For those who want to revive the economy with kids going back to school and life returning to some kind of “normal,” the power to defeat COVID-19 is literally in their hands.
That’s the prescription of pulmonologist Dr. Todd W. Rice, who works 10-12 hour days with COVID-19 patients in the intensive care units at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In an interview this week with McMinnville public radio WCPI 91.3, he described the simple actions every person can take to halt the spread of coronavirus.
They boil down to physical distancing, frequent hand washing and wearing facemasks when we’re in public. Nothing high-tech, but scientifically proven methods to arrest the dangerous pathogen, believed to have originated in bats and then transferred to humans.
“The fastest way to make this go away is to decrease the spread of it,” Rice stated in the interview which will be broadcast Friday at 2:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2:30 a.m.
“We can all do our part … with social distancing, washing our hands and wearing masks. These are the simple things we know will decrease the spread of the virus. It becomes less prevalent, infections decrease … and the economy can go back to the way it was and schools can reopen. We can get back to life the way we used to know it.”
Coronavirus finds its favorite place for reproducing itself in the human lungs, the physician explained. It can reside, he said, for a short time on human contact surfaces, but it can’t reproduce there. For that function, it commandeers the biology of delicate lung tissue. When we cough or sneeze, or even talk, we project our virus-infected respiratory moisture into the spaces we share with other people.
“If we can keep it from spreading from lungs to lungs to lungs,” Rice stressed, we can break the chain of transmission, thus depriving the virus of its best place to spawn the next generation of pathogens.
Families, Rice remarked, are very important in helping patients through their course of treatment, which in some cases may last for weeks. Sharply curtailed and restricted visitation precautions make it difficult to have family members at the hospital bedside, which is profoundly distressing when patients are approaching death after all medical measures have been exhausted.
“When patient are nearing the end of life and we’re not going to be able to pull them through it, we will talk with the families on the phone,” Rice said, and arrange what he described as “special means where they can come and see them near the end of life.”