Our country has been locked down for about 45 days now and there is growing conversation about how to reemerge into society. As I discussed in an earlier post Fear of the Unknown, I want to encourage people to continue returning to the facts about our country’s situation and not get sucked into the fear.

The facts about the Virus from Wuhan China:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States for the week ending in 4/25/2020, the total deaths associated with either COVID-19 or COVID-19 combined with pneumonia is 49,822. On the other hand, there has been 62,725 deaths associated with pneumonia (CDC, 2020).

Looking at the Washington State, where I work, for the week ending 4/28/2020 there has been a total of  801 deaths (WSDH, 2020). This means since the start of the pandemic there has been 11 deaths per 100,000 people as compared to New York which has had 120 deaths per 100,000 people or Colorado’s 13 deaths per 100,000 (Elflein, 2020). Interestingly, even though Colorado has experienced a higher death per 100,000 rate, the state has begun the process of opening up (Swidler & Hill, 2020). Globally, the United States has experienced 19.63 deaths per 100,000 as compared to Belgium’s 65.67 deaths per 100,000 (John Hopkins University, 2020). This low death rate places the US at the lower part of the death per 100,000 chart.

The Purpose for the Lock Down:

When the pandemic started, the country was told we were going to lock down so that we could flatten the curve. This would protect the hospitals from being overwhelmed and ensure each person who needed a ventilator would receive one (Gavin, 2020). For the majority of the country, the hospitals were never overrun with COVID-19. In fact, the lock down worked so well that 221 hospitals have needed to furlough doctors, nurses, janitors, and other support staff due to the lack of non-COVID patients using the hospital services and these patients continue to go untreated (Paavola, 2020).

Changing Focus:

Even with the lock down, the virus continued to spread. If it had not continued to spread, the report of  deaths would have ended. As the infection rate continued to grow, the country started developing herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when enough people become infected so that the virus has no new options to infect (Merrille, 2012). This baseline growth of people who have the virus reduces the virus’ ability to continue infecting people so it dies out (Somerville, Kumaran, & Anderson, 2016). It is now being reported there may be 25-80 times more people infected than are being recorded (Bendavid et al., 2020; Palo Alto, 2020). Herd immunity has begun developing.

William Bryan, the science and technology advisor to the Department of Homeland Security, reported that UV rays from sunshine kills half the COVID-19 particles on a surface every 2 minutes (Smith, 2020). So, after 2 minutes of sunshine there is only ½ of the virus particles left, then in 2 more minutes ½ of the remaining virus particles are killed. This means if the virus is transferred from another person to you, standing in the sunshine will kill the virus.

Re-entering society:

How do all these facts help you re-enter society? As I’ve talked with people and listened to conversations about opening up the state, I consistently hear people expressing their fear. People are rife with anxiety about engaging with other people, getting sick, and things never returning to normal. As we continue to interact with this virus, the conversations have shifted from the fear of the unknown about the virus to the fear of the unknown of the future.  

  • 1. You might already be infected. There may be up to 50% of the people who have the virus that show no symptoms (Woodward, 2020).
  • 2. Recognize your fear for what it is. Fear of the unknown. The media continues to bombard us with the thought that things will never go back to normal. For humans, normal is interacting with other humans. It is a part of our make-up and helps us retain a sense of balance. As the lock down is lifted, it is important for you to reconnect with your support system.
  • 3. Review your self-care procedures. Wash you hands, enjoy the beautiful sunshine, and refrain from hugging or hand shaking. Taking small precautions can help you reduce your fear about becoming infected.

Moving forward:

While we are being told that we have never seen anything like this before, remind yourself that is not true. In 541 AD, between 30-50 million people died from the plague, this was probably half the earth’s population.

Starting in 1347 the plague killed 200 million people over the next four years. The concept of quarantining people was born. Quarantine is based on the Italian word quarantino, or 40. People entering a city were separated for 40 days to help reduce the spread.

In 1665 in London, 100,000 people died from the plague. Red crosses were placed on the homes of the ill who were forcefully quarantined in their homes.

Starting the the 15th century, smallpox killed 3 out of 10 people in the old world and 90-95% of the indigenous people living in the new world. The difference between the two worlds was that the old world had developed some herd immunity. In the 18th century, Dr. Edward Jenner developed the first vaccine to combat the virus.  In 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been wiped out (Roos, 2020).  

With each outbreak of a pandemic, humans learned and prepared for the next wave. We still quarantine. Sometimes forcefully. Our country has been in lock down for 45 days and is starting to open up again. Other times by choice. When you have a cold, you tend to stay home so you don’t spread it around. We continue to use a red cross as a symbol of suffering and it has grown into representing a place of hope. When a virus emerges we move quickly to develop vaccines to help combat it.  

As a country, what will we take from this pandemic? Since the end of the 19th century, our country has experienced numerous pandemics: Cholera, Yellow Fever, Polio, H1N1 (Spanish Flu, Swine Flu), H2N2 (Asian Flu), H3N2 (Hong Kong Flu), HIV/AIDS, Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and now SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). When the next pandemic hits, and it will, are we going to be willing to completely shut down our economy or will we figure out a different way to manage the situation?

As individuals, what have you learned about yourself during this lock down? Did you find yourself drifting into fear or did you continue addressing the facts that you knew so you could remain calm and make solid decisions?

Dr. Julie Swanberg-Hjelm, LMFT, LMHC


Bendavid, E., Mulaney, B., Sood, N., Shah, S., Ling, E., Bromley-Dulfano, R., ……Bhattacharya, J. (2020). COVID-19 antibody seroprevalence in Santa Clara County, California. Retrieved from https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.14.20062463v1.full.pdf

Center for disease control & prevention (CDC). (2020) Provisional death counts for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/index.htm

Elflein, J. (2020). Total number of cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States as of April 30, 2020. Statista. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1102807/coronavirus-covid19-cases-number-us-americans-by-state/#statisticContainer

Gavin, K. (2020). Flattening the curve for COVID-19: What does it mean and how can you help? University of Michigan health.  Retreived from https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/wellness-prevention/flattening-curve-for-covid-19-what-does-it-mean-and-how-can-you-help

John Hopkins university & medicine. (2020). Maps & trends mortality analyses. Cornoavirus resource center.  Retrieved from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/mortality

Merrille,  R. M. (2013). Introduction to epidemilology 6th ed. Burlington, MA; Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Paavola, A. (2020). 221 hospitals furloughing workers in response to COVID-19. Becker’s hospital CFO report.  Retrieved from https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/49-hospitals-furloughing-workers-in-response-to-covid-19.html

Palo Alto online. (2020). Los Angeles study backs Stanfor researchers’ conclusion about high prevalence of COVID-19. Retreived from https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2020/04/21/los-angeles-study-backs-stanford-researchers-conclusion-about-high-prevalence-of-covid-19

Roos, D. (2020). How 5 of history’s worst pandemics finally ended. History. Retreived from https://www.history.com/news/pandemics-end-plague-cholera-black-death-smallpox

Smith, L. (2020). Sunlight kills Coronavirus quickly, says top DHS official. Newsweek.  Retrieved from https://www.newsweek.com/sunlight-kills-coronavirus-scientist-1500012

Somerville, M. Kumaran, K., & Anderson, R. (2016). Public health and epidemiology at a glance 2nd ed. Chichester, England; Wiley-Blackwell

Swidler, F. & Hill, J. (2020). Colorado will shift from stay-at-home to Safe-at-home. Here’s what that wlooks like as the the state slowly reopens. Colorado Public Radio News.  Retrieved from https://www.cpr.org/2020/04/21/colorado-will-shift-from-stay-at-home-to-safe-at-home-heres-what-that-looks-like-as-the-state-slowly-reopens/

Washington state department of health (WSDH). (2020). 2019 Novel Coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.doh.wa.gov/emergencies/coronavirus#dnn_ctr34226_ModuleContent

Woodward, A. (2020). “Between 25% and 50%” of the people who get the coronavirus may show no symptoms, Fauci says. Here’s the latest research on asymptomatic carriers. Business insider. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/coronavirus-carriers-transmit-without-symptoms-what-to-know-2020-4