What we now know about preventing the spread of COVID-19

What we now know about preventing the spread of COVID-19
What we now know about preventing the spread of COVID-19 (Source: Adam Mintzer)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than a week ago Gov. Henry McMaster asked South Carolinians to “be smart” when it comes to the coronavirus and warned the state, “there’s a lot of stupid floating out there.”

However, since his warning about the virus’ spread, the state has seen multiple days of recording-breaking case numbers, fewer hospital beds available statewide, and an increase in the state’s percent positive rate.

In news conferences, the Governor said we know more about the coronavirus now than we did when the virus was first detected in our state at the beginning of March. Dr. Michael Schmidt, an MUSC professor who studies pandemic flu preparedness and hospital-acquired infections, agrees with McMaster on this point.

“We know a lot more…we know masks work. That’s the most important thing you as an individual can do when you go out of your homes. Simply wear your mask properly,” Schmidt said. “You can rest assured that you are doing your part for your fellow human from getting the virus from you if you happen to be asymptomatic,” he added.

A scientific study published earlier this month reached the same conclusion and found disposable face masks or cotton masks, “protects people (both health-care workers and the general public) against infection by these coronaviruses” wrote the study’s authors. The analysis also found protective eyewear can reduce the possibility of COVID-19 infection.

“It can come into your tear ducts and drain down into your nasal cavity and infect you that way. It can hit your nose. It can hit your mouth,” said Dr. Schmidt.

However, Schmidt says masks are just one of three major tools the scientific community is now certain can slow the spread of coronavirus. Schmidt emphasized proper hygiene, which includes hand washing cleaning surfaces regularly and keeping proper social distance is still crucial.

He said when South Carolina doesn’t follow these guidelines, we feel the impacts.

“We know when we misbehave, we see a rise in cases. Memorial Day we all had a good time, and South Carolina is seeing the effect of our misbehavior. We are seeing a large increase in cases and we don’t know how large that increase will be,” Schmidt said.

The “third leg” to fighting the coronavirus, according to Schmidt is contact tracing. According to DHEC’s website, the government group is scaling up its contact tracing. They had a goal to scale from 20 contract tracers at the start of the year to 1,000 by the beginning of the month.

However, Schmidt says contact tracing would be more efficient if there was a statewide app that can alert people if they’ve been near someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

He says Google, Apple, and other experts are working on an app for South Carolina, but a partnership with DHEC needs to be solidified before it is rolled out to people who want it.

According to Schmidt, there is still a lot of scientists are working to learn.

“We don’t know what the initial symptoms of COVID look like because it’s a very complicated disease depending on what cell type in you becomes infected first. So you may not display symptoms yet the virus will go to the lung...you could be transmitting the virus to me unbeknownst to you, but five hours later you [could be] on your back sick,” Schmidt said.

Therefore, with so many crucial aspects of the virus still unknown and multiple candidates for a vaccine still in trial, it’s crucial for people to lean on what we know to save lives and help give scientists time to answer what we don’t.

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