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Why is everything closing? Information you need on the coronavirus

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Flattening the curve

IOWA (KWWL) -- Today saw the rapid push to cancel sporting events and social gatherings across the country, and dozens of events have been canceled just here in Eastern Iowa.

Why are so many events being canceled so abruptly?

Health professionals are pushing to slow the spread of COVID-19, and avoiding large gatherings may help.

Right now, 16 Iowans have tested positive, and 67 have tested negative.

Flattening the curve

'Flattening the curve' is an aggressive method of handling the coronavirus.

The thought is, by slowing the spread, we can keep from overwhelming our health systems.

If we were to not put any restrictions in place, the outbreak would pass quicker but would overwhelm what our health systems are able to handle.

With restrictions in place, the outbreak lasts longer but is able to be handled by our health system. This method has historically had better outcomes during disease outbreaks since medical resources remain available.

Experts at UNI's COVID-19 panel say it's key not to fall down the rabbit hole of misinformation.

“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been just an increase in the disease and its range, but also the increase in tolerance, misunderstandings and conspiracies and misinformation, and things like that,” UNI Global Public Health professor Michelle Devlin said.

They say the effort to slow the spread, such as canceling events, may be convenient and makes sure those most vulnerable to the virus will be able to get the treatment they need.

"We have no inate immunity to this and the idea is to flatten out the epidemiological curve as much as possible to relieve the pressures on critical care resources which can become swamped," Catherine Zeman, UNI professor of Environmental and Occupational Health, said.

The experts say this makes sure there are resources available to test those who need it. People experiencing the acute respiratory distress that comes along with the virus can be given priority and treated.

It isn't as simple as just stopping the virus in its tracks. Even though the length of time it takes for the outbreak to pass is longer, it could very well reduce the number of deaths attributed to the virus in the end.

Comparing the flu vs. coronavirus

Meanwhile, flu activity in the state is still considered widespread. Nearly 1500 people have tested positive for influenza and 42 people have died.

Leaders from the Black Hawk County Health Department said one thing that makes COVID-19 more of a concern to public health is its relative newness. While the flu has more cases, they said it's an enemy the health system knows how to fight. People also have at least a little immunity built up against the flu. For COVID-19, that isn't the case as no one has a built up immunity since it's new.

"It's comparing apples to oranges. Influenza is the enemy we know. It's a disease we're very familiar with. We have control measures, we have vaccines, antivirals and things like that. With coronavirus, it's new,” Joshua Pikora of the Black Hawk County Health Department said.

He also added during the panel that people should plan for disruptions to normal life.

"We're really urging people to think about what they would need to do, what arrangements they'd need to make if they would need to stay home for an extended period of time due to illness. For COVID-19, we're asking people to stay home for 14 days,” he said.

He said people should figure out what they would do with their children for that period of time and how to get groceries delivered to their home.

Health tips

Health officials also discourage the use of masks by those who aren't sick as they don't do much to protect a healthy person.

They also discouraged “panic buying,” saying people should rush to the stores to immediately stock up out of fear.

The state health department is sharing tips to keep yourself healthy.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. That's as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday Song twice.

If you can't wash your hands right away, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol in it.

With more than 125,000 cases worldwide now, the world health organization is calling the coronavirus a pandemic.

A pandemic simply means the virus is affecting the entire world, and does not have to do with the number of deaths being reported.

Hospital officials recommend the following practices to help prevent the spread of not just COVID-19 but all viruses:

  • Staying home if you are sick.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Disinfecting surfaces and objects using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe

Iowans can now call or text the 2-1-1 resource number, and get information and their questions answered - about COVID-19.

For more coronavirus information and coverage, click here.

Collin Dorsey

Weekend Anchor

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