Steven I. Marlowe MD FACP FIDSA
Medical Director, Molecular Diagnostics
Dear Family and Friends —
We’re learning more and more about this epidemic as it progresses, and it calls for me to share some new information along with some new Do’s.
It’s now apparent that the epidemic will emerge in different geographic regions (“hotspots”) at different times. These individual outbreaks each have their own epidemic curve, so, for example, the epidemic in New York City will reach its peak at a different time than the epidemic in Seattle does. It’s important to know what’s happening in your area so you can be more vigilant as the epidemic ramps up and reaches its peak.
We’ve also learned that this virus is more likely to be transmitted on surfaces than previously seen with other respiratory viruses. After infected passengers left the The Diamond Princess, some COVID-19 virus survived on surfaces in their cabins for up to 17 days. This doesn’t mean the virus was contagious the entire 17 days, but it is longer than results from earlier lab studies and is concerning.
And a unique symptom has emerged: Two of the first three positive COVID-19 tests run in our lab yesterday were from patients whose food taste changed. I’m hearing from doctors across the country of patients whose only symptom is sudden loss of sense of smell or food taste changes. Hence the following Do’s.
Do call your doctor if you suddenly notice an inability to smell or change in taste. Of course call if you feel feverish or have fever over 100.4, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, cough (new or worsening chronic cough), shortness of breath, associated with nausea or vomiting, headache, abdominal pain or diarrhea (loose/looser than normal stools in a 24 hr period).
Do perfect your hand cleaning technique after touching any potentially contaminated surface. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds (Happy Birthday…..) or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol (no vodka please).
Do consider setting up a “dirty” area in your house/apartment where you put incoming groceries and packages. Wipe down groceries and packages with a surface wipe and place in a “clean” area prior to putting them away. As a final step wipe down the dirty area and sanitize your hands. Effective surface wipes include those containing 60-95% alcohol (like hand sanitizers), benzyl ammonium chloride-based wipes like Lysol and Clorox brand wipes for surfaces. In a pinch make a solution of one-part household
bleach (generally 5% solution of sodium hypochlorite) added to 80 parts of cold water (one tablespoon of bleach in 40oz of water). Leave this solution on items for 10 minutes before rinsing. Make fresh daily. Take special care when handling bleach.
Do follow your local state, county, or city guidelines, which will be tailored to how the epidemic is progressing in your area. If you want to get into the weeds, follow the number of new cases by zooming in on your area on
“If you see your numbers double, you can bet you’ll be in trouble”.
Once the trend in your area starts to double every few days you need to be more vigilant: stay at home, especially if you are over 60 and/or have diabetes, heart or lung disease, or are immunocompromised. No visitors. You can safely spend time with people if you are outside in daylight (UV rays) while practicing strict 6ft distancing. Expect at least 2 – 3 months until the trend reverses and it’s safe to have visitors over or go out and meet in small groups with precautions.
Some predict the birth rate and divorce rate will both increase as a result of these precautions.
March 25, 2020