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As we start this new week, I think it’s important to reflect on advice from Benjamin Franklin in the Feb. 4, 1735, edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Franklin was addressing fire safety, but the concept most certainly applies to health. Indeed, according the Centers for Disease Control, the best way to prevent a coronavirus illness is to avoid being exposed.

COVID-19, the new coronavirus so named because it was discovered in December 2019, seems to be a harder working virus than usual types of the flu, and it’s proven most deadly to older people and others with weaker immune systems. Most people who get it have survived or will survive, yet it poses a higher risk to many people and needs to be stopped.

Today’s reality is that mobility — our ability to so easily travel both short and long distances — can give diseases a free ride, transporting them faster to more people in new areas. Of course, none of us wants to get sick, nor should we do anything that might make others sick, and we do have a degree of control if we can collectively accept some inconvenience.

As of Sunday afternoon, 13 cases of COVID-19 had been reported in Alabama – seven in nearby Jefferson County, two in Tuscaloosa County, and one each in Baldwin, Elmore, Limestone, and Montgomery Counties.

Coronavirus infections most often occur during the winter months and early spring. This pneumonia-like virus — like many viruses — has no specific cure, and symptoms should be treated the same as for a cold with rest, pain or fever medication, and plenty of fluids.

Fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the most common symptoms of COVID-19, much like a common cold or the flu. Symptoms such as chills, body aches, and a runny nose are more likely to be associated with the flu than with COVID-19, but you should contact your doctor if you have concerns, first by phone.

According to the CDC, the virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with each other (within about six feet) by respiratory droplets typically dispersed when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Infection can be caused by droplets landing on someone’s face or on a surface (where the virus can live for up to a week) touched by another person.

The most important role we can all play now is in containment, slowing and hopefully preventing further infections at an exponential rate. That’s why schools are closing, concerts and sporting events are being postponed, and group gatherings are being discouraged. For example, in addition to frequently washing our hands so we don’t unwittingly take any germs with us or infect ourselves, it’s important that we minimize social interaction. We don’t even need to be sick to be carriers.

We don’t need to stop all daily routine. We just need to live smarter and more efficiently, especially for the next several weeks. My personal list:

  1. Stop shaking hands and use non-contact greeting methods.
  2. Wash hands often with soapy warm water using the “20 seconds” rule.
  3. Create habits and reminders to avoid touching your face, nose, and eyes.
  4. Regularly disinfect surfaces such as door knobs, gas pump handles, faucet handles, toilets, tables, desks, chairs, handrails, phones, tablets, and keyboards.
  5. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then dispose of it.
  6. Don’t drink out of someone else’s glass or cup, and limit food sharing.
  7. Avoid being around groups, especially in enclosed areas, and plan for fewer consolidated shopping trips. Also consider food delivery or take-out.
  8. Increase ventilation by opening windows or adjusting air conditioning. And it’s OK to go outside!
  9. Stay home if you are not feeling well or have a sick family member in your home.

There’s no reason for panic, and if you need assistance finding food, paying housing bills, accessing free childcare, or getting help with other essential services, dial 2-1-1.

For the most accurate and timely information, don’t be distracted by social media confusion. Check for updates from trusted sources including the Centers for Disease Control and the Alabama Department of Public Health.

We’ll also keep you updated from local perspectives on and our six RadioAlabama stations.

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