Life in the Time of Corona Virus
March 14, 2020, 12:00 PM

Yes, this all feels terrible and we certainly don't like it. We're not allowed to have church, we have to stay far apart, we are told to avoid touching, we're barred from visiting our friends in long-term care, and it can get to feeling pretty lonely.

The hardest part is, we don't even know for sure if we have to! There haven't been any reports that anyone in our area has this virus, and besides, most people recover, and lots barely have symptoms, so why do we have to do this? Where does the government get off telling us what we can and can't do?

Why is everyone so panicked about this?

Wow, that's a lot of questions!

But it's not here!

**So far as we know**, there have been no diagnosed cases of the corona virus here. But one major reason we don't know is because *no one has been tested* for it. Even if they were or are sick. There are apparently no test kits in Jefferson County. And there are protocols that have limited the tests that are being conducted - you have to have symptoms (fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing) plus you have to have been overseas in a hotspot country (China, Italy, Iran in particular), or been exposed to someone who has been in one of those places.

The problem with this approach is that, as we have learned from events in Washington State, where they discovered the virus had been present for six weeks before they found the first case (in someone with no known exposures to place or persons), this virus could be here, or anywhere, now.

But it's just another form of flu, we get that every year and more people die from flu than have died from this.

Well, some forms of flu are, corona viruses and some aren't. Some forms of flu are more severe in certain populations, such as children, or the elderly, or people in their teens/twenties. new virus is particularly harsh for the elderly, and the older one is, the risk of a serious case is higher. Also, the virus is harsher for those with underlying health issues, such as lung disease, heart disease, and so on.

What is really disconcerting about this one is how very fast it spreads once it has a foothold. Symptoms may not manifest for several days, while it continues to spread under the radar, so to speak, as occurred in Washington state. There is no vaccine. There is no tamiflu for it. There is no treatment. The only care that can be given is to support the patient while their own immune system battles it out. Most patients in Italy that have died, died from "bilateral interstitial pneumonia." If you can't breathe, you can't survive.

But most victims recover!

Yes, and some of them require lengthy hospitalizations and extensive medical interventions - weeks in an ICU, round-the-clock care, full support -, in order to recover. And on rare occasions, some who have recovered have been reinfected, and can still die from it.

But I'm strong and have a great immune system, why should I self-isolate?

We all need to keep distance because we all know that the vulnerable are all around us - an elderly parent or uncle or friend, people with COPD from smoking, people with cardiac issues, and so on. Our county's largest demographic is the elderly. Retirees move here to live.

You self-isolate in order to protect those you love. You self-isolate yourself in order to protect your neighbors. You self-isolate in order to protect EMTs, nurses, doctors, medical technicians. You self-isolate because you know, whether you like it or not, we need you to do that. Furthermore, you may think your immune system is fine, but what if you're wrong? You could still be struck, too.

But I wash my hands and I don't go around touching people, and I disinfect stuff, so why isn't that enough?

It's a terrific start and thank you for doing that. Keep it up! But you still breathe, touch door handles, scratch your nose or rub your eye, and that could be just the one time you get into trouble.

The social distancing thing, the self-isolation thing is the only thing that has been shown to slow the spread of this illness. The only thing.

The more we slow it down, the more time the medical people have to prepare, the more time researchers have to find effective treatments, and the less likely we are to overburden our little local hospital, our pharmacies, and everything else we all depend on.

And the more we slow it down, the less likely it is that most of us could get it, and not just some.

No one knows how many people have the virus now. Based on transmission rates in other countries and in other places in the U.S. that are experiencing outbreaks, it's clear the increases in infection rates are exponential. In just ten days in a close-knit community in New York, 108 people were infected, from one person. Estimates for Indiana infections indicate as many as 60,000 or more people could already be infected.

This is the stuff of nightmares. The situation is unprecedented. Governments at all levels, medical facilities, and all of us are still trying to develop cogent and effective responses, where lots of people don't die.

Please follow the CDC and Indiana State Department of Health guidelines.

This isn't panic, this is common sense. This is loving our neighbors as ourselves.

What can we do?

As an acquaintance of mine has written: Remember who and whose you are!

"As we all try to take a minute amid the daily changes in our lives, remember that you are God's beloved. You are part of the story that God has chosen to tell through your love and your purpose.

"We all may need help hearing that still, small voice You are my beloved. Check on friends and neighbors - make eye contact with one another and phone calls - make a donation to a food pantry, and don't forget your regular offering."

(Stephanie Gurnsey Higgins)

You are beloved.