Saturday, April 4, 2020

We are in a war

When I am stressed, I sometimes remind myself that at least I'm not in a war, that no one is shooting real bullets at me. I've never been in a real shooting war, but we are all in a war now. A war against a novel (new) coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2. This is the enemy:

In unprecedented times such as these, we reach for analogies to help us understand the new reality around us. In this post I recommend two videos that offer analogies that I find helpful.

In the first video, the speaker says "this is a Dunkirk moment for our country." That's an analogy I can understand. While I have not watched the 2017 movie Dunkirk, I know the basic story of this pivotal moment in World War II.

(3/24/2020, 14 minutes, alternate link)

This video is an interview with Anthony Monaco, the president of Tufts University. Dr. Monaco, a geneticist, describes the transformation of parts of the Tufts University campus into a military-style hospital to fight the war against coronavirus. The Dunkirk analogy is in the answer to the question asked by the interviewer at 9:40.

[Local readers may be interested in how I learned about this video. I reached out to Jessica Daniels to see how she was doing during this pandemic. Jessica lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and she is engaged in a quest to visit and blog about other Cambridges in the United States. She visited Cambridge, Vermont, last September. Click here for what she wrote about our town. It's interesting and insightful. Anyway, Jessica works at Tufts University and she told me about the video.]

The second video I recommend is about safely buying groceries and take-out food.

(3/24/2020, 14 minutes, alternate link)

This video is by Dr. Jeffrey VanWingen, an MD in Michigan. I've linked to this video before, but it's worth highlighting again. As I write this, it has been watched nearly 25 million times.

Dr. VanWingen offers another useful analogy: glitter. Think of the virus as glitter, except that it is invisible. It sticks to everything and it may be anywhere. Your job is to keep it out of your house, off your person, and especially out of your respiratory system.

Other differences between real glitter and the coronavirus:
  • Coronavirus is destroyed by soap. Wash your hands!
  • Coronavirus decays over time.
  • Coronavirus floats in the air and is stable in air for up to 3 hours (longer on surfaces). (link)
The last item is a problem, because infected people exhale the virus. (link) Person-to-person transmission through the air is thought to be the most common way the disease spreads. This is a BIG problem because an infected person may not show any symptoms. They may not know they are infected. That is why social distancing and six feet of separation are important.

Stay at home as much as possible. Hunker down. When you must go out in public, assume that everyone you meet is infected even if they are not showing symptoms, and assume that you are infected even if not showing symptoms.

Wear a cloth face mask in public. (Not an N95 mask. Those are scarce and need to be reserved for professionals.) A cloth face mask provides a small amount of protection for the wearer. More importantly it protects the people around us in case we are an asymptomatic carrier. (The State of Vermont recommends cloth face masks) (Making cloth face masks in Vermont)

It is hard to fight a war against something we can't see, but perhaps the analogies of Dunkirk and glitter will help us understand the new reality facing us.

War Casualties

As I write this, there have been more than 60,000 deaths worldwide (source); more than 5,000 deaths in the U.S. (source); and 17 deaths in Vermont (source). See this earlier post for comparable statistics as of March 26. Sadly the first COVID-19 death of a Cambridge resident has occurred (source).

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