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Shelter in place, stay home

Why Is It Important To “Shelter-In-Place?”

even if you’re less at risk, you’re still at risk—and so are your neighbors

ICYMI, most North Texas counties have ordered residents to stay home or shelter in place (except for essential work, errands and walking the dog). But what about young families? If we’re not in the at-risk population, is it really that critical for us to be social distancing or sheltering in place?

Sorry—no matter how desperately you want this homeschooling free trial to end, the experts say “yes.” It’s important for every family to take COVID-19 restrictions seriously. Here’s why:

Even young, healthy people can get the virus.

Sure, people over 65 are more at risk, but that doesn’t mean everybody else is safe.

“We’re all at risk—nobody has immunity to this virus,” explains Diana Cervantes, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at the UNT Health Science Center Fort Worth. “People in their 20s and 30s can have very severe disease. You can definitely not have underlying conditions and still get very, very sick.”

One of the newest cases in Collin County is a 7-year-old; in fact, 36% of people who’ve gotten the virus in Dallas Countyare 18–40 years old—and not all of them have underlying health conditions. And about a third of people who’ve been hospitalized in Dallas County are under 60 and don’t have a known chronic health problem.

Mama, you’re resourceful, you’re resilient, and I sure wouldn’t want to be pitted against you in a battle for the world’s last package of toilet paper—but you’re not invincible. (And it’s OK to admit that.)

You can carry the virus without knowing it.

Even if your symptoms are mild, you could easily pass the virus on to your parents, friends and neighbors who are at higher risk—before you even know you’re sick, Cervantes says.

“Even though you may not have severe signs or symptoms, or you may be asymptomatic—meaning you don’t have anysigns and symptoms—you can transmit the virus to other people who are at high risk,” she explains. “That’s why all of us need to make sure that we’re doing our part to prevent the spread.”

We don’t have unlimited medical supplies.

This is the crux of the matter. Hospital beds aren’t unlimited, and neither are ventilators. Hospital care or access to a ventilator could be the difference between life or death for patients—including people who are in the hospital for reasons other than COVID-19.

This great visual from CovidActNow predicts that Texas will run out of hospital beds in a few weeks if we don’t take self-isolation seriously. These are the numbers that spurred local counties to start sheltering in place.

The graph also illustrates what it means to “flatten the curve”—literally, to keep the number of COVID-19 cases from spiking and overwhelming our health care infrastructure.

“It seems from what we know that one case can transmit to two, maybe three other people,” Cervantes explains. “You start seeing chains of infections—one person transmits it to three, and then those three transmit it to another three people each. It just keeps growing and growing.

“Flattening [the curve] basically means we’re trying to break those chains of infection,” she continues, “so that fewer people are getting infected, which means fewer people are going to have severe illness that would require hospitalization or ventilation, so that it doesn’t just overwhelm the health care system.”

By slowing the spread of the virus as much as possible, we prevent our hospitals from becoming overrun, ensuring that everyone has access to the equipment and personnel they need—not to mention easing the burden on our doctors and nurses.

“There’s only so many health care providers, and they’re not machines—they’re people,” Cervantes says. “They can only do so much. It’s a physical toll on them, but it’s also a mental toll on them.”

Also, their supplies of protective equipment will run dangerously low if patients start arriving in droves, and if a health care professional gets sick, a) it’s not good for them, and b) it’s not good for other people needing care.

The bottom line is:

The more we isolate, the fewer people who get sick at any given time. The fewer people who get sick, the better care they (and all the non-COVID-19 patients) will receive—and we’ll be helping our doctors and nurses stay well too.

So hang in there, parents—staying home really is for the greater good. And, as Cervantes reminds us, it’ll help protect our kiddos and who doesn’t want to do that?

(You and the kids getting cabin fever? Here are some suggestions for staying active without the gym and exploring the world from your couch.)

Image courtesy of iStock.