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Peralta: We must all pull together in trying times like these

Image: CDC.gov/COVID19 ##
Image: CDC.gov/COVID19 ##

It’s hard for the mind to grapple with how quickly and powerfully our lives have changed by the attack of the novel coronavirus; known cases have spread from Wuhan to the rest of the world in a matter of a few short months.  

One way to understand the speed with which things have changed is to check the McMinnville School District’s page of updates, available in both English and Spanish. Ideas the CDC and OHA at one time considered last resorts to slow the virus are now widely viewed as not nearly enough.

As I write this, there are 69 confirmed cases in Oregon. Earlier this week, within an hour, the governor went from deciding to leave bars and public places open, to ordering them closed, after the number of known cases jumped by from 2,500 to 4,300 nationally.

Guest Writer

Sal Peralta harbors an enduring interest in public policy, reflected in a long record of public involvement. He helped found the Independent Party of Oregon and has long served as party secretary. He ran unsuccessfully for state representative and county commissioner before winning appointment, and later election, to the McMinnville City Council. He shares his home in McMinnville’s Ward 1 with his wife, Tanya, daughter, Bella, and two dogs. In his leisure time, he enjoys playing the violin.

This is a war against a mostly silent enemy. People infected may have no symptoms for up to 14 days.

Eighty percent of cases feature mild symptoms that can include a light dry cough difficult to cover and makes the virus easier to spread. Infection appears to be most commonly spread by coughs, sneezes, handshakes and from contaminated surfaces, including doorknobs, countertops, keypads, etc.

I have no idea how many cases we will have by the time you read this, but there is no reason to believe the spread of this virus will be any different in the United States than it has been in other countries.

The mortality rate among patients requiring hospitalization is another matter. It can range widely.

Whether the rate here ends up at 3% and holding, like China, or 7% and climbing, like Italy, depends on our ability to slow the spread of infection in the first place. If left unchecked, this virus has the ability to quickly overwhelm the medical resources of any community it broadly affects, including ours.

A report by London’s Imperial Royal College, released the day President Trump first enacted strict social distancing guidelines, suggested hospital caseloads could reach 90 to 200 per 100,000. And Oregon has the lowest ratio of emergency beds to residents in the country.

People with lung disease, immune disorders and other medical issues are at greater risk of complications, as are people 60 and up. They face rejection if medical resources become so overwhelmed doctors are forced to decide who receives care and who doesn’t, based on the likelihood of success.

China built a 7,000-bed hospital in seven days, and clamped down on all manner of social interaction in response to this virus. On March 16, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson asked automobile and military equipment manufacturers to switch to respirators. Those are just two examples of how seriously this virus is being taken elsewhere and must be treated here.

The total number of deaths we experience in this war will be determined in part by the courage and skill of our hospital employees and ambulance and EMT workers. They will bear the burden of keeping themselves and their colleagues healthy during the crush of expected cases. 

Unfortunately, they are facing a handicap — too few beds, ventilators, masks and basic elements of surgical gear to meet a threat whose strength doubles every couple of days.

The toll this virus takes also depends on how well the rest of us do our part. That means carrying on with our lives as wisely and responsibly as we can, as people must in a time of war.

It means practicing the strongest social distancing approach you are able, limiting your time in public places, wearing washable gloves at the supermarket, washing your hands when you get home, keeping your home surfaces clean, imposing a self-quarantine when you are exposed, staying home when your are sick and relying on self-care to the extent possible.

Our citizens will survive best, of course, if they are well-armed with information. Here are some key points:

First, most of the disruptions at the grocery store were due to people moving to comply with recommendations for stocking up. Although we may continue to see some disruptions for some products, I believe most of the early problems will be ironed out as people change their consumer habits.

Second, although our enemy is a silent killer, it is weak. Among the best tools to defeat this enemy are frequently and thoroughly washing hands and hard surfaces, including countertops, handles, knobs and keyboards, with soap and water or alcohol-based cleaners. Sunlight and fresh air are also good antidotes, while maintaining social isolation.

Third, viruses are most successful if they can remain hidden while they transmit themselves to other hosts. In that regard, COVID-19 is insidious, because most people won’t have symptoms for up to eight or 10 days. And after that, up to four of five will display only mild to moderate symptoms.

So, don’t assume you aren’t around any carriers. In fact, don’t assume you aren’t a carrier yourself; you could be.

Fourth, this enemy most commonly transmits itself through a dry cough that many will not think to cover, or through surfaces people touch, like buttons, touchpads and door handles. This is why six feet of social distancing is recommended, along with frequent cleaning of surfaces and washing of clothes worn in public settings. 

The building closures, enhanced sanitation and travel restrictions ordered around the state, nation and world are aimed at preventing the virus from spreading too rapidly and overwhelming the local medical system as the first wave rolls through our communities.

You may feel fine, but still be a carrier. These restrictions are meant to protect everyone in the community. They will keep us safer in the long run. 

I will be taking some time during this crisis to connect more deeply with my loved ones and work harder on my victory garden. With everything happening in the world, I count these actions as blessings, not sacrifices.

Blessings of peace, comfort and hope to you and your family.

Comments

Christmas has Talons

It's wonderful to see people getting behind (Action in Mac) and Heidi Parker's vision to unite McMinnville citizens to be there and help one another. People's messages are following her lead perfectly and reiterating what is best for the city. If people are interested in really making a difference please come join her community action page.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/2621714974584363/?ref=br_tf&epa=SEARCH_BOX

Joel

Thanks Mr Peralta. I really enjoyed reading this. Very uplifting. Thanks for all you do for our community!

RobsNewsRegister

Let's hope this Nobel laureate's estimates (see link) are correct. The title of the piece is "Why this Nobel laureate predicts a quicker coronavirus recovery: ‘We’re going to be fine’ "

He was correct on his China projections. Stay strong.

https://www.latimes.com/science/story/2020-03-22/coronavirus-outbreak-nobel-laureate