Pandemic: Coronavirus puts us in unchartered territory

Newt Gingrich,

The coronavirus is now in the United States, changing the lives of all Americans. At the urging of President Trump, Vice President Pence, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans were told to begin “social distancing.” Anyone who shows signs or symptoms of the virus, which is now officially a global pandemic, should self-isolate or self-quarantine for 14 days.

The American consciousness seemed to shift rapidly this week from aware, to concerned, to worried. News stories like the National Basketball Association suspending its season after two players tested positive for the virus have really affected the public.

Simple, routine tasks like getting gas for your car or going to the grocery store are now matters of public health, potentially putting yourself or others at risk of exposure.

This is the first time that many of us have faced a global pandemic in our lifetimes. And we have many questions about how to face this new challenge.

The fundamental point is that containing the coronavirus is not really possible at this point. We need to slow its spread across the United States, within our communities, so the American health care system does not get overwhelmed.

To get some answers in this week’s episode of my podcast “Newt’s World,” I discuss what you need to know about the coronavirus with Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC. Dr. Butler has decades of experience in fighting infectious diseases and is one of the most qualified people in the world to address this topic.

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The fundamental point is that containing the coronavirus is not really possible at this point. We need to slow its spread across the United States, within our communities, so the American health care system does not get overwhelmed. The situation becomes exponentially worse when hospitals lack sufficient beds or medical supplies to treat the influx of patients.

As Dr. Butler told me, Americans should be prepared rather than scared, and also flexible with their plans.

One way to monitor the progression of the epidemic is testing. Dr. Butler details the testing process and what the government is doing to make testing more widely available.

Ultimately, because there is no vaccine yet and no approved drugs for treatment, old-fashioned public health tools — such as social distancing and good hygiene — are some of the best preventative measures that people can take.

One of the challenges of this virus is that there is no way to distinguish it from so many other viral infections. The symptoms, if they even manifest, are often identical to a cold or the flu. Which makes it all the more important for Americans to self-isolate, wash their hands, and not go into work sick if they do experience symptoms. As Dr. Butler told me, Americans should be prepared rather than scared, and also flexible with their plans.

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I hope you will listen to this week’s episode to learn not only about the best ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting infected, but also when to expect a vaccine.

We are all in unchartered territory.