I have drawn questions and comments from the Estes Park News Facebook page and will respond to them with the most current and reliable medical information.
MB wrote (March 21, 2020): Have been watching tourists downtown today (via webcam) and there is no apparent attempt at social distancing at all.
Monday they will have nowhere to stay and the problem will resolve itself. There will probably be no one but locals walking their dogs... and hopefully we are smart enough to keep our distance from others.
Covid-19 virus is spread from person to person by expelling virus particles in exhaled breath. When an infected person coughs or sneezes (or even just breathes out,) virus particles are exhaled, suspended in tiny droplets of mucus from the lungs or saliva from the mouth. When someone inhales some of these droplets, the virus has been passed.
The body's immune system begins to attack the virus particles within hours of becoming infected. Individuals with compromised immune systems are at greater risk because their immune systems cannot respond effectively. This includes cancer survivors, people on chemotherapy for autoimmune disorders or cancer, people taking steroids like prednisone, people with chronic lung disease, and anyone over the age of 70.
People who are very sick know that they should isolate themselves—we always do that, even just with a cold or seasonal flu. But this virus is a bit different from some others. Most importantly, once infected, and long before symptoms occur, individuals can pass the virus on to others. Even after recovering from the infection, people continue to shed virus for several days. This means that some of our friends and neighbors could be infected and not know it, and could pass the virus on to others.
Since there is no way to know (at this time) who has had the virus and who has not, the only sensible move is to treat everyone as if they have been infected—especially for people in the high risk categories. This means we must all practice “social distancing” in every situation.
Will we feel foolish wearing a homemade fabric mask and latex gloves while shopping, standing six feet from people we are talking to, nodding instead of shaking hands, and hugging ourselves instead of our friends? No doubt about it. Yet, until a vaccine is developed (most likely next year), it is the best way we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community.
Will visitors to our town practice social distancing, wear masks, and stay inside if they have a cough? Not a chance.
If Covid-19 takes hold in Estes Park, it will be devastating. So, Mr. Bonk, do not count on informed behavior from visitors, do not expect them to leave by Monday, and be aware that there is nothing about being a local that protects anyone from this virus.
Dr. Rustin is a Board-certified internist and half-year resident of Estes Park.