COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11, has claimed thousands of lives across the globe. The number of reported cases of COVID-19 continues to rise in the United States, with a confirmed case in every state. As of March 24, the U.S. has 44,183 confirmed cases with 544 reported deaths. As of March 24, Mississippi has 320 confirmed cases and one reported death. Understanding COVID-19, including the threat it poses and how it’s transmitted, is of the utmost importance. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is still much to learn about COVID-19, including how it spreads. However, the CDC notes the following are some ways that researchers (as of March 2020) feel that the virus is transmitted. Person to person Researchers who have studied the virus feel that it is spread mainly from person to person. People who are within six feet of one another may spread the virus through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of those who are nearby or potentially be inhaled into the lungs. The CDC notes that the virus is contagious, and that people might be most contagious when they are at their sickest. Dr. James Ervin of Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs explains the importance of knowing the early onset symptoms as well as hallmark symptoms of COVID-19. “Some people may experience diarrhea and headache prior to even running a fever. Hallmark symptoms of the virus are fever over 100.4, for most people, or 99.5 in senior adults; cough; and shortness of breath. Sore throat, in conjunction with these three most common symptoms, could also be an indicator a patient may test positive for the virus,” states Dr. Ervin. Researchers also suspect that the virus may be spreading through people who are asymptomatic. So even people who do not feel sick or exhibit signs of sickness may unknowingly have the virus, potentially making them capable of spreading it. Contact with surfaces The CDC notes that it may be possible for people to get the virus by touching surfaces of objects that have the virus on them and then touching their own mouths, noses, or possibly their eyes. The relative infancy of COVID-19 means researchers have yet to fully understand how the virus is transmitted. Understanding your risk As COVID-19 continues to dominate headlines across the globe, it is important to understand that some groups of people are at higher risk than others for more serious complications from the disease. According to the CDC, early information out of China revealed that older adults and people who have serious chronic medical conditions are at the greatest risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. Heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease are the chronic medical conditions that appear to make people especially vulnerable. How people in at-risk groups can reduce their risk of getting sick It’s important that elderly people and people with chronic medical conditions take their risk for getting sick from COVID-19 seriously, as the virus has already contributed to thousands of deaths worldwide by early March 2020. The CDC emphasizes that it is especially important that people at elevated risk take actions to reduce their risk of getting sick with the disease. The following strategies can be part of a proactive approach that may help those people lower their risk of getting sick from COVID-19. • Contact your pharmacy. Make sure all of your necessary prescriptions are up to date. Call Guy’s Pharmacy of Crystal Springs at 601-647-0030 and utilize their new curbside pickup service to fill any upcoming prescription refills or over-the-counter medicinal needs. • Say yes to help. Let a neighbor or family member pick up your needed grocery items at their next shopping trip. • Stay in good overall health by eating right and staying active. Stephanie Welch of Core Training says, “Our new ‘normal’ is hopefully not going to last long, but it is going to be a huge adjustment for everyone. My main objective is promoting people find activities to keep them busy, and more importantly to keep people from eating out of boredom. Some people have enough self-control to avoid this bad habit, however, so many of us already struggle with poor eating habits, and this self-quarantine is only going to make the problem worse unless we set some boundaries now.” Welch suggests some tips that will help keep you and your family from gaining unhealthy pounds and creating bad eating habits over the next few weeks. • Put a basket in a designated place for each person in the family. Fill it with the snacks they are allowed that day. Make sure they realize that this is their allotted amount for the day, so they do not eat them all at once. • Create a schedule and stick to it. We are all tempted to sit around and watch tv or spend an unnecessary amount of time on social media. • Make sure that physical activity is included in your schedule. “I would suggest adding two time slots a day for some form of exercise. Take your kids outside and let them do something that will get them moving. There are also some really good workout options online. We can all find something to raise our heart rate,” says Welch. To accommodate and encourage our community to stay active and fit, Core Training is now offering online classes. “Search Core Training group classes on Facebook and request to join our private page. We will be offering strength, cardio, Turbo Kick, and HIIT classes. For our online senior adult class, search for Gina’s Low Impact Class and request to join. We also have a convenient link to PayPal where you can purchase your preferred class. I realize that there are plenty of quarantined people that need an organized fitness routine, and I do not want anyone missing this opportunity because of lost wages. If you are experiencing hardship, we will be happy to defer your payment,” emphasizes Welch. For more information on Core Training online classes, call Welch at 601-953-1228. Embrace the basics Basic strategies like avoiding people who are sick; washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or spending time in public; avoiding touching your face, nose, eyes, etc. should be implemented. If you are living with diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions, keep in touch with your doctor and stay current with your treatment. Who are the right candidates for testing? “Testing guidelines for COVID-19 are patients with fever of 100.4 or higher who also exhibit cough or shortness of breath. In order to ensure testing resources are reserved for the patients who really need them, asymptomatic patients will not be tested to help ration the limited testing supplies we have available in the state. Testing asymptomatic patients could result in a negative test result, even if the patient has the virus, creating a false sense of security,” states Dr. Ervin. “I would also like to encourage everyone who has concerns that they have contracted the virus to reach out to their local healthcare provider first and not go straight to the emergency room unless they direct you to. This will save emergency care for the patients that truly need it.” Understanding COVID-19 additionally involves staying up to date on local announcements about the virus and adhering to any restrictions government officials put in place. People living in or near areas where others have been diagnosed should follow all protocols put in place by the government to reduce their own and their neighbors’ risk of exposure to the virus. For local, reliable information on COVID-19, Dr. Ervin suggests following Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs’ Facebook page. “We will be routinely updating our Facebook page with valuable and reliable content from the Mississippi Department of Health and CDC as new information is made available to us,” says Dr. Ervin. The Mississippi State Department of Health is now operating a hotline for convenient answers to questions about COVID-19 by phone. The Mississippi Coronavirus Hotline is available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at 877-978-6453. More information about COVID-19 is available at www.cdc.gov and is updated daily at noon Mondays through Fridays. Numbers close out at 4 p.m. the day before reporting.