Stay strong, Shepherdstown!
Last Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that COVID-19 had been upgraded from an epidemic to a pandemic, due to the level of global devastation it had caused.
On Tuesday, Shepherdstown residents James and Carolyn Vigil were the first people in West Virginia to have a confirmed case of COVID-19, leading Governor Jim Justice to announce the closure of all bars, casinos and restaurants. As we anticipate more confirmed cases appearing in the coming weeks, we must be vigilant and do our best to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The virus itself has an incubation period of five to 24 days, during which it can be spread, and can also be spread through dormant carriers, according to the CDC. Those at most risk for contracting the virus are “older adults” and “people who have chronic medical conditions like: heart disease, diabetes and lung disease,” according to the CDC, making Shepherdstown a prime location for the virus to spread.
We applaud the decisions of Shepherd University, many of Shepherdstown’s businesses and local residents to practice social distancing, which the CDC says is “remaining out of congregrate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately six feet or two meters) from others when possible.” The early practice of social distancing is believed to “flatten the curve” of how many patients are ill with the virus at one time, so hospitals will not be overwhelmed with trying to treat the hundreds of thousands of Americans who will get the virus, all at the same time.
According to the International Business Times, the U.S. has “far less” hospital beds per-person than in the other countries hit by the pandemic, with “2.8 beds per 1,000 inhabitants.” In comparison to the most hard-hit other countries, South Korea has 12.3 per-person, China has 4.3 beds per-person and Italy has 3.2 beds per-person. Only 160,000 ventilators are in U.S. hospitals. If our social distancing measures prove to have started to late to have decreased the spread of the virus, U.S. hospitals will be forced to make a similar decision to the one made by Italy this week, to give treatment to those who are most likely to recover from the virus–people under 80-years-old.
Rather than stressing out about the horrible “what-ifs,” we must focus on what we know, right now, matters. People matter. Lives matter. We must act upon this knowledge, by practicing social distancing, and keep in touch and aware of each others’ needs through the use of technology. Let’s remain positive and do what we can to strengthen each other, even though the process of doing so may be unpleasant.
Information on the spread of COVID-19 is constantly changing, and the best way to keep track of it, is by visiting www.cdc.gov. Regularly checking this site may help you better prepare yourself and your loved ones for dealing with this virus.