COVID-19: Don’t Panic, Just Spread That Peanut Butter please

As the shit is hitting the fan (hence the crazy stockpiling of toilet paper), our current pandemic world relies on YOU! Yes, you. Usually people wait for the government and scientists to solve the problem. Now, YOU are the key figure in containing COVID-19.

And I’ll coach you through it.

COVID-19 tip #1: Forget the numbers

The actual numbers don’t mean much in the middle of an epidemic. Tests for COVID-19 are sparse almost everywhere. Who knows how many people are actually infected? South Korea is said to be a dangerous place because they have a lot of infections. But actually; South Korea did a great job testing its population and are one of the few countries where the amount of new infections per day is going down. In other countries it’s still rising every day. (
In countries where they barely test, like the USA, or where they don’t test family members of infected person, like the Netherlands, the numbers might indicate that they have fewer infections than factually would be the case.
Is it safer to go to countries with lower numbers? Or is it more dangerous because people are walking around unaware of their infection and that they are infecting other people?

Numbers are meaningless unless you know the proportion of people that has been tested.

9 infected on a total of 10 tested: bad.

9 infected on a total of 100.000 tested: still bad, but less bad.

COVID-19 tip #2: Think about the implications

Let’s talk about you. You might feel fine. Great. You might think you won’t get sick. Cool, I hope you are right. You might even think that when infected with COVID-19 you will be ok. Well, good for you! Maybe you’ll just have a sore throat. Aaaah. You think you can go to work with a small fever and a cough. Wow, aren’t you a tough one. Or why not bring your kid to the daycare, kids have runny noses all the time. And if you or your kids do get COVID-19, you might be really sick, but you won’t die. What are the chances?

You are ok, you’ll manage, the kids will be fine, so no worries … ERRRRRRRRRRRR (the sound of a game show buzzer indicating that something is wrong).

Who do you meet during the day? Do you bring your children to their grandparents for a day? Do you visit that birthday party? With or without (mild) symptoms you, yes YOU, are a small but very important ‘number’ who influences the implications: the spread of the outbreak.

Think about the implications of your actions and behavior. Think twice, and don’t do what you would normally do.

You want to know why this helps governments, scientists and especially hospitals?

COVID-19 tip# 3: Just Spread the Peanut Butter

You might have seen the picture of this post in newspapers or online. Don’t we all keep refreshing our news feeds in an unhealthy way? But it is important, so I am also going to explain it, my way:

Think of Peanut Butter, imagine that the Peanut Butter is the COVID-19 infected people.

Think of slices of bread, imagine that the slices of bread are the region where you live.

Think of a mouth, imagine that mouth is your regional hospital.

What happens when you feed all the Peanut Butter in the jar to a mouth in one go? The mouth can’t handle it. The mouth can’t swallow the load. Peanut Butter falls on the floor.

What if people with no or mild symptoms infect a huge vulnerable group at the same time? They go the regional hospital. Some end up in an intensive care unit. The hospital in your town will be full quickly, the other ones in the region as well. The hospitals needs to make choices, they save people that have the most chance of survival.
What happens to the Peanut Butter that fell on the floor? It’s gone.

What do people mean with the picture? What do people mean with “flattening the curve”?

Spread the Peanut Butter on the slices of bread. Feed the Peanut Butter bread bite by bite to the mouth.

You are part of this. Together with all your relatives, neighbors and colleagues you hold the knife. The knife represents your actions, the knife represents your behavior.

In an epidemic it’s unavoidable that people get seriously ill. Flattening the curve – or Spreading the Peanut Butter – means that instead of causing many people to be sick at the same time, the people will get sick divided over a longer stretch of time. It is the difference between overloading hospitals which then must choose who lives and dies, and helping the hospitals to manage the outbreak.

You can flatten the curve. Just Spread the Peanut Butter:

– Wash your hands

– Social distancing: Avoid social contacts and crowds unless needed (you need groceries, shopping for a new skirt can wait)

– if you have symptoms, ANY symptoms, even just “a runny nose”, stay home!

– If your child has symptoms, (just a runny nose): keep that child at home. Don’t let it go to school, don’t let it play with friends and definitely don’t send that child to grandparents or other people in the vulnerable group.

Good luck everybody, stay safe!


Illustration: SAM WHITNEY; CDC

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