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The Centers for Disease Control have laid out what we know, what we don't know and gives suggestions on what to do about it all.

The COVID-19 virus outbreak comes down to the numbers.

The more people you get close to — the greater the odds of transmission.

Payson doesn’t have enough hospital beds if even 1% of the population gets sick at once.

Current recommendations to close schools, cancel special events and close dining rooms at restaurants is to help avoid overwhelming health care facilities with patients.

Continue on as normal and experts estimate each infected person could infect 2.5 others in the course of their infection. This could infect half the people in the country in the course of the next year.

But the CDC hopes that if everyone avoids crowds of 50 or more and people with underlying health issues avoid gatherings of even 10 people, the infection rate could slow to perhaps one other person for each person infected. In that case, it would take two or three times as long for the infection to reach as many people.

Already, the CDC reports 4,400 confirmed infections. On Wednesday, the confirmed death toll from COVID-19 rose to more than 100, an escalation similar to what Italy experienced in the early stages of the spread of the virus.

Banner Payson Medical Center has 44 beds. No cases have been reported in Rim Country, but if the virus gets loose, the local medical facilities could quickly become overwhelmed.

Slowing down the number of infections also allows researchers time to find a vaccine — although that could take months.

What do we know about COVID-19 up to this point?

Medical experts from the Centers for Disease Control and University of California San Francisco have made rough estimates of the threat, based on assumptions about the virus and computer models.

Because of the lack of widespread testing, experts are just guessing as to how many people are already infected. Some estimates suggest 80% of those infected will have only mild symptoms and may not even seek treatment. This means 4,400 laboratory-confirmed cases likely represent the tip of the iceberg — with most still-undetected infections causing only mild symptoms.

So far in other countries, the sick have overwhelmed the medical systems, but immediate physical separation like that now recommended in the U.S. slowed the spread in places like Singapore and Korea.

The UCSF researchers estimate the U.S. response so far looks a lot like Italy, with 40% to 70% of the population infected in the next 12 to 18 months.

The flu kills 50,000 people in the U.S. on average, according to the CDC. However, the best guess right now suggests that if the U.S. has the same rate of infection as Italy, the virus could kill 1.6 million people in a year. Other estimates have come up with lower figures, since many key questions about the rate of spread, mortality rate, immunity rate and re-infection rates remain unclear.

The virus infects cells in the lungs, causing an inflammatory response by the immune system. This inflammation causes a “stiffening” of the lungs, disrupting the blood-oxygen exchange — causing a viral pneumonia.

The UCSF panelists found a person can spread COVID-19 before showing symptoms.

“We currently think folks are infectious two days before through 14 days after onset of symptoms,” said the panel.

The CDC confirms this timeline.

A Singapore study on the virus found symptoms can appear in as little as five days.

Experts advise to stockpile critical prescriptions. A pneumonia shot could help. It will help prevent bacterial pneumonia — which could make infection by COVID-19 much more devastating.

Basic hygiene lies at the core of remaining safe. Wash hands with soap and water. Avoid touching the face.

Avoid crowded places. From the reports, it sounds as though staying in a place for a long time, such as at a movie or concert, restaurant or bar, gives the virus a chance to infect a person. The CDC and White House have recommended not going anywhere with more than 10 people for the next two months, especially for those over 65 and those with compromised immune systems.

In California, the governor has ordered all those 65 and older to stay at home. The CDC recommends anyone 60 or older physically distance themselves from others. This means not coming within six feet of others for 30 minutes or more.

The experts explained older adults are more at risk for COVID-19 because the immune system and lung capacity weaken after the age of 50.

If you venture out, wash hands vigorously for 20 seconds at a time. Hand sanitizer isn’t nearly as effective, but will do in a pinch. Wash up after touching any hard surfaces, doorknobs, keypads, backs of chairs, steering wheels.

Regularly disinfect hard flat surfaces such as cellphones and computer keyboards with 70% isopropyl alcohol or bleach or other disinfecting household cleaner.

Most important — stay home. If it’s necessary to go to a job, wash hands when arriving, between customers and once you head home.

COVID-19 mostly travels through sneezes and coughs when you’re within about six feet.

What to do if

someone is sick

There are three routes to infection, hand to mouth/touching face, aerosol transmission and fecal-oral route.

The CDC recommends if someone gets sick at home, isolate them from the rest of the family — even pets. Drink plenty of fluids and rest.

Doctors have no validated treatment for COVID-19, hospitals can only provide supportive care such as IV fluids and oxygen. In extreme cases, a ventilator can keep the patient getting oxygen until the body can clear the infection from the lungs.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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