NEW ORLEANS (April 3, 2020) – Cough. Wash hands. Sneeze. Wash hands. Touch surface. Wash hands. High-five? Don’t do it. Wash hands.
A virus like no other in recent history is sweeping across the world, causing people to wash their hands like never before. COVID-19 is an upper respiratory disease that is spread from person-to-person. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the greatest preventatives are washing your hands and practicing social distancing.
The CDC explained on its website that coronaviruses are a large family of viruses common in people and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people such as with MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, and now with the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Symptoms of this virus are compatible to the flu but more severe. These symptoms include but are not limited to high fevers, dry coughs and shortness of breaths. People with pre-existing conditions and the elderly are at most at risk. But everyone must take it very seriously as parts of the nation prepare to run out of ventilators and medical staff struggle with the lack of protective equipment and even the lack of staffing itself.
As of April 3, more than 1 million cases have been reported around the world and more than 55,000 deaths. In America, more than a quarter-million cases have been counted, with more than 6,500 deaths.
In Louisiana, where we had ONE case on March 9 and 1,100 cases on March 23, we now have 10,297 cases and 370 deaths – all this in a span of 26 days. Cases in the state rose 42 percent Thursday after a backlog of test results were unleashed. New Orleans is at the epicenter in Louisiana, and Louisiana is No. 2 in per capita cases, behind New York/New Jersey.
Many countries are taking preventative measures to ensure COVID-19 does not spread any further. All around the United States, people are under shelter-in-place orders. We here at Dillard have transitioned, like others, to online platforms, and many around the state and nation have lost their jobs and await the cash infusion that Congress has promised to citizens through the recently passed stimulus package.
COVID-19 is no joke. I have seen countless Twitter posts and news reports of people’s family members passing because of complications from COVID-19. A woman in her 30s dying on her kitchen floor in New Orleans. Preachers dying in Shreveport and the New Orleans area. A beloved DJ in his 30s dying in Florida. An immigrant who’d built a life in Baton Rouge for decades. A 58-year-old hard-working black family man in Zachary.
The numbers have faces behind them: real people with aspirations and families who mourn them. They often are dying without their families by their sides as hospitals must restrict visitors.
In America, the odds are usually in our favor, but COVID-19 does not discriminate and is relentless. COVID-19 is coming at us hard. Black people and the young can get the virus, too. In fact, experts have said Louisianans are being hit especially hard because of lack of access to health care (Obama-care, anyone?) and the high rate of conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
Right now, a Republican AND a Democratic member in the Louisiana Legislature have tested positive for the virus. This outbreak is no respecter of persons, whatever the race, gender or political persuasion.
Handwashing and social distancing are our only hope until there is a vaccination, which – if we’re lucky – could be available in early 2021.
Social distancing is the new norm. We must embrace it. The virus came at a time where major social events were just beginning; spring break, Mardi Gras, Spring Fest. The bars are closed and limitations are in place such as traffic halted to Pontchartrain Lake. We can’t pout about missing entertainment options when we must focus on our mental and physical health, family and values. Everyone is responsible for flattening the curve.
We – the young – need stay take this virus more seriously. The economy and other people’s lives depend on it. We can go without partying and remain sane. The bars will be there after the virus. We must be patient. This, too, shall pass. Humans have survived smallpox, influenza and Ebola. We – and others around us – will survive COVID-19 if we adhere to guidelines, practice social distancing, wash our hands and – possibly the next step – start wearing masks in public.