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Beating COVID-19: Staying at home and social distancing remain critical in the weeks ahead

Dr. John Brown, Chief Medical Officer, Gritman Medical Center
Dr. Ray Paz, Chief of Medical Staff, Gritman Medical Center

It’s critically important for the public to understand that the fight against COVID-19 will be a marathon, not a sprint. As a society, we need to be building the individual and collective knowledge and resolve to stop the spread of the infection and save lives.

We have a long way to go but even in these early stages, the COVID-19 pandemic has already taught us several important lessons:

1. People easily spread the virus without knowing—you do not have to be very sick to spread this deadly infection to others.
2. Based on early data, the virus appears to be much more infectious than seasonal flu and spreads more easily in ways we do not yet fully understand.
3. The virus is significantly more lethal than seasonal flu.
4. As we have seen happen in other locations, it only takes one “super spreader” event where one infected person has close contact with others and the number of cases in that area will grow exponentially.

But the virus has a major weakness that we can and must exploit—it needs a human host to survive and spread. Even though there are animal sources of the virus, all known cases outside of China have come from contact with other infected humans. So, if people don’t spread the virus, it will stop.

Think of it this way, would you ever leave a campfire unattended in the height of summer? No, of course, you wouldn’t. You would use all means at your disposal—a shovel and bucket of water—to douse the flames and every smoldering ember to protect the forest and all the creatures that live there. Staying at home and social distancing in response to COVID-19 have the same effect on snuffing out this virus.

We know this isn’t easy. We miss our family, friends and favorite activities just as much as you. And as the weather warms and our patience grows thin, we may be lured into having a false sense of security and begin to think it is OK to get together “just this once.” But that’s where the virus will find its fuel and the flames can be quickly rekindled.

As medical professionals, we are asking that you please be vigilant and protect your neighbors, those particularly vulnerable to the disease, first responders and health care workers by respecting the recommendations of public health officials and the governors’ stay-home orders in Idaho and Washington, practicing social distancing, using a cloth facemask when you must go out in public, and washing your hands thoroughly and frequently.

We need your help and we are here for you. Our clinics are open for in-person and telemedicine visits so you can stay on top of your health even during this difficult time. By working together, we can keep our communities and region safe and healthy. Thank you for doing your part.

Dr. John Brown is an emergency physician and chief medical officer at Gritman Medical Center. Dr. Ray Paz is a family practice physician at Moscow Medical and currently serves as chief of medical staff at Gritman Medical Center.