O’Halleran, Yavapai County epidemiologist urge precautions, not panic

March 19, 2020
Contributed Columns

When I was elected to Congress in 2016, I vowed to do my part to keep Arizona families healthy and informed. Today, I am joining Yavapai County Community Health Services Epidemiologist Stephen Everett to bring you updated information and resources regarding the spread of the novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

We are teaming up to bring you concise, factual information to help keep your family safe and healthy. All information in this article is up to date as of March 19, 2020.

In the field of public health, there are three commonly agreed upon phases in fighting an outbreak: Contain, Delay, and Mitigate. We are past Contain: trying to identify and isolate cases and contacts before COVID-19 can get out into the greater community.

We are now in the Delay Phase. Here, the goal is to “flatten the curve”, as you’ve heard from many health experts at this point. Let’s say one sick person infects two more. They get sick and infect two more. Without intervention, this will keep doubling. Soon, the health care system will be overwhelmed and there will not be enough resources for everyone to receive the treatment they need.

By slowing the number of new cases and spreading them out over a longer period of time, everyone who gets infected will have better access to care.

Not only will this help our health care system, it will also protect the essential services that keep our society running. Flattening the curve means more police and firefighters to protect our communities, more utility workers to keep water and electricity on, and more private sector workers to manufacture, transport, and sell the food and supplies we need to survive.

What can each of us do to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the most vulnerable in our communities?

Wash your hands. Soap and water, at least twenty seconds, and rub! It’s friction that gets rid of the germs.

Clean and disinfect surfaces. When wiping down surfaces, let them air dry. The longer the surface stays wet, the more effective the disinfectant. And don’t forget handles, knobs, faucets, and any other items commonly touched.

Stay home if you are sick and leave only to seek medical care.

Wash your hands. Yes, it’s important enough to say twice.

Practice social distancing. People can spread COVID-19 without showing symptoms or knowing they have it—especially younger, healthy people. Keep at least a six-foot distance from others when possible and stay away from crowded places.

Above all, stay calm. Panic transmits faster than COVID-19 ever will. As of now, grocery stores remain open and operating. Don’t overbuy and prevent another family from accessing the items they need.

While there is no doubt this public health crisis is seriously affecting our day-to-day lives, our jobs, schools, and economy, we must hold onto positivity in these uncertain times, and keep in mind that the measures we are taking are vital to protecting our loved ones.

Humanity survived the Spanish flu, which killed more people than World War I. We have survived plague, cholera, typhus, malaria—and that was just the 20th century. We will defeat COVID-19, but how well we do it depends on you.

O'Halleran is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives representing Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. A Democrat, he lives in the Village of Oak Creek. Stephen Everett is an epidemiologist—a scientist who studies diseases within populations of people—with the Yavapai County Community Health Services.