COVID-19 Containment or Mitigation?
Limiting infection through mitigation protocols

In our last post, we showed just how quickly COVID-19 cases and deaths have been rising around the world. We also explained why it’s too late for most countries to use case tracking and quarantine containment tactics. As a result, many countries have begun to implement unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic mitigation tactics. These include distancing, isolation, lockdowns, and shelter-in-place protocols.

Some mitigation tactics being tried against the COVID-19 pandemic

Contribute to the containment of COVID-19 by staying home and staying safe!

Distancing, isolation, quarantine, lockdown and shelter-in-place 

  • Social or physical distancing means increasing the physical space between people to reduce transmission. This can mean canceling events, limiting physical contact, and keeping distance from other people.
  • Social or physical isolation is when people stay at home, don’t go out, and limit physical contact to families or housemates. This can be voluntary or legally mandated. Unaffected people may isolate themselves to avoid exposure to carriers. This is a key tactic for people with autoimmune diseases and other high-risk demographic groups.
  • Quarantine is an ancient practice. A society would isolate ill individuals from everyone but their caretakers to limit contagion. We still use this practice in the present day. It can also be a legal term for mandated social isolation of sick people, or can refer to strict anti-infective measures used in hospitals and nursing homes. These include keeping patients isolated from everyone but contagion-protected nursing staff.
  • Lockdown is legally-mandated social isolation for larger civic units, like cities and states. Depending on the policy, a lockdown includes mandated closure of social gatherings as well as businesses and schools. This approach confines most people to home. Exceptions to this mandate are “essential activities”, which are defined differently from place to place. For example, these activities include going out for medical care, food, and supplies.
  • Shelter-in-place is an alternative to lockdown, with provisions that vary by jurisdiction. The state of California has closed most businesses and schools, and citizens are expected to stay at home. Exceptions to this rule include seeking medical care, grocery shopping, dog walking, and pet sitting (as long as people keep social distance). California has categorized these activities as “essential”.

Containment, screening, hand-washing and protective gear

In the previous post (linkback), we discussed containment strategies and tactics. Here is how containment, screening, and proper hygiene habits may mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

  • Ideally, we would have rapid tests to determine whether or not an individual is infected. If a healthcare facility receives a positive test result, it would quarantine the individual and test anyone who might’ve been in contact with the patient. This process of testing and quarantine is the best course of action to minimize infection rate. However, only a few countries (Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan) have acted quickly enough to implement this strategy in response to COVID-19.  These countries had developed containment protocols after the 2003 SARS outbreak.
  • In the absence of rapid tests (see next post), we have to consider other tactics to minimize infection rate. Since fever is an early symptom of COVID-19 infection, institutions may use thermal screening (e.g measuring body temperature) to identify potential carriers. This method is being used in some places to screen airplane and cruise ship passengers.

Other tactics, some simple, others high-tech, include:

  • A simple habit we can practice is frequent hand-washing and sanitizing. Hand-washing can destroy viruses before they enter your mouth, nose, eyes or ears (all portals to your lungs). For SARS viruses, soap and water work well to clean hands. Good hand-washing habits are critical in this time, as soaps break up the virus’s protective lipid layer and kill them. If soap and water aren’t handy, try to use hand sanitizers with 70% alcohol. Many distilleries and cosmetics companies have stepped up to produce hand sanitizer during COVID-19 shortages.
Hand-washing destroys viral molecules.
  • We should take care to clean surfaces that may have virus-carrying droplets. It’s good to make a habit of wiping down commonly-touched house-hold items. When it comes to cleaning surfaces, strong bleach and hydrogen peroxide solutions may be even more effective than soap and water.
Cleaning commonly-touched surfaces can contribute to containment and limit the spread of disease.
  • Uninfected people can reduce risk of infection by wearing protective gear like face masks, face shields, and gloves. Facemasks can also prevent asymptomatic carriers from passing the virus. In medical settings, medical staff use full hazmat suits, gloves, boots, and virus-filtering masks to prevent contracting the virus and transmitting it to other patients.
Protect yourself! Contribute to containment by wearing protective equipment.
  • Hospitals and ICUs are quarantining known SARS-CoV-2 patients. To help the nursing staff, healthcare centers may use additional high-tech isolation tactics. These include rooms with negative airflow and filtering, delivery robots, and remote monitoring of patients’ vital signs to minimize contact with human medical workers.

The next post will discuss the shortage of SARS-Cov-2 testing that has impeded flattening the curve in many countries, especially the United States.

Stay well!

For additional resources please read:

Let us know your thoughts!

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rapidly moving situation. Therefore, it’s hard to keep up with the tsunami of information, misinformation, disinformation and the high noise-to-signal ratio, especially on social media. Let us know in the comments if you have good sources to share, have questions, or if you spot errors or incorrect or outdated information in our posts. Also let us know if there are additional topics you’d like us to tackle.

Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Ellen M. Martin, Anthony Tung

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