We’re doing our part to flatten the curve and put an end to the coronavirus. Playing our small role—staying home—can have a big impact on lessening the burden on the healthcare system.

We are living in unprecedented times. Many countries are closing borders and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines. Sporting events have been canceled or suspended. On March 24, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government agreed to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics to 2021. Schools and universities have closed for the foreseeable future, and many state governments have mandated all nonessential businesses to close their doors.

It would be easy to say that this is an overreaction and wonder whether taking these drastic measures is really necessary. In short, the answer is yes—it is necessary.

“For a while, life is not going to be how it used to be in the United States,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” talk show on Sunday, March 15. “We have to just accept that if we want to do what’s best for the American public.”

That’s why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends social distancing—a public health initiative that works to prevent sick people from coming in close contact with healthy people. Right now, the goal is to slow the spread in order to reduce the chance of infection among high-risk populations (such as the elderly or those with chronic illnesses) and to reduce the burden on the healthcare system. The Trump administration, alongside the CDC, released guidelines for social distancing, encouraging individuals to avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people; avoid eating or drinking at bars or restaurants; avoid discretionary travel or social visits; and not visit nursing homes, retirement centers and long-term care facilities.

Why the Necessity?

The coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is spreading quickly. In fact, on March 26, The New York Times reported that the United States is now leading the world in confirmed coronavirus cases, making it the new official epicenter of the pandemic. This poses a threat to the already overburdened U.S. healthcare industry.

For instance, many experts are looking to Italy—where the virus spread rapidly and hospitals had to choose who got ventilators and who did not—as an example.

“The capacity in northern Italy hospitals is a preview of a movie that is about to play in the United States,” Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins University surgeon and health policy expert, told USA Today in an article published on March 18. “The best two indicators of what things will be like in the U.S. are the number of COVID-related deaths in Italy and the number of ICU beds.”

The United States has fewer than 100,000 ICU beds—the types of beds that are typically equipped with ventilators—in hospitals across the nation. Some of these beds, of course, are occupied by patients who had conditions predating the COVID-19 outbreak. States and providers are scrambling to get test kits and medical supplies. Health officials, government leaders and businesses are exploring ways to get more ventilators. Car companies such as Ford, GM, Toyota and Tesla have committed to doing what they can to help companies that manufacture ventilators produce more. Sewing groups across the country are sewing face masks to help alleviate the shortage in personal protective equipment (PPE) nationwide. But without enough beds, ventilators or PPE available, it will be difficult to continue caring for the sickest of the sick, experts warn.

Save Lives, Stay Home

We understand that healthcare workers, grocery store clerks, food service workers, postal service employees and other essential workers around the nation have to keep going to work. We are so thankful for these individuals and the work they are doing to save lives and keep essential goods and services flowing. But for the rest of us, as COVID-19 continues to quickly spread through the nation, it’s critical that we do our part to “flatten the curve” and put an end to the spread of the virus. Coretta Scott King once said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Playing our small role—staying home unless otherwise necessary—is a compassionate action. It can help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, keep vulnerable populations healthy and lessen the burden on the healthcare system. Do your part: Stay home and save lives.

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