What Can We Learn from Spiking Covid-19 States?

It’s been a little while since we touched base on the coronavirus pandemic. 

Mainly, we’ve tried to focus on how we can minimize its physical and immunological impact in our own circles, as well as its emotional and mental impact on ourselves.

The United States is not a monolith – every state had the opportunity to create its own rules and, more importantly, had its own coffer of tax-based resources from which to draw for support. Not every state was as equipped as the next to handle months of unemployment, and we saw what some considered premature openings of businesses and public spaces as a result.

On top of that, we have plenty of inconclusive data about the virus itself and its actual impact (with some citing lack of testing as a potential skew and some citing pre-existing illnesses as another), which has led to drastically different methods of handling its presence – and plenty of emotional division. 

We know that it mutates, that it’s in the same family of viral illness as SARS and MERS, that it affects the respiratory system, and that it seems to be fatal more often than not in elderly people or those with underlying medical conditions.

We know that wearing masks can prevent normal oral flora from escaping into the atmosphere by coughing.  We’ve learned that the virus can live on surfaces for 2-3 days, but that it’s an unlikely method of transfer since its primary travel is through respiratory droplets. We’ve learned about Covid-toe, post-recovery lung damage, and more.

It’s enough to make your head spin. How should we think about all of these facts moving forward?

Here’s How We’re Doing

We didn’t know what we know now back in March, and what we know now isn’t everything. 

But there are some conclusions we can draw from watching states that closed later than others and opened earlier. 

We’re hearing plenty from global scientists warning of a second wave, reporting on an actual second wave in places where they thought they were in the clear – South Korea and China for starters, with countries like Israel considering reinstating a lockdown.

With many spaces in the states reopening all across the country, including restaurants, gyms, and public parks and beaches, people who were fed up with staying inside have hit their old haunts with a vengeance. 

In states that both quarantined for less than two months and opened in May, cases are rising. In states where shelter-in-place orders came early, and states focused on regional reopenings and strict social-distancing orders when businesses began reopening in June, the curve is flattening.

That means that new cases are declining or that they’re plateauing. 

However, in states whose pandemic response differed significantly, people in their 20s and 30s are accounting for more of the new cases reported than ever before – Washington, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado, and more. More than half of the states reopening are experiencing a surge, although in the south and west, it’s largely a surge in young people.  

There are a few ideas about why… for one, testing is more available now than it was at the beginning. And now that we have more tests, we are also testing more of the population – generally, those without symptoms who were otherwise young and healthy had a harder time getting access to tests. 

But there’s another angle. Young people may specifically feel that they are less at risk, or less likely to do permanent damage to themselves, if they catch the virus.

So they’re filling restaurants and bars and pools and airplanes more than those 40 and older.

How to Keep it Down

  • Wearing masks helps: If you choose to go somewhere you know will be populated, wear your mask! At the very least, you’re protecting others from any germs you might be carrying. In states that saw spikes, citizens were often verbally and physically against wearing masks. 
  • Stick to low-risk activities: Bars and restaurants? Maybe not. Take-out from a bar or restaurant eaten in the park? Much better. Public pool? Although the water probably dilutes the virus, the huge crowds it draws do not. A swimming hole in the woods or a sparsely populated beach? That’s okay! In states that saw huge spikes, little attention was given to eschewing cramped social situations. 
  • Be deliberate and selective about who you see and touch. Many people went months without seeing their families and friends – that was tough. Now, people are hankering to get back together. But there’s a way to do it safely! Slowly open your circle back up and try to keep it limited to no more than a dozen people that you see regularly (who are also keeping their circles limited.) Discuss goals with those in your quarantine family to make sure that everyone is on the same page – it would hardly be helpful if you were adamant about not going to restaurants, but a couple in your quarantine family was going out on a date night once a week! No hard feelings, but be honest with yourselves and each other. In states that saw spikes, crowds were often photographed following little to no precautions. 

Most of us are not epidemiologists. 

As more studies are conducted, and more cases discovered, and more time goes by, they learn more about the virus. 

But for now, the best we can all do is defer to experts and try to be kind to ourselves and our neighbors! 

We’ll just have to be a little more creative for a while.

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