Whittier’s Coronavirus Lockdown Begins

Whittier’s Coronavirus Lockdown Begins

As of Friday afternoon, Los Angeles County has diagnosed 40 novel coronavirus cases and one death.

According to a Poet Health Alert from Whittier College on Tuesday, all classes will be moved online in response to the developing situation around the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The college has cancelled all gatherings of more than 100, including sporting events, to prevent the spread of disease. There are no confirmed cases among Whittier College students or staff.

On Friday, Rio Hondo College announced it was moving lecture-based classes online, while keeping the campus open for services and lab classes.

Up until Friday afternoon, Whittier public schools were following L.A. County Office of Education guidelines, which have not advocated closure. The Whittier Union High School District has officially closed its schools as of Friday.

Other area schools enforcing social distancing include Fullerton College and Chapman University. Loyola Marymount and Cal Poly Pomona are also moving their classes online. 

Visit this link to see the City of Whittier’s Facebook Live presentation on the pandemic airing Friday, March 13, 3:30pm. The presentation will also be available on Channel 3 and streaming live on the City’s website.

Coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than the flu. The exponential spread rate of the disease COVID-19, aka novel coronavirus, has been pronounced a pandemic by the World Health Organization

As two Yale University public health scholars put it, coronavirus risk isn’t just about you:

Analyst / journalist Tomas Pueyo maps out the predictable path of coronavirus in cities throughout the world that have and have not acted quickly: Cities that go on lockdown have 0.4 percent fatalities. Cities that don’t act immediately have five percent or more fatalities, with a nightmare scenario of overwhelmed medical facilities full of patients dying from lack of needed equipment, tended by exhausted and infected staff. 

#FlattenTheCurve has been widely lauded as COVID-19 kryptonite: a rapid-rollout society-wide cooperative social distancing effort that will prevent overtaxing the healthcare system. According to Science Mag, “Proactive school closures—closing schools before there’s a case there—have been shown to be one of the most powerful nonpharmaceutical interventions that we can deploy.” 

Italy provides an unfortunate but concrete model of an overtaxed healthcare system. Two weeks past its first outbreak, Italy has reached its capacity for new patients; but with insufficient mediating factors, new patients arrive hourly. Medical providers face the not-so-theoretical dilemma that some patients will not receive care. Five percent of Italians with the virus are expected to die. On Wednesday, 200 died in 24 hours

Italy has closed its borders in an attempt to stop the spread of this disease. Countries such as China and Korea, which were first affected, have seen the plateau of diagnosed cases thanks to government-sponsored social distancing. 

U.S. hospitals are already scrambling to keep up with rates of infection. A Congressional doctor estimates that 150 million Americans will contract the virus, which points to a potential future as dystopian as Italy’s present. On Tuesday, March 10 (Day 8 of U.S. outbreak), journalist Eli Pariser tweeted a graph showing a close correlation (below) of the U.S. disease trajectory and Italy’s. Italy closed all schools on Day 12.

Source: Eli Pariser / Twitter

While panic is not advisable or helpful, as one woman who recovered from the virus pointed out, there are many strategies that systems and individuals can use to reduce public health risks.

Symptoms may not show themselves in the first five days of infection (see chart below), which suggests physical contact of any kind is a risk. In addition to a temporary moratorium on hugs and handshakes, as well as maintaining a distance of six feet from others, recommendations include frequent hand washing and decontaminating phones and other frequently touched objects such as door handles, since the virus lives on surfaces for up to three days

Source: Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

The rapid spread of disease has triggered a disorganized but increasing social distancing response across the United States. Disneyland and Universal Studios closed their parks in Orlando and California this week. The NBA suspended its games for the season. Oregon has banned gatherings of over 250. This week, President Trump closed travel from Europe into the U.S. and today (Friday) declared the pandemic a national emergency.

The disease was first reported in China at the end of 2019. Though other strains have existed for decades, this strain is designated novel. COVID-19 spread quickly throughout Asia and Europe, and has now made its entry into the United States. 

Because of the United States’ slow start in testing and enforcing social distancing, like Italy, the country is experiencing a period of exponential spread of this highly infectious disease. As of this writing, Washington has diagnosed 568 cases and 37 deaths. The New York Times maintains an up-to-date map of U.S. outbreaks, with diagnosed cases in nearly every state.

COVID-19 lab tests have been in high demand and short supply. New York State is working with private contractors to test for the virus, calling the CDC’s resources inadequate. Stanford University has attempted to create its own novel coronavirus test that will be able to produce results in less than 24 hours, as has the University of California. The University of Washington Department of Laboratory Medicine announced virology testing availability for any licensed medical practitioner anywhere in the U.S. 

The State of California has begun to embrace social distancing: On Wednesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced his recommendation that all events attracting more than 250 people be cancelled. He urged that these events be at least postponed until after March to better assess the progression of this highly infectious disease. 

Governor Newsom also announced this week that the state will provide food for students and financial supports for workers, parents, and caretakers grounded by illness or workplace closures:

The CDC’s recommendations on handwashing include using soap and water for at least 20 seconds; if using hand sanitizer, this is a follow up to (not a replacement for) soap and water. Here’s when the CDC recommends you to wash your hands: 

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

The best way to prevent contracting coronavirus? Avoid being exposed to the virus. According to the CDC, “The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person–between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) and through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.” Common symptoms include dry cough/chest discomfort, fever, and shortness of breath.

Have you been exposed? Know your underlying risk factors, learn the signs and symptoms, and find out when to call your doctor.

Based on an interview with the head of Emergency Medicine at Langone NYU, journalist Chris Hayes shared this advice: “Naturally, people feeling they have flu-like symptoms that may be COVID-19 want to be tested, but the reality is: at this point that is neither a realistic possibility nor a medical priority.

“If you’re in a low-risk group and feel symptoms, self-isolate. Monitor your temperature. Drink plenty of fluids and take ibuprofen. Stay away from people and just rest up as if you had the flu. If your conditions worsen, seek contact with your doctor, ideally through telemedicine of some kind. But don’t expect a test, and DO NOT go to medical centers seeking one, unless you have concern you need urgent care or emergency medicine.

“If you’re in a high risk group — 60+, immune compromised, other pre-existing conditions and co-morbitidies — self-isolate and immediately contact your physician. The only people who should be going to the ER are people who have urgent symptoms (including but not limited to trouble breathing). We need to keep the ERs clear and right now testing simply is not a priority for the path we’re on, in terms of managing the virus.”

Find more information at FlattenTheCurve.com.

Check out this video resource for students navigating dorm life or housemates during lockdown. Last but not least, here’s a guide to taking care of your mental health in times of uncertainty.

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