Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

How to combat COVID-19

3/30/2020 by Dr. Denise Dupras


Since the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic started sweeping the world, there has been a strong emphasis on washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, and sneezing and coughing into a tissue or even a bent elbow. 

More recent measures have emphasized staying six or more feet away from others, followed by the closing of schools, restaurants, places of worship, athletic clubs and anywhere that people gather in groups. Some cities and states have recommended staying at home, essentially shutting down all but essential services, such as grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and health facilities. 

But do these actions — especially social isolation — really work? In 1918, influenza swept the world, killing an estimated 40 million people. Observations from that pandemic suggested that limiting gatherings of people prevented the spread of the flu and significantly decreased deaths from the infection. 

Just three years ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed all the available evidence on how we could prepare when a new virus emerges using methods — "community mitigation strategies" — that wouldn't rely on medications to slow the spread of the virus. That's exactly the situation we find ourselves in right now as we face and try to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Findings and recommendations

So, what did they find? And, what does the CDC recommend? 

For individuals:

During a pandemic:

  • Quarantine household members of a patient confirmed to have the illness

Community measures

  • Closing schools
  • Encouraging social distancing at workplaces, prevent mass gatherings
    •  The CDC recommends you stay six feet apart from others. What does six feet look like? Imagine being separated by the length of a dining room table, three-seat sofa, door, bathtub, mattress, or the width of a car. 
  • Cleaning surfaces

The CDC recognizes that actions individuals take may only be partially effective, but those early targeted, layered interventions may have the greatest chance of limiting the spread of infection. 

It's critically important to know these are the only current actions we can all take to combat coronavirus (COVID-19), and each of us can play a part. 

Dr. Denise Dupras is a general internist in Primary Care in Rochester's Division of Community Internal Medicine (CIM). She completed her MD-PhD at Mayo Medical School and her residency in Internal Medicine at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minn. Her interests include medical education and evidence-based medicine.