As COVID-19 (commonly known as coronavirus) spreads all over the world, so does misinformation.
Enter Gregg Gonsalves, an epidemiologist and global health advocate who has devoted his career to improving responses to global public health challenges. He was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2018, and his research focuses on the use of quantitative models to improve the response to epidemic diseases. He has written extensively about public health outbreaks and works to optimize the effectiveness of health programs for epidemics, particularly within underserved and marginalized communities.
Here are five tips he shared to help stop the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19:
There is a lot of misinformation circulating about COVID-19. It’s important to name it, say it, and call it out because we’re fighting a virus and a communications battle at the same time. Knowledge equals power.
There are trusted sites to find information about COVID-19, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and news websites like STAT that focus exclusively on health and science journalism. If you’re looking for information, triangulate. Proactively search for multiple sources of information from large academic centers, scientific organizations, and public health agencies.
Don’t rely on social media to give you advice.
Wash Your Hands
Basic hygiene, like proper handwashing, can reduce the risk of infection considerably. You should disinfect surfaces daily, particularly those you use every day, like doorknobs, the touchscreen on your phone, or your computer keyboard. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to avoid transferring the virus into your body.
Also cover your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Flatten the Curve
Practice what is known as social distancing to reduce transmission in your community. What is social distancing? It’s minimizing your personal contacts on a daily basis. Work from home if you can, avoid large gatherings of people, and stay at home if you’re sick. By reducing your close interactions with others, you help break the chain of transmission from one person to another.
Reducing infections locally also helps reduce the burden on hospitals, which are likely to face a surge of cases of COVID-19 over the next few weeks.
Take Care of Yourself, Your Family, Your Friends and Your Community
Whether or not you or someone you care about comes down with COVID-19, this pandemic is going to put a lot of stress on many of us as we try to deal with the reality of this unprecedented health threat. Schools may be closed with children at home for weeks. Those without sick leave may be trying to figure out how to pay for basic necessities if they are asked to stay home. Elderly relatives in nursing homes may be asked to forgo visitors for the duration of the outbreak. Quarantined neighbors may need assistance in getting food and other supplies delivered to them.
We need to come together and build mutual support networks to get us through these tough times.
The response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has been fraught with delays and indecision, and some political leaders are trying to capitalize on the pandemic for political gain. Citizenship doesn’t begin or end in the voting booth — it’s time to keep an eye on the issues and how your local, state, and federal representatives react and perform.
This pandemic is also going to come down hard on the most vulnerable people in our society: the homeless, people in jails and prisons, immigrants, and others who will have difficulty protecting themselves from infection or have difficulty getting the care they need if they get sick.
Someone needs to speak up for them. It needs to be you.
Learn more about how the MacArthur Foundation is responding to the COVID-19 outbreak and supporting nonprofits during the pandemic. We have also shared guidance that we have provided with regard to COVID-19 to protect the well-being of our staff, visitors to the Foundation, and people participating in MacArthur convenings. You can also review updates on the CDC website for more general information regarding the situation.