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Opinion: Don’t be afraid

OPINION

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Don’t be afraid; be careful and be proud that you are keeping society functioning. We need you. 

To everyone: Don’t be afraid that the number of local COVID-19 cases goes up every day. There is no scenario under which nobody else gets sick. Using the numbers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship study, let’s say that roughly 19% of Alachua County residents will get this over time—that’s over 50,000 people. We currently have 85 known cases (and possibly thousands of undiagnosed cases since January; I hope antibody testing gets here soon so we have a better idea of how many have already had it). But still, many thousands of people will be sick in the future under any scenario except 100% lockdown—and that would mean no groceries, no pharmacies, no healthcare, and lots of deaths from other causes.

Yes, I am reporting the numbers twice a day. I think it’s important that you have the same information our elected representatives have so you can evaluate their decisions. But the number of new cases each day is not accelerating here—go look at the graphs

To people who are over 65 or medically vulnerable: Buckle up for a long period of self-quarantine. With any luck, we’ll have treatments to reduce the risk for those who are most likely to end up in ICU, but until then, you should be very cautious.

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To people who are young and healthy, especially those in “essential” industries: Don’t be afraid.  I’m hearing that some Shands employees are terrified that they will catch this on the job and die. Check out this chart, which lists Florida cases by age:

Yes, some young people die, and we’re not being told whether they have underlying (possibly previously unknown) medical conditions. But so far, 0.18% (less than .2%) of people who were sick enough to meet the criteria for testing and were under 65 have died. You have a 99.82% chance of recovering. And when you recover, you’re immune, based on the evidence we now have. 

In the near future, people who have already had this will be very valuable. They can safely go out into public without endangering others; more importantly, they can safely visit older people without endangering them. 

I am NOT saying you should be careless and disregard the guidelines from the CDC or from your industry. I am saying that you should be proud that you are contributing to keeping society going, and you should not be afraid that you will get sick as a result. You have a very good chance of getting sick at some point, and you probably have a higher risk than the general population does, but you also have an extremely high chance of recovering and going on with your life. 

Just so nobody plays gotcha (although I’m sure they will), you should be cautious if you go home to people who are medically vulnerable. I don’t have the most up-to-date recommendations, but you should look them up and follow them, including not bringing your clothes in the house (or taking them straight to the washer) and showering as soon as you get home.

Remember that the objective is to “flatten the curve.” That doesn’t reduce the number of people who get sick; it spreads the infections out over a longer period to reduce the number of people needing intensive medical intervention at any given time.

Don’t be afraid; be careful and be proud that you are keeping society functioning. We need you. 

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