by Curt Kovener
Back in the day…better make that WAY back in the day when I was a first responder on the volunteer fire department, we would get called out to put of grass fires, field fires and woods fires. And there were times that, using what was tantamount to a mudflap on a shovel handle to smother flames, when turning around the fire that we thought was out was flaming again and racing across the ground. Residual embers rekindled the fire.
An infectious diseases expert at Baylor College of Medicine said that the same can be said for COVID-19, and we need to do everything that we can to prevent a rekindling of the disease.
“We don’t know what it will look like after this initial wave,” said Dr. Robert Atmar, professor of infectious diseases at Baylor. “We don’t know whether one or more subsequent waves will occur and cause additional or annual epidemics. We don’t yet know what the pattern will be.”
The goal of flattening the curve by quarantining and social distancing is to decrease the rate at which people are infected so that the healthcare system can manage the number of cases. However, flattening the curve doesn’t necessarily mean that we can decrease the total number of people who are ultimately infected.
After flattening the curve, those of us who are at risk for getting COVID-19 will still have the same risk of getting the disease. Flattening the curve will not impact the disease severity.
So it’s important to not get in a hurry about opening up the economy. Social distancing measures need to stay in place even after South Central Indiana hits its Coronavirus peak, predicted for sometime in May, in order to keep the curve flat.
And it may take several attempts at keeping the curve flat. One advantage of flattening the curve multiple times is that it will give the medical experts time to development a treatment and a vaccine to prevent Coronavirus.
Atmar said he hopes for a vaccine or treatment by the time a second or third wave occurs, but currently there are no proven effective treatments. Please read that again…a second or third wave and currently no effective treatments!
The more we learn about the virus as time goes on, the measures that we need to take to prevent and treat it will be better refined. If ‘normal’ activities resume too quickly, there is a danger that the virus could begin spreading again, he said. “Just like a brush fire.”
“Social distancing, wearing masks and hand hygiene are the only measures available to protect us from infection until we have a vaccine,” Atmar said. “The key is that it’s not going to be business as usual once we get past the hump.”
An analogy most southern Hoosiers will understand: this disease is not like a windstorm or snowstorm that once it is over we can all go out, clear the tree limbs or shovel the sidewalk and get back to normal life. It is like a brush fire that could reignite again and burn us.