Healthcare News

8 Weeks Into Social Distancing & COVID-19 – Where Do We Stand?

May 4, 2020 By

It’s been nearly 8 weeks since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a worldwide pandemic and approximately 7 weeks since stay-at-home orders were issued. Quite a lot has changed about the way in which we live, work, and communicate.

As we begin a new month, May offers a reasonable checkpoint to reflect on all that has happened and consider where we’re headed.

What is the current state of the virus, where does the U.S. stand on reopening, and what might a “new normal” look like?

What we’ve learned about the virus

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a virus that can spread from person to person, and can cause symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fever, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or new loss of taste or smell. These symptoms will likely appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus, unless you are asymptomatic (meaning, infected but showing no symptoms). They can range from mild to severe. Older adults and those with underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk for serious illness.

Infection can spread through close contact between people. The virus can be transmitted through respiratory droplets expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, speaks, or sings. Transmission is also possible if you touch a surface or object that has the virus on it, and then touch your face.

According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence yet that people who have previously had COVID-19 cannot get a second infection.

The current state of COVID-19 in numbers:

As of May 3rd, there were 3.35 million confirmed global cases of the new coronavirus and 239 thousand deaths worldwide. In the United States, total cases are believed to be around 1.1 million, and total deaths about 66 thousand.

Check the World Health Organization website for the latest global situation reports, or the Centers for Disease Control website for the latest United States updates.

Where do we stand on a vaccine?

There is currently no vaccine to protect us against this novel virus, although medical researchers around the world have made finding one their top priority. It is also the goal of countless studies to develop effective treatments for COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, believes that the development of a COVID-19 vaccine will be the fastest development of a vaccine on record. Estimates indicate that a vaccine likely won’t be ready for at least a year.

“Finding a safe and effective vaccine to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2 is an urgent public health priority.”

-Dr. Anthony Fauci, M.D.

How long until we can reopen?

Reopening indicates when we as a society can ease restrictions on the stay-at-home policy, business closures, and social limitations. Decisions about when to reopen will happen state by state.

Where does your state stand on reopening?

A few states are already taking steps to open up their local societies. Others have set target dates for when reopening may begin. And some states have issued more generalized information about their plans. See where your state stands on reopening.

What might reopening look like?

While each state will handle reopening in its own way, the latest information suggests that many will open in incremental phases. Reopening won’t mean an immediate lift on all restrictions. Furthermore, conditions in the places that do reopen may be quite different than what we’re used to. For example, restaurant servers may wear masks, workplaces may enforce more disperse seating policies, and gatherings will still be limited in size for some time.

Furthermore, reopening does not mean an end to social distancing. In fact, some experts are predicting that forms of social distancing could extend well into the summer or beyond. This doesn’t mean that we will be as socially restricted as we currently are, but that society may look a little different for the foreseeable future.

As steps to reopen are rolled out, local governments will be carefully monitoring the impacts and adjusting their policies as necessary in order to best protect public health. A sense of normalcy in terms of how we live and work will begin to return, but be prepared that it may look and feel different.

Where does testing stand?

The availability of COVID-19 testing in the U.S. has been a much-discussed topic this past month. The U.S. government recently announced plans to “double” the availability of testing within the country.

Going forward, adequate testing and data will be essential to help guide the process of reopening. As researchers continue to track rates of the illness within the U.S., their data will offer insights into how we can best and most safely interact in society.

What types of tests are available?

Two types of tests are available to evaluate for COVID-19:

  • Diagnostic tests, which take samples from your respiratory system (such as saliva) to check for infection. Examples include a nose swab test or sputum test.
  • Antibody tests, which look for antibodies in your blood that show whether you have previously been infected. Examples include a blood test.

For more information about COVID-19 testing, the CDC has a dedicated page on the topic. For information about at-home testing through SteadyMD, click here.

So, what should you do?

Continue to practice social distancing, wash your hands regularly, carry hand sanitizer, and minimize time in public spaces.

“We are living through a historic time, where it is easy to become overwhelmed by the unknown. I have found that the best strategy to cope is focusing on the present while practicing gratitude for what you have.”

– Dr. Josh Emdur

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Additional resources about protecting your physical and mental health:

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