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Health Officials Repeating The Same Refrain: Stay Home To Stop The Spread

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Greene County Public Health

Throughout this coronavirus crisis, officials have been repeating the same refrain over and over again. Stay at home. Stay away from other people. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stop this virus’s spread.

It turns out, this new normal comes from a very old playbook.

With a virus like this one, that’s mostly spread by droplets in the air, it’s when people come into close contact with each other that we’re able to get each other sick.

"In COVID-19, what’s important right now to understand, is that the purpose of this virus is to find a living cell to infect," says Melissa Howell, Greene County’s Health Commissioner.

"We know that with cold viruses, and flu viruses, the way that a virus works is that it invades that cell. It causes that cell to rupture. And then it spreads to other cells," she says. "But if we can keep people apart, we’re denying the virus the ability to find another living cell."

Coronaviruses are actually pretty widespread throughout the world. Every year, millions of people catch coronaviruses. Scientists think they cause about 15 to 30 percent of all respiratory tract infections every year.

Since people who get the virus can sometimes spread it for weeks, people are going to have to keep staying apart -- at least, long enough for the virus to die out. If people start getting back together again too quickly, well, the virus? It’ll start spreading again, too.

This all feels very strange to most of us. But Melissa Howell says these tactics that we’re seeing today, to blunt the impact of the pandemic? They’re nothing new.

"You know, historically, we’re seeing very similar strategies put into play," Howell says. "The word quarantine is tied to 40 days, where they would keep ships offshore for 40 days to keep disease from coming into a community. It’s very unfamiliar to our ears today, unless you’re inside of a public health community where we talk about this, we practice this, will drill for this."