A government-approved vaccine for the deadly coronavirus is still months away, but Dr. Mehmet Oz says there are things Americans can do right now to protect themselves and their communities.
“Washing your hands alone is probably a 50% reduction in virus transmission,” the TV host and heart surgeon told Fox & Friends Sunday this week. “It’s a DIY vaccine. It’s that powerful… But the most important thing is social distancing.” Oz’s comments come as authorities are asking Americans to alter their daily habits as federal and state governments take increasingly drastic steps to restrict travel and movement.
“It’s that powerful”
In a matter of days, life in America has been turned upside down by the deadly pandemic known as COVID-19. A cascade of closures and cancellations, from schools to workplaces, sporting events to St. Patrick’s Day parades, has disrupted the daily routines, plans, and financial situations of countless Americans.
With cases spiking to over 3,000 and deaths now in the dozens, health officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci are urging Americans to help “flatten the curve,” NBC News reports, by making socially responsible lifestyle changes summarized in the term “social distancing.” Echoing that advice Sunday, Dr. Oz said that Americans will have to adjust to a “new normal” and called social distancing the “most important thing” the country can do right now to get ahead of COVID-19 — and hand-washing, which can reduce the virus transmission rate by half, he said.
“If you think you’re sick enough that you got checked for coronavirus, you should not be interacting with other people,” Oz added, according to Fox News.
Of course, an increasing number of states and local governments aren’t leaving Americans with much of a choice. With bars and restaurants closing across the country, life in America is about to get a lot less social — but Dr. Oz said that overreacting to the disease is less dangerous than authorities not responding aggressively enough. He pointed to Italy, the world’s worst hotspot outside of China, as a warning.
“What we do hope is that over the course of the next two weeks, the initiatives that you saw the countrywide this past week will take effect,” he said, according to Fox. “It takes about that long for public safety initiatives to make a difference and when we start to see a slowing of that curve, sort of begins to level out of new cases… That’s what we’re looking for.”
The new normal?
In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has gone from a foreign threat to something intimately felt all across America. As anxiety sets in, the United States government is asking people to stop hoarding supplies from supermarkets, according to the Associated Press, as the governments take more initiative in cracking down on public gatherings.
New York’s governor Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the New York tri-state area will introduce coordinated, sweeping bans, including a ban on gatherings larger than 50 people, a ban on dining in at all restaurants and bars, and mandatory closures of movie theaters and other venues, CNBC reported. Meanwhile, New York City will move Monday to close its massive school system — the biggest in the whole country — for a month, according to a local Fox affiliate.
The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended a nationwide ban on gatherings larger than 50 people for eight weeks, and Dr. Fauci, the face of the Trump administration’s virus response, has asked the White House to consider a 14-day nationwide quarantine to stop the spread. The Trump administration has already taken major steps to restrict travel from Europe.
“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, according to Politico.
Though the World Health Organization has said that a vaccine is at least 18 months away, the first clinical trials for a vaccine will begin on Monday, according to the New York Post. Until a cure is available, life in America is going to change — whether voluntarily or by government order.