Over the past few weeks, we’ve written a lot of articles about the spread of COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus. Those articles all, in some way, relate back to the world of mobile technology, because that’s what Android Authority is all about. However, we’re going to change things up a bit and talk about self-isolation in general during this pandemic.
Chances are good that, wherever you are located, there have been numerous decrees by local and federal officials saying that you should stay at home unless there is something absolutely necessary you need to do. Examples of these essential activities would be things like going to the doctor, buying food from the grocery store, or picking up medicine from the pharmacy.
The decrees likely add that, should you need to leave your home, you should avoid any and all human contact, wear protective gear such as gloves or a face mask, avoid touching your face, and wash your hands thoroughly when you get back home.
Some people think this is all an overreaction. We’ve seen plenty of comments on Android Authority articles from readers who think that there’s no reason for self-isolation during this pandemic. We’ve even seen people call this whole thing a hoax (which it absolutely 100% is not).
Below, we’ve summed up the reasons why self-isolation during this pandemic is not just important, but very well could mean life or death for you or someone you know. You might “feel” as if changing up your life drastically won’t make a difference in this situation, but there are mountains of science and math that say you are wrong.
This might be the most important article you read today. Please take it seriously.
How the coronavirus spreads
COVID-19 spreads very easily, much easier than many other common illnesses we deal with on a regular basis. That’s what makes it so dangerous.
When an infected person coughs, the moisture droplets from that action carry the virus. Those droplets could be transferred to another person or even an inert surface and then, if those droplets make their way to the respiratory tract of someone else, infect a new host.
In other words, you don’t even need to make physical contact with another person to become infected with COVID-19.
Here is a very simple example of how COVID-19 could possibly spread from an infected person to an uninfected person without any physical contact between them:
- An infected person coughs into their bare hand. They do not wash their hands after this cough.
- The infected person, using their bare hand into which they just coughed, opens a door in their workplace by touching the handle.
- An uninfected person, using their bare hand, opens that same door a few minutes later, making contact with the door handle.
- That uninfected person then yawns and covers their mouth with the hand that touched the door handle.
- The virus enters the respiratory tract of the uninfected person and then infects them.
This is a very real example of how the coronavirus could spread like wildfire through somewhere like an office building, factory, or even apartment complex. This is why most places of business are either closed or operating with a rigorously cautious skeleton crew.
It should be mentioned that the above example is only one possible way you could get infected. The virus is airborne, which means you could get it just by being in close proximity to an infected person. A cough from a few feet away could make it into your respiratory tract and then infect you.
This is also why you should practice self-isolation during this pandemic. If everyone stays home as much as possible, the chances of the virus spreading go down significantly.
Just because you don’t feel sick doesn’t mean you aren’t
As far as we know, the time when a person infected with COVID-19 is most infectious is when they are symptomatic. In other words, a person who appears sick and feels sick is more likely to spread the infection than someone who just caught the infection or is already in recovery.
However, that does not mean that a person who is asymptomatic — not showing symptoms of infection — can’t spread the disease. In fact, a person could be infected for days and not even know it. If that person is not practicing self-isolation, they could be spreading the coronavirus to other people.
This is why it is very, very dangerous to say things like, “I don’t feel sick, so I’m not going to stay home.” You might not feel sick but that doesn’t mean you aren’t infected. If everyone who didn’t feel sick just went about their lives as normal, infections would spread at an astounding rate.
See the next section for what that would mean.
Why self-isolation by EVERYONE makes a difference
Think of your favorite zombie movie or video game. How do people survive in those fictional situations? They avoid contact with the infected usually by quarantining themselves. That’s exactly what self-isolation does in this situation.
That comparison may seem ludicrous to you. However, the spread of the coronavirus is so fast and so deadly that the comparison isn’t too far-fetched.
Recently, Imperial College released a report summarizing hypothetical death rates in the United States caused by COVID-19 based on death rates from China, Italy, and Korea. You can read the whole report here, but these are the estimated death rates for various levels of citizens practicing self-isolation:
- No self-isolation / people living life as normal: If everyone did nothing and went to work, visited family, attended church, and otherwise lived their lives as if there weren’t a pandemic, around 80% of Americans would get infected. Around 0.9% of them would die from the infection itself. However, people with severe infections need to be put on ventilators. Those people have a 50/50 chance of survival. In the US, though, there simply aren’t enough ventilators to meet that demand, resulting in a high death rate. With these factors in mind, the estimated death rate in the United States over the next three months with no self-isolation would be around 4 million people. That’s similar to the population of Los Angeles.
- Isolation of infected and close family: In this hypothetical, not everyone is practicing self-isolation, but we’ve quarantined the infected and their close family members. People over the age of 70 would also be practicing the lesser form of self-isolation, known as social distancing. In this case, the hypothetical death count drops significantly, by about half. However, that is still 2 million Americans dead from either the illness itself or lack of access to the proper hospital equipment.
- Self-isolation and social distancing by everyone: In this final hypothetical, Imperial College ran the numbers for quarantining infected and their family and self-isolation and social distancing by everyone, including canceling all public events, shutting down schools and workplaces, etc. That brings the death rate down to a few thousand deaths, peaking a few weeks from now and then dropping down.
I don’t want to sound too extreme here, but you choosing not to self-isolate during this time could literally kill someone. The numbers above suggest that the majority of people practicing self-isolation could be the difference between millions dying or thousands dying.
Keep in mind that there is no situation where thousands don’t die. Said another way, we can be assured that thousands of people will die no matter what we do. Your choices now, though, could mean the difference between thousands dying or millions dying. That is why it is so essential you self-isolate.
There is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19
There are rumors floating around the internet that there are ways to treat the coronavirus or prevent its spread once you are infected. There are even rumors of a cure or vaccine. However, this is all false. As of today, there is no known cure and no approved vaccine for COVID-19.
The most common suggestion doctors will make to those who are possibly infected with the coronavirus is to stay home. Unless you can barely breathe, the best course of action is to stay at home and rest and hope that your immune system can effectively fight the infection. Only those with the most severe cases should go to the hospital. This is to prevent the spread of the disease as well as hospitals getting overwhelmed with patients who simply shouldn’t be there.
With that all said, you do not want to catch COVID-19. If you are infected there is not much at all that doctors will be able to do for you. If you’re young and healthy, you will most likely get very sick and be miserable — but you’ll probably survive. If you are older, a smoker, or generally have a weak immune system, you are at a high risk of death. Do not underestimate how deadly this virus is. If you can’t fight it properly, it will kill you and there’s not much doctors can do about it.
Self-isolation is the best tool we have
With no cure and no vaccine, our best defense against COVID-19 causing the deaths of millions is simply preventing people from getting it at all. The most effective way to do that is self-isolation.
Washing your hands a lot is a great idea, but it won’t prevent infections as well as self-isolation. Even social distancing isn’t as effective as everyone just staying at home indefinitely.
Granted, there are lots of people who have no choice but to leave their homes. Maybe they have a job in an essential industry or simply cannot afford to isolate themselves. It is important that those who are able to stay home do so if simply to make things safer for those people who cannot.
It’s understandable that people don’t want to self-isolate. Being stuck at home can be no fun. But this is a pandemic, as declared by multiple governments in multiple countries. This is a very dangerous time — a historical time that will be discussed and examined for decades to come. This is the time where we, as a species, must sacrifice for the greater good and prevent the needless deaths of millions of people.
Please take self-isolation seriously. Your life and the lives of the people you love literally depends on it.