Some are happy, some are scared, most have mixed feelings. Here’s what you need to know.
As an employee of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), I have been following this pandemic to an obsessive level (it’s not healthy, I know). I have an interest in the outcome. The healthier everyone stays, the less work for me. It’s tempting to want to break free of our constraints and get back to life, but I assure you there is a method to the madness. So, let’s talk about what NC needs before we can start being released from our homes for Phase 1 of leaving quarantine. Get comfy and put your thinking cap on because I’m about to get my nerd on.
The Three T’s of Combating COVID-19
Before we can leave quarantine for Phase 1 of re-opening the economy, we need to consider three things: Tracing, testing, and trends. So what are these? The three T’s have been recognized as being effective with controlling the virus, so let’s dive in.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2, has a long latent period. Meaning it can be in the body for a long period of time (usually a couple days), the person can be infectious to others, without symptoms. If a person were to get infected, a public health worker would need to notify everyone that had contact with that person. That is called contact tracing. If we were not practicing social distancing this would be difficult to do. Otherwise we would have to count every coworker, family member, friend, and every stranger you were near for more than 10 seconds. That is why socializing in large groups without social distancing can exponentially increase the number of people exposed.
Before leaving quarantine for phase 1, we must be able to effectively test someone for the virus. Tracing cannot be done if it is unclear if a person has the virus. Statistically, wide spread testing can help us to understand where the virus is the most prevalent and be able to support those areas of the state.
It’s important to note that testing could also mean testing for antibodies. This is still not a wide-spread test, and its important to understand the implications.
The bed news: A test that shows someone has the SARS-CoV-2 antibodies does not guarantee immunity for life. Unfortunately, we just don’t know enough about the virus yet and most of the tests out there are not validated or approved by the FDA, so they may have false readings.
The good news: if most people that have the antibodies are immune we can start determining how many people have been exposed to the virus and get an understanding of how easily it can spread through a population. We can then determine if we have herd immunity* (which needs to be a very high percentage so don’t hold your breath just yet).
*Herd immunity is an epidemiological concept that describes the state where a population – usually of people – is sufficiently immune to a disease that the infection will not spread within that group.
NC residents, you have been doing great so far. We acted quickly and supported each other, so we were not hit as hard as some other states. But, we still have some dense populations and some vulnerable populations that we need to protect before we can reopen. Therefore, we must understand the trends. Some areas of the state may be able to lift restrictions sooner, due to their low population density. Raleigh folks, sorry but you are not among them.
Trends don’t just include the number of people being infected and its impact on those individuals, but also the availability of hospital beds and personal protective equipment.
What is NC doing about it?
They just announced April 29th, the formation of the Carolina Community Tracing Collaborative. Its purpose is to expand contact tracing.
The governor has proposed a budget to include funds for testing, tracing, and trends analysis, for rural and underserved communities, and health care providers. Visit HERE for details.
For more information, visit www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus. For COVID-19 assistance visit www.nc.gov/covid19