It is important to approach the current Coronavirus pandemic with equal measures of prudence and hope. Practical solutions to stop the spread of a novel disease are not new. They have worked in the past, and they do not need to lead to fear or panic. In fact, looking at our history of fighting and winning against so many diseases should give us optimism.
My life has been spent mostly as a physician and scientist. My current life is that of a member of the Senate, including on the committee dealing with Health Care. I’ve spoken to many in and out of government in the past week, and these are my conclusions.
Let’s start with prudence. This virus seems to spread very easily — think of the way the common cold spreads like wildfire every year — but it is more serious and potentially lethal. That’s a bad combination, and we should take it seriously. We must calmly and clearly implement as much social distancing as we can in the coming weeks. The six-foot rule is a good one.
Stay home when possible and call your doctor or hospital before you go if you are symptomatic so that they can advise you of best practices. Avoid as many group gatherings as possible.
The CDC has advised that at-risk groups remain entirely at home if they can. These include older Americans and anyone with comorbidities that put them more at risk, especially chronic respiratory conditions.
But even young people should be paying attention to this. You might think you’re safe, and you probably are. But your parents, grandparents and others may not be. The virus is spreading from asymptomatic people, and you could not even know you are doing it.
The Governor of Kentucky has joined many other states in closing down public schools for a few weeks. I think that’s a good decision and one we will not regret later, which cannot be said of staying open. The Governor may be required to take additional actions as the situation develops, which is why I have personally sent a letter to President Trump urging his prompt consideration of any future possible requests from the Governor asking for federal assistance for the Commonwealth's COVID-19 response efforts.
I personally have instructed my staff to work from home. I want to set the right example for those who can follow suit. I realize that’s not everyone, but every bit helps. During this period, however, we are still available to handle the needs of Kentuckians and government. Anyone with a federal issue can still contact our office as before, and we will be happy to provide assistance.
If you’re a member of a Church, community group, HOA, Rotary, service organization or similar, I encourage you to both practice what I’ve said here, but also to reach out to the most vulnerable in your community to make sure they’re okay and if you can help keep them that way, perhaps by running errands for them or bringing them food and supplies if they choose to isolate more completely.
If you are sick — no matter what you think you have — I urge you to stay at home for the duration of your illness, especially with a fever above 100.5.
Obviously, the more prevalent this is in your own community, the stricter you will need to be.
As this public health crisis unfolds, there will surely be some hardships for people. Some will fall ill. Unfortunately, some already have and more will succumb to this disease. But while we are implementing these steps to mitigate the spread, I want to also take a moment to remind everyone of the triumph of modern medicine over all sorts of diseases.
One hundred years ago, 1 in 5 children didn’t even survive childhood due to viruses and bacteria. Our life span was shorter. The list of viruses and bacteria that could kill you was long and dangerous. The world was a much more dangerous place than it is right now.
From Cholera to Polio, from Small Pox to Measles, we beat them, with antibiotics, antivirals and vaccines. History tells us we can do it again. It tells us not to let our fear get the best of us, not to think the end is near, and to approach this pandemic without unnecessary levels of alarm.
Be safe, be prudent. Be respectful of those who might need greater protection in an outbreak like this by being disciplined in the coming weeks. There are resources available with information, including Kentucky’s own website: kycovid19.ky.gov
But remain hopeful that our modern medical system, if given the time, can treat and beat this. This is a time for us to come together as people. To show the world what Americans can do. Together, we will weather this crisis.