Flattening the curve---are we there yet?
Encouraging data from the San Diego Department of Health has shown that fewer new cases of COVID-19 have been identified the past few days. Officials are encouraged by this data, but say it is too soon to know if this trend will hold for the long-term, and when we can expect to return to a semblance of our former lives. We aren't there yet.
So why are we so fixated on flattening the curve? When we refer to flattening the curve, we are referring to the decline in new cases of COVID-19, not the total number of active cases. To really be in the clear and return to our jobs, socializing, gym time, surfing, and shopping, there needs to be a significant decline in the total number of cases, not just new ones. In addition, we have not had testing available to the masses in order to identify asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, as well as symptomatic cases. A key feature of this virus is that it can be actively spread by seemingly healthy people--without any symptoms. Until we see total cases of COVID-19 decline to levels that indicate it is no longer a significant threat, begin testing to identify asymptomatic carriers, discover a cure, vaccine or successful treatment modality, we still need to maintain social distancing measures. That includes good hand-washing, maintaining a minimum of six feet from others, and wearing masks when outside or in close proximity to other people. If you missed Dr. Parker's recommended reading on New Guidelines for Exercise and Social Distance in our last newsletter you can view it here--if you exercise outside, you'll be glad you did.
The truth is that we don't really know how this virus will behave in the long run. COVID-19 may become weaker over time, we may see a second wave of infection if we stop social distance measures, humans may develop a healthy resistance to it, or scientists may come up with a vaccine. Right now, experts world-wide are studying the behavior of the virus, especially in early affected countries like China and Italy as they ease up social distancing measures. We are hopeful that vaccines and testing will soon be available. Tests to determine who might be already immune to COVID-19 could be especially helpful in determining who might be allowed to return to work, play, and even travel.
This video on Flattening the Curve by Brandon Specter, the Editor of Live Science gives more information.
Image by By Johannes Kalliauer - lic CC BY-SA 4.0
The latest on antibody testing from Dr. Williams:
There has been a flood of antibody tests into the market and with a lot of excitement as we all look for answers regarding this novel virus. The big questions that testing for Covid-19 antibodies hope to answer boil down to the following: am I immune from getting the virus and am I spreading the virus. Answering these questions would be a huge step toward understanding where our community risk stands and moving towards resuming our normal lives.
Antibodies are proteins that our body makes in response to exposure to a virus or bacteria as happens with an infection or being vaccinated. These proteins act to help fight off an infection. There are several categories of antibodies but you will mostly be hearing a lot about IgM, IgA and IgG.
Usually, IgM and IgA antibodies are made quickly after an exposure to a new infection and tell us that you have an active infection. IgG antibodies are produced later and can be an indicator that the body has formed a defense or immunity to the bacteria or virus. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new virus, and so physicians and scientists are unable to make predictions about how long previously infected individuals will be protected.
This is a great question and hopefully in the near future, this will likely play a very important role. Unfortunately, these tests are so new that their results are creating more questions than answers. There are many studies being conducted by leaders in immunology, infectious disease, and public health that will soon be able to guide us in the use of these tests. However, at this time, the results of the antibody tests are unable to provide guidance to the public or to those who had the testing completed. Another concern regarding antibody testing is the accuracy of these tests. Accuracy meaning, is the test giving true results each time the test is conducted. There has been a flood of laboratory and home testing kits clamoring for FDA authorization, but it remains to be seen which tests may be the most reliable. At this time (although things may change in a week or two) we are NOT recommending getting the antibody testing. We are staying up-to-date with the breaking developments. Once tests show results that are reliable and have clear results, we will inform you. SDSM strives to keep our patients on the cutting edge of medicine, while protecting you from false claims and premature science.
While many studies are being conducted by leaders in the field for now, nothing will change regarding health management if you receive an antibody test or not.
Regardless of the test, it is still very important to socially distance, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face, and stay home if you are feeling sick. It is too early to confidently and reliably say with these tests if you have immunity and if you could be spreading the virus. Bad data is more harmful than no data.
The doctors and staff at SDSM are here for all of our patients and understand how stressful and overwhelming these times can be. Please call the office so we can help answer your questions or concerns. We are all in this together.
Masks--we asked and you delivered!
Thank you, Bryce Hamlet, for the incredibly generous donation of 1000 KN95 masks! We feel so fortunate to be able to supply these to medical personnel in need. We continue to be humbled by the dedicated friends and colleagues of SDSM. Bryce, you are a gem!
We'd also like to thank those of you who have given your time and efforts to provide much needed home made face coverings. The need for these will continue and we would appreciate any additional face coverings you are able to create and drop off at our clinics. If you wish, we can meet you in the parking lot instead of coming into the office. Just call us at the phone numbers listed below and we can pick them up from you outside or at the door. You can DOWNLOAD SIMPLE SEWING INSTRUCTIONS HERE.
Staying connected during social isolation:
Social isolation has dramatically changed the way we interact everyone. Children and young adults can be particularly vulnerable to social isolation given their different levels of emotional development. Our children are used to freedoms that now seem far away. Restlessness, anxiety, and even depression are real risks for youth in social isolation. In this Zoom presentation given by Dr. Shannon Cheffet-Walsh, you'll learn how to help children and young adults make healthy choices about screen time and electronics, how to maintain engagement with friends and distant family members, and tend to their physical and emotional needs. We hope you enjoy this presentation by Dr. Cheffet who has much advice to share.
SDSM is here for you. It's easy to schedule a Telehealth visit so your doctor can review your health and take care of your needs. Remember, if you have diabetes, asthma, COPD, heart problems, impaired immune function, difficulty getting enough sleep, or are experiencing high levels of stress, it's important call us. Working together, we can keep you healthy and safe.