There is currently no vaccine to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. (my emphasis)
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Stay home when you are sick. (my emphasis)
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash….
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
All of these are good things to do. However there is a huge privilege and economic capacity gradient on the ability of people to really follow through on avoiding contact with sick or plausibly sick people and staying at home while sick.
I’m at work right now. My calendar is fairly open today. I have an e-mail to write about Silverloading. I’m meeting with a co-author to have lunch and discuss a conference where she presented some of our preliminary work. I have to make some slides for a meeting next week. I want to verify that a data crosswalk is actually doing what it says it is doing. Finally I need to read a few things for a project whose funding turns on this coming Sunday morning. Everything except for lunch can readily be done offsite. The lunch meeting could easily be converted to a Skype meeting.
If I was not feeling well today, I could go to my boss and tell her I’ll be back in the office on Monday. Her only comments would be well wishes and a reminder to cancel my lunch order for tomorrow’s seminar. I would either be able to work from home or take paid sick leave if I could not reasonably work. And if I needed to go to a doctor, I have a low deductible plan with a network that includes a really good hospital for weird, bizarre and deadly things as the anchor hospital.
If half a dozen people in the office aren’t feeling good and look visibly ill, I could readily work from home at no cost of complying with CDC recommendations. Hell, I might save a few bucks on coffee and lunches that I did not buy. I’m privileged.
However, the Early Bird Donuts worker who rung me up this morning for my coffee and cinnamon roll needs to be at a particular location in order to do her job. If she is sick, she can’t work from home. She can neither make nor serve donuts via Skype. She is unlikely to have many if any paid sick days. If she goes home to avoid being a potential infection vector, she is likely not getting paid much or for long. Her incentive is to hope that any case of the sniffles is merely that, a quick transitory non-flu, non-COVID-19 virus that can be drowned with hot tea and over the counter medication.
In this country, at least, being able to afford to follow recommended public health measures faces a massive privilege gradient.