The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially named COVID-19 outbreak as pandemic, meaning that it is now a world-wide outbreak. And as you’ve heard, COVID-19 is now in Louisiana. Where do we go from here at St. Luke’s? What is being done?
Ben Franklin was absolutely right when he said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” First of all, special thanks need to be given to Robert Miller, our Facilities Manager and the gentlemen who work with him...Robert Johnson, Dexter Jackson and Perry Horton, who are all working vigorously with disinfectants to keep the church and school buildings clean. More hand sanitizer dispensers have been installed, foot-operated garbage cans in the sanctuary itself. These measures go a long way in preventing the spread of disease...not just of COVD-19, but other diseases as well.
The CDC notes, “...Based on what is currently known about the novel coronavirus and similar coronaviruses that cause SARS and MERS, spread from person-to-person with these viruses happens most frequently among close contacts (within about 6 feet). This type of transmission occurs via respiratory droplets. On the other hand, transmission of novel coronavirus to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented. Transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets... Current evidence suggests that novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19 and other viral respiratory illnesses in households and community settings.”
This link will give you more information about cleaning as an important piece of prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/cleaning-disinfection.html)
Yet, there is another area to address…that is, physical contact. Yes, we all appreciate a good handshake, a loving arm squeeze, a hug…and in the South, do we ever! However, now these practices need to be modified to protect us all, including our Clergy. Just think about how many hands they shake on a Sunday! So please, let’s all remember that a kind word, a “thank-you”, a “good morning” or “good evening”---very much like the recommendations for passing the peace—will be even more appreciated now by them.
Recommendations about passing the peace, receiving the wine, and what to do if you are in the high-risk category continue to be disseminated from both the Presiding Bishop and our Bishop Thompson (Read the latest release from Bishop Thompson HERE). Those in the high-risk category include: older adults, those with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, and diabetes, as well as having compromised immune systems.
And always remember these good health measures:
● Stay home if you feel ill!
● Wash, wash, wash your hands with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice—or the Doxology slowly). If you don’t have access to soap and water, the CDC recommends using hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. Wash your hands before services, and after coughing, sneezing, handling diapers, preparing food or using the bathroom.
● As Coronavirus is spread by droplets (sneezing and coughing), cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, and then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.
● If you are not comfortable with passing the peace with a handshake or hug at this time, still continue to acknowledge each other with eye contact, a friendly wave, saying “Peace be with you.”
● What about taking the Chalice? There are 3 choices: You can continue to receive the wine as usual (use of the common cup with proper purificator procedure poses low risk of transmission of diseases); you can receive the host only (Communion “in one kind”); or you can give the host to the priest or LEM to intinct and give back to you. Do not intinct the host yourself.
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) have a great deal of information about the virus and what to do. Dr. Mindy Calandro at Baton Rouge Clinic has written a most informative article about the virus, what is currently known, and what to do. Here are some quotes from her article:
“What do we know about COVID-19 so far?
Scientists at the Center for Disease Control (CDC), at the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as numerous labs around the world, are feverishly working to try and learn as much as possible about this particular strain of coronavirus. Right now, much of what is speculated about COVID-19 is based on what we know about other coronavirus strains. It is likely that this virus is spread from person to person, but how easily it spreads is still not known. It appears that some people who have tested positive for COVID-19 have had no to very mild symptoms of the illness. However, there have also been cases of more severe illnesses and death from COVID-19 especially coming out of China where this particular strain of virus seems to have originated.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Reported symptoms include fever, cough, body aches, sore throat, headache, and diarrhea. The WHO has estimated that 1 in 6 people with COVID-19 will experience a more severe illness, which may include shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. Now, those milder symptoms could also describe this year’s influenza illness or even just the common cold. Take away message here…not every cough, fever or body ache is COVID-19 (in fact, you are more likely to have influenza or another common cold virus than COVID-19 at this point). However, if you have fever, cough and any difficulty breathing, you need to call your medical provider immediately for guidance on where to be evaluated.
So what should we do right now to prepare?
● Do not panic! While we are still learning about COVID-19, it is important to put this virus into perspective. Consider the influenza season, so far this year…as of February 22, 2020, the CDC estimates that there have been over 32 million flu cases and over 18,000 people have died from the flu including 125 children. Influenza infects millions of people each and every year and kills otherwise healthy children and adults as well. At this time, I am still far more concerned with the flu than I am with COVID-19. Yes, COVID-19 is going to spread, but so will the flu.
● WASH YOUR HANDS! I cannot stress enough how important good hand hygiene is to reduce the spread of all viruses. Wash your hands frequently and for longer than you think (at least 20 seconds).
● Do not go to school/work/church/public places if you have a fever or feel ill! Please, I beg of you parents, if your child has a temperature of 100.4°F or higher, do not give them medicine to treat the fever, and then send them on their way to daycare or school. A good rule of thumb is that you need to be fever-free for 24-hours (without using fever-reducing medications) before going back to school/daycare/work.
● At this time, there is no recommendation from the CDC or the WHO that healthy individuals should be wearing a face mask. In fact, if you attempt to put on a face mask, but do not do it correctly, you will actually be touching your face even more germs which can increase your chance of exposure to germs on your hands. If an individual is already ill with respiratory symptoms, a mask can be helpful to prevent them from spreading the germs to others. For healthcare providers, a very specific mask called an N95 mask is actually recommended. If you are going to stock up on anything, hand soap or hand sanitizer for those times when hand washing is not possible is the way to go.
● Make sure you are using reliable sources for your information about COVID-19 (see below for links). As I stated previously, the situation with COVID-19 is changing on a daily, and sometimes even hourly, basis. I have seen many news headlines or social media posts that are being put out there simply to cause fear and increase panic. This virus is going to spread and it is likely that it will reach pandemic levels, but we can each do our part to try and reduce the spread of germs (did I mention washing your hands?).”
Below are websites for more information:
www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 (especially for information about travel internationally)
I hope this information has helped. Thank you again for helping St. Luke’s be truly a place of health for all.