Effective leaders know that getting their team members to remain calm and logical in the face of a crisis is the best antidote to anxiety, especially when the opportunities for anxiety exist everywhere.
Imagine for a moment that you had endured the chilling North East winter by looking ahead to your upcoming spring break vacation in sunny Florida. Then suddenly, COVID-19 hits New York and begins spreading all across the country. Flights are cancelled, travel restrictions are placed on foreign visitors, quarantine facilities are increasing and hospitals are seeing more COVID-19 cases. What thoughts run through your head? Add the following information to your situation:
… I didn’t want to risk spreading infection to my grandmother or my immunocompromised dad. Plus, I’ve taken seriously the scientific consensus to avoid all nonessential travel right now. Though I would be sad to miss spending time with people I love, I wasn’t going to prioritize my own vacation over the public good.
… a crowded New York airport is the last place anyone should be. Plus, two of my three roommates have been exhibiting the telltale symptoms of this virus — one has a low-grade fever; both have dry coughs — which means we all need to be self-quarantining in our house for at least two weeks. At this point, I’m conducting myself as if I’ve already been infected. Why would I fly anywhere, let alone spend a week in a small Florida community made up of vulnerable retirees?(Keating, 2020; https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/shannonkeating/coronavirus-social-distancing-self-isolation-quarantine).
Whether it is contemplating flying to a wonderful destination for a long-awaited vacation; having to work from home in Jamaica and elsewhere because all non-essentail workers are being reassigned for a week to minimize the spread of COVID-19; or you have to be locked away with your family for more than 52 days and counting in Wuhan, China which is the epicentre of COVID-19; people all over the world are learning to do something that is not naturally human – refrain from socialising!
We are much more comfortable with warning others about invading our personal space while still wanting their presence to ward off the feeling of isolation.
But COVID-19 is forcing us all to redefine personal space. See the image below shot yesterday by photographer Emilio Morenatti in Barcelona, Spain on March 17, 2020.
Everyone must now stay far, far away in public spaces, at a minimum 6 feet by some guidelines (See more frequently asked questions at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html#protect). This is social distancing, a useful tool used to slow down the spread of an epidemic, or in this case a global pandemic. Consider the graph below which shows the power of social distancing if used effectively.
The assumption behind social distancing is that “Many hundreds of thousands of infections will happen — but they don’t all have to happen at once”(Specktor, 2020).
If you live in an area where at the best of times the healthcare system is under pressure to treat chronic communicable and non-communicable diseases, then the last thing the world needs is to see more of what is happening in Italy. According to recent reports, “Italy, for example — the country with the worst COVID-19 outbreak outside of China — confirmed cases doubled from 10,000 to 20,000 in just four days (March 11 to March 15).”
So, “flattening the curve” is critical. By implementing community isoaltion measures, the daily rate of infection is reduced to a number that is manageable by the healthcare system.
One way of understanding “flattening the curve” is by thinking of the public restrooms at a theater production. If everyone goes at the same time then there will not be enough stalls to accommodate the audience. But, if patrons stagger their visits to the restrooms, then everyone will be able to comfortably use the facilities.
Another benefit of social distancing is that it gives science the time that it needs to work on finding an effective treatment. Currently, vaccines are being tested based on remdesivir which treats Ebola, the anti-HIV drug Kaletra and other medicines that are normally used to treat hepatitis and malaria (Devlin & Sample, March 10, 2020; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/10/hopes-rise-over-experimental-drugs-effectiveness-against-coronavirus). Also being tested is the anti-viral drug Interferon-Alfa 2B (Yaffe, 2020; https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/latamcaribbean/2020/03/18/cuba-and-coronavirus-how-cuban-biotech-came-to-combat-covid-19/).
There are numerous sources of advice on what you can do to protect yourself during this period. Some experts share their advice on the stock markets, the hospitality industry, medical sciences, zoo-keeping and more at https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-03-13/10-experts-on-what-they-re-telling-people-about-coronavirus. Here’s a brief list from the CDC below.
You will undoubtedly be locked away for quite a while. Life as we know it will forever be changed as we adopt new social habits. But there is one thing that will never change, and those are those healthy traditions passed down by Mom (or Grandma) in a nice pot of chicken soup. Not only is it healthy, but you can make it a family activity. Oh, did I tell you that we made a huge pot of this healing brew this week? I can smell my lunch already!
Need a recipe? See below! Don’t forget to keep your hands clean and to limit social gatherings. Be active wherever you are – walking the stairs, cycling, running in place, or running along the river are just a few ideas that come to mind. Don’t waste away while you are under “shelter in place” orders. Remember that water is still the essence of life. So see http://ijcar.net/assets/pdf/Vol3-No2-February2016/11.pdf and http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/KeishaAMitchellPhD .