X

Opinion: Please stop visiting grandma in person for now

People visiting an elderly family member through the window at a Canton senior facility on March 17 after delivering a birthday balloon and a gift bag. Several residents there had tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. (Hyosub Shin/Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
People visiting an elderly family member through the window at a Canton senior facility on March 17 after delivering a birthday balloon and a gift bag. Several residents there had tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. (Hyosub Shin/Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

As a mom of two little ones, I know a child’s relationship with their grandparents is vital. And because of this, we all must temporarily stop our visits. Our grandparents are at the highest risk of dying from COVID-19 and our children could spread the disease without ever having a fever or cough.

Georgia has now seen several hundred confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths. Our numbers are rising quickly, but there is still reason to hope. Other countries have shown that it’s possible to change the course of the outbreak. Taiwan implemented swift identification and successful containment. South Korea was able to control their initial outbreak. We’ve missed our chance at early containment, but we absolutely can still minimize the spread.

The people who will be affected in the next few weeks have already been exposed. Therefore our current actions are shaping the course of the outbreak two weeks from now. We cannot wait until things appear worse to take action. We also can’t rely on avoiding people with symptoms, because people can spread the disease before they show any symptoms at all.

Although the data for children is encouraging, there have been severe cases and deaths reported in teens and young adults. As age increases, so does the risk of needing supportive care in the hospital. To give every person their best chance at surviving, we need to slow the spread of the disease so our hospitals are not overwhelmed and intensive care will be available to every person who needs it.

There are two ways we can make this happen on an individual level.

If you or someone in your household is over 60 years old or has a chronic medical condition, you should consider a complete quarantine. Have someone deliver groceries and leave them at the doorstep. If you go for a walk, don’t get within 6 feet of another person and avoid touching surfaces outside your home. Be vigilant about hand-washing and not touching your face.

If you and your household are at lower risk and cannot quarantine, you can continue your essential activities, limit your interactions with people outside your household and completely limit your interactions with people at higher risk, even if that means not seeing your grandparents for a little while. As the number of cases continues to rise, so does our risk of exposure to COVID-19 and we don’t want to pass our germs on to the people they could hurt the most.

This sounds extreme but it’s doable for a short period. Commit to doing it for the next few weeks. By taking action now, we can limit the number of people admitted to our hospitals during the initial phase of the outbreak. We can slow the spread of disease among those at the highest risk, ensuring that everyone will have the critical care they need. In a few weeks we can reassess and hopefully say these measures are no longer needed. On the other hand, if the outbreak continues to spread, we can be thankful that we have done everything in our power to protect our beloved grandparents who have spent their lives protecting us.

Emily Hinson, M.D., is an alumni of the Medical College of Georgia, practiced medicine in South Georgia for 5 years and holds an active Georgia medical license. She currently lives in Canada. Nearly all of her extended family remains in Georgia.