Testing, Testing, Testing: How to Contain the Coronavirus
When the world began to wake up to the fact that it had a problem with the Coronavirus various governments and other organizations had to make a lot of decisions about how they were going to handle it. For some this meant doing nothing and just hoping that the problem would just go away or somehow not spread into their areas. But, as we have all seen, this was not a good strategy. And, the price that we are all paying keeps going up every day. Meanwhile, there were other countries that decided that they were going to take a much more aggressive stance. The leaders in those regions made a choice to clamp down early on their populations and force them, to one degree or another, to separate themselves through the use of social distancing. These and other measures led to a dramatic slowing of the spread of the virus and clearly helped to save thousands, if not millions, of lives in the process.
So, here we are, living in a world where there is a significant difference between how some countries are fairing with the spread of the virus and the question is how we will all deal with this moving forward. Well, based on all of the information that we have available at this time, it seems that the countries that are best positioned to move beyond this era of virus driven shutdowns are the ones that have an aggressive plan to test their citizens so that they can determine who needs to be quarantined in order to further reduce the spread of the virus.
In this article:
- Two Different Paths
- Contact Tracing
- Mitigating The Damage
- Protecting The Vulnerable
- The Elderly
- Interim Solution
Two Different Paths
A prime example of countries that have moved in opposite directions is South Korea and the United States. This is true because it was on the same day that these two countries discovered their first confirmed cases of the virus within their borders. What followed was a distinctly different approach to the problem. Where the South Koreans began a massive effort to socially distance their populations and start a program of thorough testing among their people, the United States largely ignored the problem. In fact, while the South Korean government was actively educating their people about the virus and working hard to get the people onboard with the effort to identify and find anyone who may have been infected, the United States federal government was actively attempting to play down the potential for widespread outbreaks to the point where its president was saying that there was no significant problem and that any existing cases within its borders would soon be gone. The reasons he gave for this were varied and not based on the facts that he apparently had according to numerous credible news reports. As a matter of fact these reports indicated that the American President had been warned of the potential dangers of an outbreak going back to the end of the previous year. Still, all indications are that he and his administration decided that preparing the country for a potential disaster was not warranted.
The bottom line here is that the South Koreans have flattened the coronavirus curve and contained the outbreak and, as a result, have avoided any serious consequences both with respect to the health of their population and the economic damage that could have resulted had they ignored the problem at the outset and been forced to later shutdown their country as the United States has been forced to do.
One of the key practices that show a distinct difference in the approach to battling the virus between countries such as South Korea and the United States is what is known as contact tracing. In essence, this is simply a way to use technology and so good old fashioned detective work to find the people who have or may have been in contact with someone who has been identified as being infected with the virus.
There are some people in the United States and in other countries which are not engaging on any serious level with this practice who have argued that contact tracing presents a number of concerns when it comes to privacy issues. This mainly due to the idea that some personal information of the infected and their possible contacts may become exposed in the process of tracing who these people have been in touch with. Although, in normal times, this might seem like a reasonable concern, it should be pointed out that it was many of these same people who are questioning the legality of exposing personal information were the very same people who were clamoring for those privacy concerns to be thrown out the window in the aftermath of the attacks on the United States on what everyone now thinks of as 9/11.
Whatever your thoughts may be on this issue there is no escaping that fact that the countries that have invested heavily in tracking down those who may have been in contact with an infected individual have fared much better when it comes to keeping the virus from devastating both the health of their people and their economy.
Mitigating The Damage
Putting aside any potential blame for what has happened in certain countries, the question now comes down to how those countries with growing problems related to the spread of the virus will act going forward to save as many citizens as possible from the health consequences of the virus. It is true that the vast majority of those who are infected will survive the disease but the evidence is that no one can be sure that they will live through it once they have begun to feel its effects.
This is true based on the data which shows that many young and supposedly healthy people have already died from exposure to the virus. Examples range from young children to members of the armed forces to the growing number of healthcare workers who are so bravely putting their lives on the line every day and all around the world in order to battle the virus and save as many lives as they can. The point here is that, even though it has been shown that the virus is far more deadly to those who have what is referred to as pre-existing conditions such as hypertension and diabetes, it has also been proven that no one is safe from the potentially lethal effects of this disease.
Protecting The Vulnerable
As we alluded to in the previous section, those who have pre-existing conditions which could compromise their immune systems are more at risk than others with regard to potential death associated with the Coronavirus. Still, there are other factors which can come into play when trying to determine just who among us are the most vulnerable. This is best illustrated by looking at the data concerning the ability to socially distance ourselves from the rest of the population. As it turns out, the ability to protect oneself has a great deal to do with one’s own economic circumstances. This makes perfect sense when we look at the conditions that separate the wealthy from the less fortunate among us.
For one thing, the more wealth one may have accumulated, the more likely it is that they do not have to work in situations where they are forced to be in close proximity to others. In many cases, this means that the wealthy have jobs that allow them to use technology to avoid physical contact with others. Generally, this means working on computers and through the internet, which often means that they have the ability to work from home. That, in turn, also raises the issue of social distancing, as those with more wealth generally have larger homes with more room to isolate themselves as needed. And, it allows them to have more access to all of the comforts and necessities that we might want in the event that they become ill. All of this leads to better outcomes for those who may become infected and get sick and for the other members of their families who would have to live in the same home with them.
On the other hand, the less well off among us are, due to the other side of the effects of the socio-economic spectrum, are much more likely to be forced into much more dangerous conditions related to their working conditions and that of their home life. For instance, it is much more likely that the poorer, less educated and less technically skilled among us will be compelled to go out into the world on a regular basis. This means that they are put in the position of having to be in close proximity to others who could be potentially infected with the virus in numerous ways.
These disparities also mean that they are more likely to live in home settings which are much smaller and have far less room for people in a single home to spread out and keep their distance. It also means that they are less likely to have the resources to clean their clothes as often or as well as those who have the means to do so within their homes.
Even though the elderly make up a disproportionate part of the poor they should be considered a separate group because they are often in the worst position when it comes to all of the factors that make them vulnerable to the virus. This is mainly due to the fact that they are generally in poor health with weakened immune systems. Add to that the fact that they are often in elder care facilities which put them into close proximity with others and the fact that they generally receive care that puts them at a much higher risk of infection and you end up with a set of circumstances which the data shows puts them at an extremely high risk of not only contracting the disease, but also perishing form it.
Still, until we have the means to test the vast majority of the population so that we can isolate the sick from the healthy until they are past the ability to spread the disease we will have to depend on other ways to detect those who may be sick. One of the key ways to do this is to check to see if someone is registering an abnormally high body temperature. The good news is that modern technology has provided us with great improvement over the older style thermometers that required them to be inserted into the body to determine our body temperature. These new infrared digital thermometers utilize laser technology which only requires them to be pointed at the forehead in order to give us an accurate reading.
These devices are simple to use and are being deployed all over the world to test people who are out in the public, in healthcare facilities and even at home. So, not only are they able to be used with the touch of a button and without any direct contact with those who may be ill, they are also inexpensive and able to be purchased by just about anyone.
For more information on these infrared digital thermometers, click here.
Above all, the best way to win this battle until we have a vaccine is to keep your distance from others, wash your hands as often and as well as possible and help those who cannot help themselves. Remember, we are all in this together!
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