Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Why Public Health experts are asking people to practice social distancing

I posted last week on why we are social distancing, and wanted to post on it again to help encourage people to continue to stay at home. There is a little math in this post, but hang with me. I believe it helps to shine a light on exactly why public health experts are asking everyone to stay home.

An important question with an infectious disease is “how contagious is it?”. A good way to measure that is to look at how many people each infected person passes the virus on to.  For the seasonal flu, that is around 1.5 people. So, on average, each person that gets the flu infects 1.5 others.

For COVID-19, that number looks to be around 3. It may be higher than that, because our testing is limited and a lot of people may not show symptoms, but we can go with 3 for this example. So for every person with the virus, they will give it to 3 additional people.

The difference doesn’t seem huge, right? 1.5 vs 3

Let’s do a little math, and think through 10 cycles of infection.  So, one person gets the flu, they give it to 1.5 people. Those 1.5 people give it to 1.5 other people, etc.  How many people would have the flu after 5 cycles?

1 X 1.5 = 1.5
1.5 X 1.5= 2.25
2.25 X 1.5=3.375
3.375 X 1.5=5.06
5.06 X 1.5= 7.59

Now, let’s do COVID-19.
1 X 3 = 3
3 X 3= 9
9 X 3= 27
27 X 3=81
81 x 3= 243

On the 5th cycle of infection, 243 people would be infected with COVID compared to 7.5 with flu. What if we did 10 cycles? I will not write the math out, but the numbers are staggering.

Flu: 57.6 cases
COVID19: 59,049 cases

This is why we are socially isolating. By reducing the number of contacts people have, we can drive down the number of people who get the virus.

People do not give the virus to others on purpose, they spread it when they are unaware they are infected. That could be ANY of us. You may have it. By going out, you may give it to three people, who give it to three people… and so on. Or, you may not have it. But by going out, you may come in contact with someone that unknowingly does, allowing the cycle to continue.

The number 3 is too high.  The fewer people we contact, the more likely we are to drop that number. If we can drop it to 1.5, in 10 cycles of the virus we can reduce the number of cases by 58,992.

Just something to think about as you try to stay  #HealthyAtHome


Tuesday, March 17, 2020


Looks like I might be blogging again, at least in the short term :)  Turns out, I have a lot to say once I am isolated at home!

I am doing some short writing that I am posting on social media at the moment. I would like to preserve these posts somewhere beyond a constantly moving timeline.  So as if I write, I plan to then move those posts over here for record keeping.


I keep thinking of the families that live paycheck to paycheck. The ones that can’t buy extra food because they already buy as much as they can with the money they have. The ones that fear being home for long periods of time, because risk of harm increases at home. The ones that are desperately trying to file for government assistance so they can feed their families next week. The ones that are terrified of what happens when this is over, and they are out of a job.

I keep thinking about the people who have to go to go work everyday in environments that put them at high risk. Healthcare workers yes, but also grocery and pharmacy workers.  Food preparation companies and delivery people.  Gas station workers, Amazon workers, and people working to produce the medical equipment we desperately need.

I feel so very lucky to be able to work from home and not worry our bills wont get paid.  I feel so lucky that Henry can complete school activities online, and is safe and healthy and protected here. I feel so lucky my parents and in-laws are able to self-isolate, and are reducing their risk of exposure while being immune compromised. 

We are so lucky.  And I will tell myself that everyday when I am bored, or lonely, or overwhelmed.  I will tell myself that when I am sad for the things we are giving up.  These problems are so small in this moment, compared to what others are facing.

I will continue to buy gift cards to local businesses to support them through this time, and encourage you to do the same. 

I would also like to donate directly to people in town who need support. Does anybody know of  support agencies we could donate to that is helping to coordinate support for those impacted by COVID-19? 


Sunday, March 15, 2020


Hi all - Long time, I know.  But as some of you might remember, I work in Public Health. Over the past few weeks I have had many friends and family ask for information on Coronvirus-19, and I thought some here might also be interested in my response. While infectious diseases are not my primary area of work, I am happy to share what I know. My hope is to help explain why working together to flatten the curve is so critically important at this moment. Many Americans lives will be impacted by how we respond.
Let's start with disease transmission. Research is limited on this COVID-19, but projections estimate each infected person is spreading it to 2-3 additional people. Because of limited testing, that number may be higher in the US. This means for each case that exists, they are likely to cause (on average) 2-3 new cases. This is why we are seeing the exponential growth we have now.
It is important to note that infection rates can change. We can reduce this number by practicing good hygiene (wash your hands!) and by limiting contact with others. We can increase this number by coming in contact with more people, or not isolating when we show signs of illness.
Numbers out of South Korea, where testing was far more extensive that most countries, found young adults represented a high proportion of positive tests, yet they represent a low proportion of critical cases. This means they are at high risk of actively spreading the disease without realizing it. If people go out to bars, restaurants, and large social events, they are at risk of both contracting and spreading the disease.
Following initial infection, it takes on average five days to show signs of illness. Some individuals do not show signs until up to 12 days, and it appears some individuals may never show clear signs of infection to the extent that they seek testing. As these people move through other populations, they are at risk of spreading the disease.
The virus can live on surfaces for a period of time. Currently that timeframe looks to be 2-3 days. This means if someone whose is sick can leave the virus on planes, buses, tables, desks, chairs, movie theaters, trampoline parks, playgrounds, dugouts, etc. You do not have to come in contact with the person who is sick to catch the virus from them.
Our hospital systems are at high risk of exceeding their capacity. When this has happened elsewhere, it results in a drastic increase in deaths from the disease. While older individuals and immune compromised are at increased risk of severe complications, others are not immune. The average age of critical patients in France is BELOW 60. This is why you are heading so much about flattening the curve. The disease is bad on it’s own, but if we lose the ability to treat the ill, things will get much worse.
We are all in this together. We must work together to flatten the curve and keep people safe. Stay home if you can. Practice social distancing and good hygiene behaviors if you must go out. We must all do this in order to slow this disease down and save lives.
We are extremely lucky to live in a world that allows social connections during physically isolating events. Call your friends and family. Video chat. Play online games. Download books and get lost in an entirely new world. Catch up on all those shows/movies you have wanted to watch. Slow down, and understand by doing so, you are literally helping to save lives.
While some people's lives may slow down, others are not. Many are trying to figure out how to effectively work from home, while possibly also taking care of their children. Many are working in the healthcare field where they will have the most physically and emotionally exhausting days of their career. Some are terrified for what this means for their families and their livelihood. We must also acknowledge the stress this disease will put on people, and work together to support that negative impact that may have as well.
These are uncertain times, and fear and anxiety are high. Working together to support each other is critical. Pushing for state and federal policy to support workers, families, and businesses is needed. Be understanding with others when they struggle. Deadlines are secondary to health. If you have the resources, think of how to help support others. Consider donations to individuals who need financial help. Or possibly buy gift cards for small businesses in your community. Practicing social distancing will help slow the disease, but our nation will need more than just that to recover. We must find ways to love and support each other from a distance.
Our world will look different for a little while. Be kind.
*Feel free to leave some book/movie/tv recommendations below. In between reading the news and figuring out how to move my classes online, I would love some distractions.