By Sen. John Bizon, M.D.
19th Senate District
I have had the opportunity to talk with multiple epidemiologists regarding our current stay-at-home orders. These people are all highly trained in epidemiology, with varied backgrounds as professors, public health department officials, doctors and even officials with the World Health Organization.
Everyone I have talked to agrees that in the initial stages of an epidemic, particularly if there is no vaccine or known treatment, decreasing the transmission of the disease in the population is vitally important.
In Michigan, when we initiated the stay-at-home orders, we had more than 70% of the population isolating in place, and we did see the results of isolation in decreasing the spread of the disease.
As time wore on, we saw fewer and fewer people continuing to follow the instructions to stay at home. Possibly due to confusion over the orders, even actively infected people felt empowered to go out and get gas, alcohol, food and medicines, often without even a mask.
According to the governor’s reports to the Legislature, the number of compliant residents fell to 50% by mid-April, and they have fallen further since then. The epidemiologic effectiveness of a quarantine with this level of public compliance is “not very much,” as noted by multiple epidemiologists.
Please make no mistake: The COVID-19 virus is dangerous. Each of us has a responsibility to act sensibly if we decide to go outside of our homes. If you have a business, then the workplaces and sales locations must be as safe as possible for workers and customers.
Personal safety will hinge on the concepts of personal protection, personal hygiene and personal distancing. Protection comes in the form of masks and gloves; the better the mask, the better the protection — but any face covering is better than none. Hygiene addresses washing or sanitizing hands on the way in and out of stores and the wearing of clean clothes. The suggested distancing is six feet, but the farther away from others, the better.
When you are sick, you should call your doctor or otherwise arrange for a telehealth visit with a medical professional. If you are infected with any flu-like condition, you need to stay home for at least seven days, even if you are minimally symptomatic. If you have tested positive for the virus, you need to remain isolated for 14 days.
Please arrange with family or friends to bring you any needed food or medicines to leave at your door. Communities should arrange to take care of those infected without family.
We must likewise ensure the safety of those at risk of dying if they become infected, namely the elderly, the immunosuppressed or those with severe chronic diseases. The safest place for this population is in their own homes. Again, they will need support to stay there, either from friends, family or the community.
We will get through this epidemic. We will see our businesses reopen once they can operate reasonably safely.
We are relying on you to do the right thing to stay safe. If gatherings or places of business are not safe, please leave quickly.
Our county health departments are already empowered to monitor and maintain public safety. They already can close an aisle of a store, a single store or business, a block, a city or a county.
We do not need the heavy hand of government to institute another layer of protection — as long as we, the people, act responsibly and make the right decisions.
This op-ed appeared in the May 10, 2020 edition of the Holland Sentinel. State Sen. John Bizon, M.D., R-Battle Creek, represents Michigan’s 19th District.