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The Most Important Thing We Can All Do Right Now

coronavirus social distancing

Since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic last Wednesday I have been struggling to write this week’s email. It seems like so much has changed in less than a week: schools have closed, supplies like toilet paper and sanitizers are in high demand, restaurants are closing or going to take out only service. With a national emergency on, my usual tips for organizing and decluttering seem frivolous. The most important thing I can write about today, the message that can literally save lives is this:


This morning the first known case of the virus was announced in my county (Onondaga). It was found in a woman in her 70s who has no recent travel history. Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital estimate there are 50 unknown cases for every one that has been confirmed (incidentally, there are already 50 people signed up at the local testing site at the Syracuse Community Health Center, which opened just this morning). Without social distancing practices, the virus is known to double in number every three days. If we assume a very conservative estimate of 10 unknown cases in the county for the one that has been confirmed, here are the numbers we can expect one month from now:

10 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 = 10,240 cases by mid-April in Onondaga County

15% will need hospitalization = 1,536

Number of beds at Upstate Hospital, Crouse, St. Joseph’s, and Community combined = 1,982

Remember, this is a very conservative estimate. If the actual number of unknown cases in Onondaga County is just 13 right now instead of 10, the coronavirus patients who need acute care will outnumber our local hosptial beds in a month without social distancing. And that is not taking into account all of the other patients the hospitals need to care for.

(Note: If you do not live here you can run these same numbers using the known cases in your area x 10. If none have been reported, 10 is a good estimate. Google “Hospital Name number of beds” to get that information.)

Running these numbers for my local area has made it very clear to me that closing schools, limiting restaurant services, and practicing extreme social distancing is not an overreaction. If we do not take action now, the people who we know and love most in the world (like my mom, who is high-risk due to her age and medical conditions) may not have access to life-saving care. Social distancing works by reducing the exponential growth of the virus so that our healthcare system will not be overwhelmed, and the sooner we begin practicing it, the more effective it will be.

This morning I made the difficult business decision to postpone all in-person appointments with clients and continue to provide what services I can remotely. I’m limiting social interactions to my immediate family and venturing out only for food and supplies. I am grateful that I am self-employed and have this option. Not everyone does, so those of us who can work from home should do so. If you are in a position to cancel classes or events that will bring groups of people together, please consider doing so.

In the coming weeks we will all have more time on our hands and I will be sharing ways to make the most of that time with organizing projects you can do at home. I believe in the power of community and that we will come up with creative ways to help one another through this crisis. But today, the most important thing we can all do to help those most at risk is to cancel all non-essential activities and practice social distancing as much as we can.

Some other resources to stay informed:

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