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West Virginia, it's time to double down

We are at an inflection point with our response to COVID-19 in West Virginia.

There are many lessons to be learned - from China, South Korea, Italy, New York and California.

First, the COVID-19 virus is spread throughout the world.

We know that high amounts of the virus can exist in the upper airway, throat and nose very early after infection. These infected people are usually not symptomatic and at this time, don’t even know that they are infected.

At this time, they can spread the virus by putting their hands in their mouth, nose or eyes and then transferring the virus to surfaces they touch. Recent research from Johns Hopkins shows that COVID-19 can live on surfaces for many hours, like stainless steel, plastic and cardboard. We infected ourselves by touching infected surfaces and then brining our hands to our face, which the average person does up to 50 times an hour.

How do we protect ourselves?

Wipe down surfaces you touch after leaving the house or contacting others like countertops with soap and water. A dilute bleach solution or spray that kills viruses (Clorox, Lysol) can also be used.

Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, between the fingers and around the wrists. Dry on paper towel. Keep your hands always from your face.

Our best defense against the virus is not spreading it by picking it up off of surfaces and then introducing it to our mouth, nose or eyes.

We also now know the virus can potentially stay airborne if infected people cough or sneeze. Stay at least 6 feet away from them (social distancing) and if you are coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with a tissue or into the crook of your elbow or shoulder. Wash your hands after if you use a tissue.

The other thing we are learning about COVID-19 is that it can infect younger people too and they can get very sick. In the US, about 40% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 are under 55 years old and this includes teenagers and young adults.

So the idea that the virus somehow spares younger folks is not true.

Everyone needs to protect themselves and use their power.

We also see what happens if we don’t use our power and do all we can to protect ourselves, protect those that we love and protect our healthcare workers.

Take New York and California. Two of the largest states in our country.

Like Italy, that has more deaths than any other country in the world from COVID-19, New York failed to aggressively socially isolate, close businesses and implore their citizens to stay home. California did. They locked down the Bay Area.

New York is now experiencing the surge of sick people needing hospitalization. They are actively trying to create 50,000 new hospital beds. They are running out of personal protective equipment.

In contrast, California has been very aggressive with their response and has started to change the rate of COVID-19 illnesses and to this point, are not experiencing the same tsunami wave of sick people as New York.

They have changed the natural history of infection in their state by using their collective power and by the state being aggressive in legally requiring this.

This is not to say that California is completely protected, as they are likely to have a quarter to half of their population infected, but the rate of infection is slowed, allowing their health systems and providers to keep up.

That is why it is so important West Virginians rally now. To protect ourselves, our neighbors, our healthcare workers and the future of our state.

  • Stay home.
  • Socially distance at least 6 feet.
  • Cover coughs or sneezes.
  • Wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

We also know that while creating laws to try to enforce this social distancing and home stay, that volunteerism and doing this by choice is much more powerful.

Because we know that if 75% of us adhere to this, we can avoid the tsunami/surge in sick people to the hospitals of New York, and turn it into a flowing river. This will be difficult on our healthcare workers, but we will survive this.

On the other hand, if we can get this to 90 percent, we will convert the tsunami to a stream and do really well.

We can do this and we should.

That is what neighbors and great communities do for each other.

Let’s stay West Virginia strong, and show the world how a committed group of people in a state can use their collective power and protect Almost Heaven.