Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Separating Fact from Fiction

I was scheduled to facilitate a client session this week but it has been canceled, as have so many events in the past 5 days. On a Monday morning, with spring in the air, the last thing one wants to think about is a pandemic, yet here we are.

A global health crisis is at our doorstep and we need to be aware of what is going on and how to protect ourselves and our loved ones. I can’t stand fear-mongering or how the constant barrage of doom from the media whips people up so let’s go at this with a healthy dose of optimism, knowing that there are some things we can do to control our exposure.

Let’s get started with some basic information (I sourced all the information here from the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control.

  • COVID-19 is a novel Coronavirus, which means that it is a new strain of a Coronavirus.
  • Antibiotics will NOT help. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. COVID-19 is a virus and therefore is unaffected by antibiotics.
  • According to the CDC, older adults and people who have severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease seem to be at higher risk for serious illness.

This is no joke but we deal with flu season every year and, while COVID-19 is spreading, we can get in front of it.

The CDC and the WHO both report that the majority of COVID-19 cases are/will be mild. As with many viruses, the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions are at greater risk of developing more severe cases. If you are generally healthy, your risk is lower. To help reduce your risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus, It is essential to protect yourself.

Here are some steps that we should all practice, regardless of COVID-19 or not.

    • Scrub up! Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, for at least 20 seconds with vigorous rubbing using soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizing liquid or gel. This is true even when there is no pandemic. Hand washing it critical to health given all the surfaces we touch minute-by-minute.
    • Get in your bubble! It is recommended to maintain at least 3 feet (1 meter) of personal space between you and others (although I’ve heard 6 feet, too). This can prevent any spray from a cough or sneeze getting on you and then, being transmitted to your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you cannot maintain that distance……
    • Hands off! Given how COVID-19, the flu, and other viruses spread we should all avoid touching our faces throughout the day, unless our hands are clean. According to one study, the average person touches his/her face 23 times per hour, with almost half of those touches being to the eyes, nose, and mouth. Imagine everything else you touch in the average day and then, not washing your hands before you touch your face. This is a hard habit to break and, while masks are not recommended, they may help you realize how often you are touching your face.
    • Practice your etiquette! Coughing and sneezing are unavoidable. Allergies, the common cold, the neighbor’s cat, Marie Kondo-ing your attic – all of these thing can make you sneeze and cough but it is important (just like it has ALWAYS been important) to practice proper etiquette when you do. Don’t cough open-mouthed. Don’t sneeze with gusto (those who waaaahhhhh-chhhhhooooooo, drive me mad!). For either situation, cough into a tissue, immediately dispose of that tissue and wash your hands. But what if you can’t do all of those? I’ve solved that for you:
      • If you don’t have a tissue, cough/sneeze into the crook of your arm (elbow). Wrap your arm over your nose and mouth to make sure you are impeding the spray.
      • If you can’t throw the tissue away, tuck it into a plastic sandwich bag to be disposed of later.
      • If you can’t wash your hands immediately, use hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol.
        • If you don’t have hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol, do all you can not to touch your face until you’ve had a chance to thoroughly wash your hands.
    • Stay home! If you have symptoms or are ill, do everyone else a favor and stay home. Don’t “power through” and go to the office, the gym, the party, etc. It’s one of the reasons this virus is spreading like it is. If you have a cough, a fever, or difficulty breathing contact your doctor or hospital to report your symptoms before going in.
    • Leave the masks for the professionals. Likely, you will not need a mask. Health officials have stated that a mask is only necessary for those who are already ill and/or caring for others. If you care for a parent or a child and are sneezing or coughing, a mask may benefit. Check out the CDC and WHO websites to get all the latest information. DO NOT get your Coronavirus updates from social media. There are scams, panic inducing stories, and lots of false advice.

The big question is: Should you cancel your travel? Many businesses and organizations are making that answer easy by canceling events, conferences, and meetings. Many are moving to video conferences to reduce the need for face-to-face interactions.

Personal travel is a bit trickier and I would advise that you do what makes you comfortable. If you are traveling to Australia in May, are in good health and practice good hygiene, I would say your chances of enjoying your trip are high. If you are just getting over pneumonia now and slated to visit Tuscany in early April, I might postpone.

On a personal soapbox, I would like to add that it is about time more companies explore telecommute/remote work options. It is hot now as a way to fight the spread of COVID-19, and hopefully, those that do this as a new thing now realize the benefits long after we’ve solved the current crisis. As someone who has been remote for the better part of 2 decades, I applaud the companies who have made this a part of business-as-usual. Telecommuting saves times, reduces carbon emissions, lowers overhead, increases employee engagement and, in many cases, increases productivity.

There you go, I hope you found something useful here. I would add that COVID-19 is serious but solvable, so let’s not panic, let’s remember that ‘this too shall pass’, and let’s remember to be kind to all we meet (even if we don’t shake hands with them).

Stay safe, stay sane, and thanks for stopping by!

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