The field of medicine has advanced a great deal in the last few centuries, thanks to innovations such as germ theory, sterilization of medical equipment, microscopes, and vaccines. Many lives are saved every year and a number of diseases have been largely removed from society, but the battle against disease nonetheless goes on. Other conditions will continue to exist too, such as genetic conditions or physical deformations. In the U.S., for example, one in every 700 babies is born with Down Syndrome, for 6,000 individual cases each year. Still, a combination of a robust healthcare system and safe practices by Americans at large can help minimize the spread of disease, even when healthcare services are feeling the strain.
The Healthcare System
How well-equipped is the American healthcare system to face something such as the COVID-19 threat? And what about related fields, such as employee paid time off for childbirth and sick days? The Family Medical Leave Act, or the FMLA, gives protection to employees, such as 12 weeks of job-related unpaid leave for situations such as the birth of a child or even the employee adopting a child. What is more, surrogates and intended parents can receive these benefits as well.
Are there enough healthcare service employees at work today? The numbers say no: as of right now, there are some 7.2 million open healthcare positions available across the world, due to staffing shortages, and this certainly includes the United States. These positions may range from nurses to surgeons to chiropractors to physical therapists and more, and with the American population aging overall, many people agree that it’s more vital than ever for the healthcare system to catch up. And it’s not just the U.S.; many advanced nations in Europe are generally aging as well, and Japan leads the way in life expectancy for men and women.
But what about outbreaks of viruses, such as the COVID-19 Coronavirus?
Healthcare Providers at Risk
A nurse or a doctor is trained to fight disease, but this does not make them immune to diseases themselves. If too many doctors or nurses contract an illness, that greatly reduces how many patients can be treated, so an effort is being made to keep those doctors and nurses safe. Recent news says that some 14 Americans have died from COVID-19, and the CDC says that some 200 cases have been reported across 19 states. And in California alone, some 50 healthcare workers have been sent home after being exposed to patients. What can be done to fight back and keep nurses and doctors safe? These hospitals should have personal protection equipment on hand, and many say that hospitals should be able to more quickly assess patients and isolate those that indeed test positive for COVID-19. Not to mention training staff for safety protocol, both clinical and non-clinical staff.
Meanwhile, National Nurses United Says that 44% of nurses report that their employer gave them sufficient information to identify potential COVID-19 cases, though only 19% of 6,500 nurses in 48 states said that they knew if their employer was ready to deal with potential infections among staff.
How do city mayors, state governors, and other public officials deal with cases such as the COVID-19 case? Often, they opt to close major institutions and cancel large gatherings, publicly announcing what number of people in one place constitutes a large gathering. In Kansas City, the mayor banned all gatherings of 1,000 people or more, and governor Ned Lamont of Connecticut signed an executive order that forbade all gatherings of 250 or more people. Not only are major events such as sports events or music concerts canceled, but a number of public institutions are also closing, such as schools and houses of worship. The administrative staff of these institutions often take it upon themselves to announce their closing, and they typically suggest alternatives, such as praying at home as opposed to visiting the local church, mosque, or synagogue.
Meanwhile, how can or should everyday Americans respond to cases such as this? After all, for every nurse or doctor, there are thousands of ordinary people, and many officials agree that promoting good health and preventing the spread of disease starts with everyday practices. Visiting the doctor’s office or hospital is one thing, but these healthcare providers can only do so much and only have so much room. If enough people cooperate, large steps can be taken to promote public health in many ways.
Some of these steps may be more drastic than others; not everyone wants to hole up their residences until they receive an “all clear” from health officials or their state governor. Many small steps can go a long way, and they are ordinary health measures that are simply neglected sometimes, such as washing hands. Regular hand soap and proper hand-washing (including the wrists) can help a lot, especially after someone blows their nose, coughs or sneezes, touches another person, or handles door knobs or stairway guard rails or bus railings. When returning home, Americans are urged to wash their hands before touching anything, and they may do the same when they visit someone else or arrive at school, college, work, or anywhere else. Washing hands can be the first thing they do when walking in the door.
Washing hands is a good start, but carrying around small bottles of hand sanitizer and moisturized hand wipes can also help, such as keeping them in a car or purse or even pockets for convenient use. Used tissues and paper towels must be properly disposed of at once, too. What is more, bear in mind that a person may infect themselves not only through touching their mouths or eating with unwashed hands, but also touching their eyeballs or anywhere else on their face. The head has many openings where disease can enter the body, along with other orifices found below the neck.
Meanwhile, a homeowner can use this as a good reason to catch up on their house cleaning, which might have been neglected until now. Not only can a homeowner regularly wipe down all counters and door handles and stair guard rails, but they can vacuum the carpets and use a carpet cleaner (with shampoo and water) to perform a deep clean of their carpet. Meanwhile, the air ducts can be checked by professional HVAC workers, who can clean out dirty ducts and remove animal nests, dust, pollen, and other grime to improve air quality and reduce the spread of VOCs and disease alike. Similar steps can be taken to clean out the carpets and air ducts in offices, which are often dirty anyway and tend to circulate unclean air. A very old HVAC system can be removed and overhauled entirely, so the new system is clean, in good shape, and energy-efficient, which saves money over time and circulates much cleaner air.
Anyone who feels ill is urged consider options for staying home from work or school until they recover, and staying at home while ill is often the best call. Many office workers today opt to work remotely from home, making use of computers and their internet connection and phones to stay connected to their co-workers and managers. This is often done to remove commute time and to eliminate the distracting noises of busy offices, but it can also be done to avoid dirty carpets and air conditioners, and now, the threat of COVID-19 as well. Remote workers can access Cloud data accounts to receive and send digital files with ease, along with email and faxes, and they can use Skype and other video chat services to have a virtual presence in meetings. Many video messenger apps allow multiple people to chat this way, even if they are hundreds of miles apart. That’s convenient, and in the current situation, it is also virus-proof.
As of this writing, the COVID-19 Coronoavirus case is ongoing, but the American healthcare system is robust, and many everyday people, as well as public officials, are ready to do their part to stay safe and minimize the contagion’s spread until the situation is under total control. No one has to be left out; anyone and everyone can take safe and smart steps to protect themselves and people around them, and this can indeed save those lives.