Coronavirus Follow Up
I recently wrote to you with an update and resources to help answer your questions about the coronavirus. I heard concerns from a number of people at my town halls in Rockport and Reading, and I promised to reach out with another update soon.
As of March 8, local officials have confirmed 1 case and 27 presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus in people who have connections to Massachusetts. But since there is still a nationwide shortage of test kits, it's safe to assume there are many more cases in Massachusetts and around the country than have been confirmed.
That's why we should all be taking proactive steps today to keep our families healthy and safe. The CDC this weekend advised older Americans, especially, to remain at home as much as possible. All of us should curtail unnecessary travel and make whatever preparations we can to work from home or take care of our children if schools and businesses get shut down. We don't know that this will happen, but it certainly might. For example, schools in Plymouth have already closed to clean their facilities out of an abundance of caution, and Harvard just cancelled gatherings of 100 or more people including guest lectures and religious services.
If the coronavirus continues to spread, the disruptions it will cause in your life will be similar to a snowstorm. Keep track of closures in your area and be prepared. It might be a good idea to have some extra food in the freezer and pantry. Read on for more information on things you can do.
If you are sick and develop symptoms of the coronavirus, check out the CDC's guidance for what to do. Be sure to stay home if you don’t feel well, and call ahead before visiting your doctor. You can also call the Disaster Distress Helpline, at 1-800-985-5990, a crisis hotline for people experiencing distress during COVID-19.
In my last update, I shared a letter that I sent to Vice President Pence and other leaders asking for an update on coronavirus testing and whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would work with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow groups like the American Association of Public Health Laboratories, hospitals and other types of labs to test at the local level. I am pleased that this has started to happen.
According to the CDC and other health experts, there are a few things you can do to adapt your behavior and reduce the risks of getting or transmitting the virus:
- Wash your hands with hot, soapy water for at least 20 seconds. That's about as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday (or the chorus of several other songs).
- Cover your mouth, ideally with a tissue or an elbow, when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Minimize touching your eyes, nose, and face.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces frequently touched by others.
- If you are not feeling well, stay home from work and get better.
- Get a flu shot to stay healthy and out of the doctor's office.
If you need assistance or have questions, please reach out to my team and me. We're here to help.
Member of Congress
Preparation means something different to each of us. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends creating a household plan of action for what to do if infections occur in your community. That includes plans to care for the most vulnerable in your life, creating lists of emergency contacts, and identifying local assistance organizations you can connect with in an emergency. Think through the medicine and food you might need if you have to stay at home for a week or two.
Employers across the country are planning to do their part to limit community spread of the disease. For example, my workplace, the House of Representatives, is creating telework plans just in case.
It is also important not to panic. NPR has a few tips to help stay calm when things get stressful or when the headlines are continually concerning.
To anticipate what the future could hold, we can look to the experiences of other countries that have faced an outbreak. Check out an analysis of that experience in the Washington Post:
Getting Accurate Information
In any public health emergency, it is important to get good, verified information. Check in with the experts at CDC.gov for the latest and most accurate information. And, know that the people commenting on Facebook and Twitter are probably not public health experts. I recommend keeping tabs on these trusted sources:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- World Health Organization
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health
In February, my team sat down with Erin Sorrell, Ph. D., an epidemiologist at Georgetown University to better understand the risk posed by the virus outbreak. You can watch her interview below:
That’s the latest. My team and I are following this closely, and we will continue to provide regular updates. We are also happy to help with any issues you're experiencing with federal agencies or answer your questions about this or anything else by phone. You can reach my office in Washington by calling (202) 225-8020 or in Salem by calling (978) 531-1669, on Twitter, on Facebook or online.