The coronavirus pandemic has inflicted significant damage and panic worldwide. Overseas, thousands have already died. Domestically, massive school and business closures, flight restrictions, as well as our gyrating stock market speak to the economic disruption and dislocation affecting millions across the country.
Yet, there’s been a positive development amidst the COVID-19 frenzy: The outbreak has emphasized the vital importance of good hygiene and commonsense health practices as an essential way to save lives. Not only will proper hand washing, social distancing and self-quarantining when sick reduce the casualty rate against the coronavirus — they will also help protect individuals with underlying health conditions, or those in the at-risk population. We’re grateful for the heightened awareness because we have loved ones who suffer from cystic fibrosis, a life-threatening genetic disease, making them extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Coronavirus rules are common sense
The grocery stores bereft of hand sanitizer, cleaning products and food demonstrate how quickly Americans have absorbed the prevention message from public health authorities. Among the ways you can help stem the outbreak: Wash your hands regularly, particularly before eating. Use soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if they aren’t available. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze — but not with your hands. Don’t touch your face, avoid large public gatherings, practice proper social distancing, and certainly don’t spend time in public places when sick.
Some preliminary analysis indicates that these good hygiene practices, coupled with social distancing measures, can reduce the spread of coronavirus dramatically. In Hong Kong, for instance, new coronavirus cases have fallen in the past several weeks. Even in one of the most densely populated areas in the world, good hygiene has helped reduce the incidence of coronavirus — while simultaneously reducing cases of influenza and the common cold.
Families like ours are always on guard
Proper health practices and good hygiene aren’t something families like ours are just now learning about with the coronavirus; they’re something we’ve had no choice but to practice for many years now. Each new common cold brings a high risk of infections and irreversible damage to children’s fragile lungs. Cystic fibrosis presents itself similar to the coronavirus, as an overproduction of mucus in the lungs makes it difficult for them to breathe and maintain good health.
But it’s not just individuals with cystic fibrosis who face grave uncertainty in the face of COVID-19; the elderly and those with additional respiratory issues are also greatly at risk. Even before the national emergency was declared, the popular quiz show “Jeopardy!” announced it was suspending audience attendance at tapings, in part due to host Alex Trebek’s ongoing battle against Stage IV pancreatic cancer. The show’s producers struggled with the dilemma faced by all patients undergoing chemotherapy or similar treatments: how to stay healthy amid threats that their compromised immune systems cannot readily repel.
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We know there is an eventual end in sight for the coronavirus pandemic, but vulnerable populations will continue to be just that: vulnerable. That means proper health hygiene should not disappear with the virus. Continuing to take the necessary steps to protect those around you is the considerate course of action. Please keep washing those hands and covering those coughs. It will not only help you, it helps protect the people we love, those who can’t protect themselves.
Boomer Esiason is a former NFL quarterback, co-chairman of the Boomer Esiason Foundation, and a co-host of WFAN’s and CBS Sports Network’s “Boomer and Gio in the Morning” radio show. Mary Vought is the Executive Director of the Senate Conservatives Fund. Their children, Gunnar Esiason and Porter Vought, have cystic fibrosis. Follow them on Twitter: @7BOOMERESIASON and @MaryVought
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Continue coronavirus hygiene after pandemic to protect the vulnerable