Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Day Eight: How You Can Help This Effort

In Memory of Dr. Li Wenliang (1986-2020)

See the source image

Lessons and Scripture for the Day

There are three kinds of information:
  • what we know
  • what we think we know
  • rumors and speculation
This morning, I spoke to someone that I have known a long time who had very good information on coronavirus. He works in public health on the environmental side for a state government. They are knee deep in responding to the pending, possible pandemic. He asked me, a little too politely and diplomatically as he has been trained, to remove an irresponsible article from my Facebook feed that I had posted mostly to make the point that the rumors are rampant. I don't want to be in the company of Rush Limbaugh, who continues spreading this vile bile even as his bearded countenance withers into even greater (mental) illness that will eventually consume him. So, I did as I was told asked.

In fact, the most irresponsible article that I have shared was in WeChat Moments, on the other side of the Great Firewall of China. If I was still inside China, I would not have posted it, because I am more cautious there--given the strict punishment for rumor mongering. The article was viral and claimed that America had started the spread of the virus (think smallpox blankets and Indians), as well as kept secret the presence of 10,000 infected people--a possibility that most doctors and American journalists find preposterous. Just almost no way that could happen in this social media rich nation with a free press.

The topic of the untoward repercussions of censorship and Dr. Li Wenliang (the opthamologist who died of COVID-19 on February 6 and whom I referred to as a martyr in last night's post) is beyond the scope of today's discussion, but my old friend from Changchun--with whom I sometimes think that I have only a christened name (Alexander), our Catholic faith, and a penchant for argumentation in common--has published a powerful essay on the subject.

My acquaintance shared a Scientific American article that every responsible blogger, journalist, and poster to social media should read. Obviously, the rumors while we searched for the cause of HIV burned a painful memory in the generations that lived through the 1980s. More recently, the SARS epidemic in 2003 gave rise to horrible rumors. Yet even this very article that I am recommending, which was written as an antidote to misinformation, features a picture that is irresponsible from a public health awareness perspective.

How to Report on the COVID-19 Outbreak Responsibly
South Korean health officials spray disinfectant in Daegu on February 21, 2020. Credit: Jung Yeon-Je Getty Images

While this is happening in South Korea now and it happened near my home in Panyu District of Guangzhou City, this aerosol spraying is mostly a placebo to reassure the public, peering out from their windows, that the government is doing something to protect you. It is an effective propaganda tool, albeit an expensive use of public resources. 

Before I conclude this post, I want to summarize the main recommendations of my friends in public health and the CDC fliers that I have been handed since coming back:
  • get the flu shot. 
  • wash your hands all the time
  • do not touch your face
  • avoid sick people (but if you have one in your home assign one person to tend her/him)
When I leave this place where I am staying, I will need to wash the grime in the sink, bathroom, and anywhere else its built up. Using a disinfectant is not necessary, but helps. 

Finally, I discussed with him that I think there needs to be a "Guide for Returners" that helps us to find the hotels which have agreed to host people who might be hosting COVID-19, helps us to figure out the financial resources to get a phone, find and pay for safe transportation to our lodgings, etc. The three day delay between landing and my visit from the Seneca County Health Department was enough time for me--who had called CDC and the New York Health Department prior to leaving China--to spread the disease to hundreds of people, if I had not been responsible and if I had not come to a rural county. Luckily, as I keep mentioning I am very healthy, but that does not mean that I don't have it because of the long incubation period. If I did and had gone to rent a car, eat at a restaurant on the drive north because the one that I had thought I would go to was closed, and visited the healthy food store in Ithaca to do a couple weeks of food shopping many people could be sick because of me. Yet, I probably had less contact than most people would, as I had meticulously planned to rent a car, do all my shopping at once, and only stop for gas and a meal.

Thanks for reading and please help to promote responsible reporting of information on COVID-19 or other diseases. 

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