Have quarantine fatigue? Read this.
Hello from day...I don't know what day of quarantine it is. I last went into work on March 13; two days before, we had gotten word at University of Wisconsin-Madison that classes would be moved online for the rest of the year. The emails and news headlines came in a flurry, and it was difficult to keep up with the changing advice. I canceled a trip to see a friend and hunkered down at home, my head spinning as I tried to figure out what to do to keep myself, my loved ones, and my community safe. Luckily, I was able to keep working from home, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about my life.
A lot of really helpful guidance started to come out right away, plus more information about the novel coronavirus. In Wisconsin, we have the Safer at Home guidance put forth by the health department, along with different metrics like Badger Bounce Back we need to hit to update restrictions.
As Safer at Home ends, it's becoming more and more clear that we will all need to do our part and adjust to a different normal. No decision is without risk, and we all have different factors in our lives that will influence our choices. Thankfully, a little knowledge and common sense will go a long way.
This is the first of a series of blog posts that can help us think about how to stay safe as we transition out of Safer at Home. There are a LOT of things to consider, so we will break this into a couple parts.
First, let's be real about the uncertainty of this situation. Based on what we know right now, this virus first emerged at the end of 2019, so we are learning a lot on the fly - about the virus, the disease it causes, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. Some of what we know today will undoubtedly be updated as we learn new information. That's okay - that's science! Scientists are always searching for more and better data to update their understandings, and what we know will change over time.
Let's start with some basic questions, and then we'll talk about different scenarios and situations. These posts are meant to give us guidance for going about our daily lives when we feel well; remember that if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, you should stay home and call your doctor.
How does the virus spread?
The novel coronavirus spreads primarily through respiratory droplets. These droplets are expelled from our mouths and noses when we sneeze and cough (think lots of droplets!), as well as when we talk and breathe (fewer droplets). They can't travel very far, and tend to fall to the ground within six feet. In order to infect you, these little pieces of virus have to get into your eyes, nose, or mouth. This can happen if you are within six feet of an infected person and those respiratory droplets land on your face. This can also happen if you touch a surface these droplets have landed on and then touch your own face.
There is also evidence that the virus can be transmitted through fecal matter (via small particles of virus that get into the air with the flushing process).
The virus may also be spread by people who don't have symptoms, otherwise known as asymptomatic people. These people may never have symptoms, but can still get others sick. For others, it can take up to two weeks after getting infected to show symptoms.
What does the virus like?
Well, long walks on the beach and sunsets, I imagine! Just kidding! But there are conditions that make it easier for the virus to survive.
The virus has an easier time surviving on flat, solid surfaces, like metal or plastic. It has a harder time living on surfaces like cardboard or fabric. When you're out in public touching common surfaces, keep that in mind - and wash your hands after you've touched surfaces outside your home! The virus does get less infectious as it spends time outside the human body, and being out in the elements can degrade it faster.
Poorly ventilated spaces
Bacteria and viruses typically thrive in spaces with poor ventilation (think small spaces with stagnant, still air). They tend to have a harder time in the outdoors in the wind, sun, and wide open spaces. Plus, when you're in a small space, it's harder to stay at least six feet away from others.
Really getting to know you
This means that the longer you're with someone who has COVID-19, the greater your chances of infection are - and why the risks for our healthcare and essential workers can be so great if they don't have adequate personal protective equipment, since they often are in prolonged contact with those with COVID-19.
This is why the Big Four are so important, and regardless of what your government is allowing, can be generally trusted to minimize our risk of virus exposure:
- stay six feet away from those outside your household
- wash your hands!
- don't touch your face, or if you must, only touch your face with clean hands
- wear a face mask when you're out in public - this can keep you from inadvertently spreading the virus if you are asymptomatic or don't have symptoms yet, and can help you avoid getting in the line of fire of others' respiratory droplets
Now that we've gotten to know the novel coronavirus a bit better, our next posts will talk about how to stay safe in different situations.
And, my fellow fatigued friends, hang in there. This is tough, but we can do this together.