COVID-19 Needs Action -> Decide Where You Wanna Be, And Go There Now
I wasn’t expecting to write another post about COVID-19 today, but I have to admit this last week in Europe has accelerated things, and it’s prompted me to have some serious thoughts.
As you know we made the decision just over two weeks ago (when I first wrote about the new coronavirus) to stay here in France, together with dad. At the time I wasn’t entirely sure if we were being pro-active, or over-reacting, but I did feel that the virus was already past containment, spreading fast, and that restrictions/controls would likely come quite quickly behind it. It just made sense for us to stay put, and see how it that all panned out.
But WOW, I sorely underestimated exactly how quickly all this would escalate….
Europe today is a very different place from two weeks ago, and I think the US is mere weeks away from the same thing. I am not saying this to cause panic, but to inform and spread the message, so that we can all prepare ourselves for what I now think is inevitable.
Lock-downs are coming, so if you’re a traveler it’s time to make a decision. You need to decide where you want to be during this turbulent time, go there now & then plan to stay for a while. This is not only important because of travel restrictions that may limit your ability to move around in the near future, but also because we ALL need to try and minimize our interactions in order to attempt to slow this thing down, and give our healthcare services a chance to cope.
Hopefully by the time you finish reading this blog post you’ll feel the same way.
NOTE/ What I’m writing about today is nothing new and has already been shared by various blogs, articles & scientists over the past week. If you want a sobering, in-depth analysis this post Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now, is a very good reference.
This Past Week Has Seen Dramatic Changes in Europe
This past week has seen a massive jump in infection numbers all across Europe, with confirmed cases doubling every 3-5 days (depending on the country). In conjunction with that we’ve seen a massive increase in restrictions.
In 23 countries schools & universities have now been closed entirely, gatherings of large groups have been banned, and bars & restaurants have been closed (or have limited hours). In many places visits to retirements homes are now banned, non-essential travel has been discouraged, and folks are being asked to work from home as much as possible.
The last set of restrictions to hit are border closures and they’ve only just started, but they’re coming fast. Within Europe Italy, Denmark, Poland & Czech Republic are now completely closed, with other countries likely to follow suit very soon. If the virus continues its current trajectory, I would not be surprised to see complete border closures all across EU within a week.
Why All The Fuss?
You might wonder what all the fuss is about. I mean, from the info that has been published over 80% of people who get this thing will only exhibit mild symptoms, and ~99% of young people who get it will recover. So, isn’t the world over-reacting just a bit?
Well, this is where numbers and statistics come into it.
The thing that makes COVID-19 such a big deal is that it’s spreading rapidly & freely (there’s no vaccine, no herd immunity), it has a non-insignificant death rate (3.4% globally if we take the most recent info from WHO, or anywhere from 0.6-6% if we look at individual statistics by country), and for confirmed cases, anywhere from 5-15% will require hospitalization with 1-2% requiring specialized intensive care (ICU)*.
Those numbers may not mean much at first glance but if you plug them into a country population like the USA, you are potentially looking at up to millions of critical patients all hitting hospitals in a short period of time. There are simply not enough beds, doctors or critical medical equipment (e.g. ventilators) to handle something like that. And THAT is the crux of the matter.
This is not just about another virus spreading, or the fact that most people that get it will be fine. It’s about the folks who will not be fine, those who will need hospitalization, and the fact that if we don’t slow down the infection rate now, our healthcare systems will not be able to cope with that many cases at once.
*NOTE/ The percentages for death rates, hospitalization & ICU can have wide estimates, depending on what data-source, paper or model you look at. A big part of the problem is that testing hasn’t kept up, so we don’t know exactly how many cases are really out there (there might be many more than reported, for example, or many who never show significant symptoms), which in turn means we can’t exactly predict the hospitalization numbers. However even with conservative percentages based on what we DO know, the numbers over the short term look significant.
We’ve Already Seen What An Overwhelmed System Looks Like
Sadly, we’ve already seen what an overwhelmed healthcare system looks like in Europe.
Northern Italy was one of the first-hit locations in Europe, and things escalated there much faster there than anyone imagined. Over a period of only ~3 weeks, the confirmed case numbers sky-rocketed from just a few hundred to thousands and then tens of thousands. The first hospital admissions came soon after, with patients needing critical care much faster and in much larger numbers than the system could possibly handle.
Simply put, hospitals became overloaded, and it’s put the country under enormous strain.
There are reports of sick patients being turned away, doctors forced to triage who gets treatment (and who does not), lack of equipment and basic medical resources, and exhausted healthcare workers being pushed to the brink. These are first-hand reports from people on the ground, and it’s truly a heart-breaking picture.
The situation in Italy has likely been exasperated by the fact that they have a large, older population (this virus impacts older people harder), but it’s also because not nearly enough was done to detect & slow down the virus early on. This should be a stern warning to other countries.
We Are All On The Italy Trajectory, Unless We Change Things
Before you say “that can’t possibly happen here” you need to look at the numbers.
In most of the rest of Europe the reported COVID-19 infection numbers started to grow just a week or two after Italy, while in US (where testing is still lagging WAY behind) things are just ramping now. If you look closely at how those cases are growing right now they are all following the Italy curve almost exactly, day for day. That means every major European country can expect to see tens of thousands of confirmed cases within weeks, with the US numbers ramping exponentially close behind.
Again, this may not seem that big of a deal. After all, viruses circulate all over the world all the time (e.g. season flu, colds etc.), and the absolute infection numbers that we’re seeing for this new coronavirus are currently only a small % of our population. But that’s also not the problem either.
The issue with COVID-19 specifically is how quickly & freely it is spreading & therefore how many people will potentially need hospitalization & critical care in a very short period of time, and those are the worrysome numbers. None of our healthcare systems are equipped to handle the forecasted influx, and they will all be overwhelmed unless we change things.
But We May Still Have The Possibility To Change Things
The one positive light in all this, is that there might still be a way to change things.
Obviously there are the basic precautions that we should all be taking anyway. Like washing our hands, keeping surfaces & clothing clean, social distancing etc.
But if we want to have any chance of slowing this virus down in any meaningful way, we need to take all that to the next level....
According to the scientists who model infectious diseases such as this, it’s possible to slow down (not stop, but slow down) the spread of a virus by imposing immediate restrictions.
The idea is simple. By limiting person-to-person interactions, we slow how fast the virus spreads, which is turn reduces infection rates, that in turn reduces the number of sick and thus the number of critical patients that hospitals have to treat at one time. As a result recovery rates improve, and lives are saved. Simple, but dramatic.
Epidemiologists and virologists call this “flattening the epidemic curve” and it can make the difference between a healthcare system that is overwhelmed and one that is able to cope.
We’ve Actually Seen What That Looks Like Too
We’ve actually seen what that looks like too, both with past viruses and even with the current COVID-19 outbreak.
In countries that implemented a high level of tracking & controls for the new coronavirus, very early on (e.g. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan), the virus curve has been much flatter, and entirely manageable. And in South Korea, after a rocky start, they have managed to flatten their curve through massive, systematic countrywide testing and individual quarantines. These countries acted, and they acted aggressively and that has made a difference, dropping their new infection & case death rates significantly. It’s actually really encouraging news.
European countries are finally catching on to this, and that is the reason that we are suddenly seeing massive restrictions being implemented all across EU, from the closure of schools to banning of gatherings, border closures and folks being asked to work from home. It may seem extreme on the surface and some of it could be argued (for example, is the economic cost too high for some of these restrictions?) but it’s all geared towards one singular & simple goal -> slowing the virus down so that we have time to cope with it.
For Travelers, It’s Time To Make A Decision
Here we get to the crux of the matter, and why I’m writing this post today.
As RV & motorhome travelers I believe we all need to take action on this now.
If you are on the road right now my recommendation is that you decide where you want to ride this thing out, go there now, and then plan to limit your interactions for the next months as this thing plays out. If you are able to stay where you currently are, perfect. If not, then plan a direct itinerary (with minimal stops) to where you want to be, and hunker down there. Conversely if you are not on the road right now, I recommend that you stay home until the peak of this virus has passed.
I say this not to alarm, but to prompt action while there’s still time, and encourage everyone to be part of the solution.
Travel restrictions are coming whether we want them or not. At the rate this thing is spreading (and how quickly governments are now responding) I expect restrictions to come very quickly. In Europe all borders will probably close within the next week or so, while in US, federal or state-level restrictions could get imposed within the next few weeks (or more, if they stall). So, if you want to get somewhere, now is the time to do it while movement is still possible.
By limiting our travels and interactions, we limit the rate of spread of the virus. Even if we are young and healthy, we may be carriers of COVID-19 (we still don’t know the exact incubation period for this virus, or how easily it is spreads before exhibiting symptoms), so we can spread the virus without even knowing it. And even though it may only cause mild discomfort to us, it could be lethal to someone we meet. We are all part of the chain of infection, so we all need to work together to try and break that.
If we do this now, it could save lives. I honestly don’t know how much of a difference all this will make in Europe & USA. Without systematic testing it’s hard to know what the real numbers are (are we ahead of the curve? or already too late?). But the potential to save lives is real and that’s why I believe it’s critical to try nonetheless.
We’re not talking forever, just for now. As I mentioned in my last post, none of this will last forever. All viruses follow a curve, and if we do things right this can become a manageable one. IMO it’s not a big sacrifice to slow your travels down for a few months.
With a bit of luck (and yes, I’m always the eternal optimist) if we all contribute our bit to slowing this thing down over the next several months then all of this could be but a wild, crazy memory by summer. If you believe this too, then please share this message to your fellow RVers, friends & family, and encourage them all to find a place hunker down now. That way we can all be safe, we can all be part of the solution, and hopefully we can all get back to our carefree travels very soon.SPONSORED LINK:
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