you don’t really think they work, or that they are somehow impacting your freedom, you’re creating risk for yourself and others. It’s the virus that impacts your freedom. Also, if you think that wearing a mask prevents you from breathing properly (it doesn’t) – then you’ll be more likely to avoid taking precautions unless someone is watching.
YOU’RE AN ESSENTIAL WORKER: If the work you do categorizes you as an essential worker, you’re at high risk. Work in a restaurant? Work in a physician’s office or a hospital? Firefighter? Police Officer? Any essential worker position carries with it a high risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. Be safe out there!
JUST THIS ONE TIME: If you generally “follow the rules, but deviate in small ways – for example, you wear a mask, but it only covers your mouth, not your nose – or if you wear a mask, but you just had to go to that birthday party, or a gathering of lots of people for an event – just that one time. Following most of the rules, but not all, or making an “exception” for something you’re sure will be “safe” puts you at high risk to become infected.
YOU FOLLOW THE RULES, BUT GO OUT OF THE HOUSE: It’s important to note that following the directives for social distancing, washing hands, and wearing a mask reduces your risk of being infected. Those rules don’t end your risks of being a COVID-19 patient. If you play golf, tennis, run, or interact with multiple people out in the world, you’re at moderate risk. The risk is clearly lower when you’re outside, but there is still a risk. Be safe out there, and try to limit time indoors to 15 minutes at a time.
FOLLOWING THE RULES AND STAYING HOME: Creating a low risk environment is so easy. Wear a mask (properly), wash your hands, and practice social distancing. Do it every time you leave the house. Most importantly, whenever possible, stay home. And, when you stay home, don’t invite your friends and relative over – then your risk jumps to moderate or even severe depending on your behavior. Recent studies have shown that up to 70+% of infections take place between family and friends.
Now that a vaccine is here, can’t I go back to a normal life?
We’re very encouraged that multiple vaccine options are arriving. The world is burdened with billions of people, and it will take time to get enough people inoculated to stop the spread of the disease.
This is when we need to be most vigilant, and unfortunately, it’s a time when we’re likely to be less so. People are not only suffering from the direct impact of COVID-19, but from the fatigue that affects those who are not ill, but need to follow the advise from science and medical experts – and often don’t. Hospitals are running out of ICU beds, and that means that seriously ill people will not get treated, and therefore be far more likely to die.
The pandemic is impacting most of us, and not in a good way. It’s making us angry, frustrated, and fearful. COVID-19 has destroyed friendships and even divided families. We need to find ways to be close, without being in direct contact, and we can get through this.
The holiday season of 2020 is about hunkering down, staying home, avoiding family gatherings in person – no matter how important they may be to you – so that you are alive and able to enjoy many holidays starting in late 2021. COVID-19 is no joke. It doesn’t care who you are.
Surviving the Emotional Impact of COVID-19
Check out our podcast on learning to cope with COVID-19.