Saturday will mark five months since Clark County Fire District 6 paramedics answered a call to assist a sick man in his 70s. Five days later, that patient was confirmed as Clark County’s first COVID-19 patient.
In the following week, our world was upended. On Friday, March 13, Gov. Jay Inslee ordered public schools closed through April 24, a date that proved way too optimistic. Waves of other restrictions and closure orders followed.
On March 16, a Vancouver couple in their 80s became the first local people to die from COVID-19.
When historians chronicle what quickly became a pandemic, they will most likely note that the reach and duration of the novel coronavirus was extended by lack of federal leadership, inadequate testing and supplies, and a sizable minority of people who were ignorant or unwilling to take adequate precautions to prevent the disease’s spread.
Finally, it’s become apparent that wishful thinking led to loosening restrictions too soon.
The government’s top expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said last week, “We are certainly not at the end of the game. I’m not even sure we’re halfway through.”
With that in mind, it’s useful to revisit some of the basics about the disease.
First, COVID-19 is part of a family of coronaviruses that include other deadly diseases like SARS-1. It spreads easily from human to human, mainly through respiratory droplets when you cough, sneeze, sing, shout or even talk. That’s why wearing a mask is considered an important way to reduce its transmission. So is keeping your social distance from others, particularly if they are not wearing masks. In other words, don’t let people breathe near your face.
Needless to say, wash your hands frequently, especially after touching things a lot of other people touch, such as doorknobs or shopping cart handles.
There’s no specific evidence to date that the virus is spread by things such as food, water or mosquitoes. Nor, unfortunately, is it diminished by sunlight or warm weather, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although some patients don’t know they are sick, most people start to feel ill between two to 14 days after exposure. It can really hit you, even if you don’t end up in the hospital.
Symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting and diarrhea. Most people get better, but it’s too soon to know how much permanent damage might be done to the body.
If you feel sick, stay home. Clark County Public Health urges anyone with symptoms to contact their medical provider about being tested for COVID-19. It’s important to call or email for specific instructions before you go to the clinic; you don’t want to spread the virus.
Unlike in the first few weeks, tests are now widely available. If you do not have a regular medical provider, or for some reason can’t get a test there, check Clark County Public Health’s novel coronavirus webpage for a list of places to get tested.
We’ve heard most or all of these things, but it’s important to think about them and incorporate them. Other countries such have Italy have beaten back the infection rates by wearing masks and following other recommendations.
We can too. But we will need to work together to do it. Stay home. Wear a mask and keep your distance when you go out. If you feel sick, get tested. Then stay home until you feel better. Let’s not allow this terrible virus to linger in our community for another five months.