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‘Follow the rules’: Frontline corona doctor urges hand vigilance

In a one-hour recorded video chat — with his family and friends on March 22 — David Price, an intensive-care unit doctor at Manhattan’s Weill Cornell Medical Center, shares very useful information about how to avoid coronavirus and when to seek hospital care for it, if necessary.

Price’s main message, repeated over and over, on how to avoid infection — and also during recovery, on how not to infect others — is simply to “follow the rules,” namely washing your hands and not touching your face.

(To watch the full video, click here.)

His voice breaking, he stressed that he’s “not scared” now because he is very clear on how to avoid infection — and, in the video chat, he lays out what he has learned.

There’s no question Price is on the front line in fighting the disease. He said Weill Cornell’s 1,200 beds are now basically devoted to treating coronavirus.

“Our hospital is almost exclusively a COVID-19 hospital,” he said. “We are accepting about 20 percent of the volume of COVID patients in the city.”

His job is to decide which patients need ventilators and how long they should stay on them.

The main way the virus is spread is through “droplet transmission,” he explained, meaning a person gets it on his or her hands after touching someone who is infected, or touching an infected surface, and then touching his or her own mouth, eyes or nose.

Washing your hands and using hand sanitizer are key.

“Become a hand nazi,” he stressed. “Always know where your hands are.”

Wearing a mask is important simply to get people into the habit of not touching their face, he explained. And it doesn’t have to be an N95 mask: Even a bandana will work in “training” a person not to touch his or her face, he said.

On the other hand, the N95 masks are most needed by doctors and nurses who are spending up to 12 hours a day around seriously ill coronavirus patients, some of whom might be spraying out the virus, he said.

“You can go to the store,” he said. “If you wash your hands and don’t touch your face, you’re not going to get this disease.”

Social distancing is the other part of the equation — keeping three to six feet away from others. Those who will get the disease, he said, are those who continue to keep “large social circles.”

“There is probably a small amount of airborne spread,” he said, but the main transmission, again, is hand-to-face.

Most of the community spread seen in China was through family members, he added. He repeated that the same rules used to avoid infection should then be used to stop the spread within families if a member becomes infected.

“This disease is a wimp,” he said. “It dies as soon as you disinfect it.”

If, for example, you have to push an elevator button, put Purell (hand sanitizer) on your hand first, or use your elbow, he said.

In response to a question on whether you should disinfect your groceries or food orders, Price said, no, it’s not required.

Just “don’t high-five the deliveryman” or have a long interaction with the plastic bag your food delivery comes in, he advised. And wash your hands before eating, etc.

How about buying coffee at Starbucks? another person on the video chat asked.

Since we’re all hunkered down at home, it makes sense to make our own coffee, the doctor said. But if you do buy your java from a barista, “wash your hands” — as in, use some hand sanitizer — accept the coffee, then use some sanitizer again, then drink the coffee.

“You’re completely safe to go to Starbucks,” he said, “just follow the rules.”

What about washing your clothes, is that needed to prevent getting coronavirus? was another question.

“Don’t worry about washing clothes,” he answered. “This is more for health professionals who are around COVID for 12 hours a day.”

In terms of when to seek medical help for coronavirus, Price said it’s when a person’s symptoms progress to shortness of breath, to the point where he or she cannot even walk to the bathroom, not when they just have a fever or coughing.

“If you [just] have a fever,” stay at home,” he stated.

Most people who get COVID will “feel terrible” for several days, then start to feel better and recover, according to the doctor.

Price dispelled the myth that this disease mainly impacts the elderly and those with underlying conditions. While young people up to age 14 generally are not affected by the virus, anyone older than that can be, he said.

“There is a very evil narrative very early in this disease that said this is only a disease of old people or people with diabetes or respiratory issues,” he said. “We see a ton of 35-year-olds. You can get this disease from 20 years old — maybe 16 years old — all the way up to 105.”

Use acetaminophen (Tylenol) not ibuprofen to treat the virus’s symptoms, he counseled.

People who get coronavirus are immune after they recover, he noted, adding that, if they quickly seem to get sick again, it’s only because they had not fully recovered.

The reason COVID-19 is so deadly right now is because “it just hasn’t been through the population before,” he explained. “Five years from now, you’re gonna get coronavirus but it’s gonna feel like a cold.”

As for whether there will be “second and third waves” of coronavirus hitting the U.S., Price said, the whole outbreak — and the need for social distancing — will probably go on for months if not up to a year.

Based on what we’ve been seeing in Wuhan, Singapore and South Korea, he said, “People will become relaxed with social distancing, and then there will be a second small spike.”

Basically, according to him, social distancing will just become the norm during the next three, six or nine months in this country.

Again, we’ll make it through this, but we just have to follow the rules, he reiterated.

“Learn the rules,” he stressed, “because as soon as you learn the rules, it’s empowering, and then you can start living your life in the new normal — which will go on for six to nine months.”

Thanks to Village Sun reader Carol Yost for sharing this video with the paper.

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