COVID-19 is a virus humans haven’t experienced before, which means we don’t have immunity and we’re vulnerable to it. Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. Rossana Rosa, UnityPoint Health, says there is no vaccine and no approved antiviral to cure it. Our best defense against coronavirus spread is space through self-isolation, self-quarantine and physical distancing.
What is Isolation, Quarantine and Physical Distancing?
“Our best defense against COVID-19 is to halt its spread from one human to another by practicing physical distancing (formerly known as social distancing), constantly washing our hands and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces,” Dr. Rosa says.
- Quarantine. The separation and restriction of movement of people who have been exposed to an infectious disease in order to see if they develop any symptoms.
- Isolation. The separation of sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick.
- Physical Distancing (Social Distancing). Avoiding gatherings and maintaining distance – approximately six feet from others.
“Right now, we are being asked to self-quarantine if you may have been exposed to the virus. However, for individuals who have contracted mild cases of COVID-19 and are asked to stay home, they would need to isolate from their families and others within their homes,” she says.
How Do I Self-Isolate from My Family?
If you come down with the coronavirus, it is important you isolate from others in your household. It’s a great idea to talk about what this could look like now, instead of if/when it happens.
“Identify an area in your home, like a basement, that is far from the common areas or would allow you to stay at least six feet away from others. Frequently clean and disinfect surfaces. If you are sick with COVID-19, it’s important you don’t share a bathroom with other members of your household,” Dr. Rosa says.
What are Some Scenarios to Help Make Decisions?
All words and definitions aside, here are some scenarios to help you understand the best decision for you, your family and your community.
- If you’ve been exposed to the virus but don’t have symptoms yet, you should… monitor your temperature and watch for cough or shortness of breath. Do this for 14 days.
- If you start to notice a cough, shortness of breath and temperature, you should… call your doctor or clinic before visiting a medical facility. Proper screening and assessment will occur over the phone, and you'll then be advised on next steps.
- If you’ve tested positive for the virus, you should… isolate yourself. Watch for any worsening of cough or shortness of breath in case you need to seek additional medical attention.
- If you have symptoms and have been tested but don’t know your results yet, you should… remain in isolation away from family and the public until you get your results. Monitor your condition and call your doctor if your condition worsens.
- If you have symptoms but couldn’t get tested, you should… remain in isolation away from family and the public for at least seven days or three days after resolution of symptoms, whichever is LONGER. Monitor your condition and call your doctor if your condition worsens.
- If you’re sick but don’t have symptoms related to COVID-19, you should… use UnityPoint Virtual Care. Virtual urgent care can help you get the care you need.
- If you’re not sick, you should… practice physical distancing, staying home when possible, cleaning commonly used surfaces and practice handwashing as often as possible.
- If you really just don’t know what to do… call the MyUnityPoint Nurse hotline. It is a health care line that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (800) 424-3258.
What All this About “Flattening the Curve?”
You might have heard people talking about “flattening the curve.” This refers to a special graphic created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It helps explain the change in COVID-19 over time and why it’s so important to follow physical distancing, quarantine and isolation requirements. Dr. Rosa says, as shown in the curve, if we do not slow the spread of the virus, we will not have enough medical resources to treat everyone as it spreads person to person.
*Photo Courtesy: CDC
“Let’s remember the number of cases of COVID-19 will continue to increase. If no interventions are taken, the increase of new cases will be so sharp and fast it’ll overwhelm hospitals. We will simply not be able to take care of the sick, especially those in need of more critical attention. However, if we practice physical distancing, we minimize the chances of getting infected or infecting others. This, in turn, slows the spread of the virus, so the number of new cases will not overwhelm hospitals and clinics, and we will be able to take care of those who are the sickest. The situation would be manageable, at least until we have a vaccine or effective antivirals,” Dr. Rosa says.
Dr. Rosa shares this final piece of advice.
“The next few weeks and probably months will be hard. If our collective efforts work, we will see a slowdown of the spread, and there will be a temptation to say this was all for nothing, that it was all a hoax. It will be hard, but by staying far it’ll bring us closer together.”