By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Continue to practice social distancing, but not social disgracing

Many Biblical stories relate to the medical condition leprosy. People did not know what caused it. They did know it was contagious. Individuals who developed it had to cry out ahead of themselves and say “Unclean.”

We now know that leprosy is a bacterial infection. We have antibiotics to cure it. It is a relative of the tuberculosis bacteria. So people no longer have to go out in public and look for those considered unclean.

We now have a new form of unclean. It is called COVID-19. We do not know who has it. Everyone is suspect. I had a neighbor who went shopping. He had no infection. However, he wore his mask. At one point he had to cough.

Everyone looked at him as if he was unclean.

Currently approximately one out of every 342 Americans has been diagnosed with COVID-19. In Delaware the number is about one out of every 234 individuals. However, in Sussex County it is about one out of every 93 individuals.

Of course those number reflect people who are actually diagnosed. They do not include those individuals with asymptomatic infections. They do not include individuals who have it but do not yet have symptoms. They do not include individuals who are sick but not tested. That means if you go to a busy store in town, you can pretty much bet that someone in the store has it.

However, whenever you are out in public, it is likely that no one that you come into contact with is likely to have the virus. That being said, you only need to contact one person who is infected for it to be a problem.

It also means that being suspicious of everyone around you is a strain on your mental health. Deciding to complain to someone who is not wearing a mask is not a productive way of interacting.

We need to be wary. We also need to be civil. Many infected individuals are not even aware of their infection. We really can’t blame them for being out in public when they have no symptoms.

Even if they know they have symptoms, they might still have to be out in public. We can’t really expect them to walk around the store shouting “Unclean.”

Of course shouting “Unclean” might be one way to have the entire store to themselves. Therefore, we need to act with reasonable expectations.

Leprosy has long been conquered. And we will find a treatment or a vaccine for COVID-19. I suggested that in my last article. Until then we can continue practicing social distancing. However, we should not practice social disgracing.

Covid update

National figures show that COVID infections will exceed one million this week. It will take approximately 17 days to double for the current period after doubling in 9 days for the last period. Thus the rate of rise has dropped significantly.

However, since March 30 there have been between 25,000 and 40,000 new cases every day. Therefore, while the rate of rising has decreased, the number of new cases each day has remained the same.

United States deaths are just under 60,000. Annual flu mortality is usually in the 30,000 to 50,000 range with a low of 12,000 (2011-2012) and a high of 61,000 (2017-2018). Thus COVID will soon surpass the 2017-2018 number of flu deaths to officially become more deadly than the annual flu.