The novel coronavirus that has wreaked havoc on both our physical and economic health as a society is not going anywhere. In fact, researchers into the poorly-understood virus have warned of the possibility of a dreaded “second wave” of the pandemic.
This new “wave” of the emergent outbreak would be characterized by a new rash of infections. Because the virus is so new, scientists are unsure if an initial infection can trigger an antibody response from humans that might prevent re-infection later. This means that, at least theoretically, a person could become infected with COVID again and again.
Understandably, Americans are anxious to escape quarantine and get out there for all the summer holidays and vacations that typically characterize the season.
President Trump and his White House team have repeatedly insisted that a re-opening of the suffering American economy is imminent. As soon as public officials give the go-ahead, we can expect to see businesses, gyms, churches, and schools open their doors to welcome back their constituents, students, customers, and workers.
How we handle the re-opening as a group will likely have an enormous effect on whether COVID re-emerges to strike again or whether we can keep the spread of the virus at bay through tactical decision-making and cooperation across the public and private sectors.
Learning From Other Countries
Not all countries handled the coronavirus outbreak with the same deftness.
For example, public health officials have heaped praise on the response by the Vietnamese government just to the south of the site of the outbreak in China. Geographically, Vietnam would seem to have been in a precarious situation so close to the epicenter.
However, to date, aggressive lockdown measures by the Vietnamese authorities have largely protected the people in their borders. So far, not a single death in the entire 100-million-member population has been attributed to COVID-19. Additionally, the numbers of infected Vietnamese are substantially lower compared to their neighbors in Thailand, Malaysia, and elsewhere.
Although knowing the exact factors that affect infection rates is difficult due to the emergent nature of the novel virus, experts have identified concrete actions taken by the Vietnamese authorities that limited the spread of the virus.
In the United States, as evidenced in the panicked collection of ventilators in New York in the uncertain preparatory stages of March, the focus of leaders was very much centered on gathering the necessary medical supplies to fight the disease.
While such preparations were certainly important, they may have come at the expense of limiting the spread of the virus. While some criticized Vietnam’s early efforts to flatten the curve as “overreactions,” those crucial steps in the budding days of the pandemic proved to be justified.
From the outset, Vietnam was among the first to implement drastic safety protocols that the world would later follow. It was one of the first to shut its borders with China, close its schools, and impose large-scale quarantines on citizens suspected of carrying the virus.
Understanding the Asymptomatic Threat
What we know now but did not know at the beginning of the COVID pandemic is that asymptomatic patients can spread the disease in the same way that anyone with the disease can.
A large percentage of those who come into contact with COVID become infected but never show any of the distressing telltale signs of the disease like high fever or pneumonia. Others with mild symptoms assume that they merely had a common cold and recover within just a few days.
To prevent a second wave of the pandemic, we should remain vigilant about social distancing, even among people who do not exhibit any outward signs of infection. They could very well be carrying the virus and not even know it.
The Bottom Line on Protecting Yourself and Your Family During Re-Opening
The effort to combat COVID during the re-opening must be collective if we hope to win and avert another crushing shutdown. Fortunately, we now understand much more about how the virus spreads than we did at the outset of the pandemic. You can do your part to stay healthy by continuing to observe social distancing guidelines even when they are not enforced, by limiting contact with potentially contaminated surfaces in public, and by avoiding unnecessary exposure at public gatherings.