For the past several days, Californians — including Lodi residents — have been ordered to stay at home except for essential business.
Now, employees at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial are pleading with Lodians to take the order seriously. The novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is already in the Lodi community, according to staff members at Lodi Memorial.
They want Lodians to take every step possible not to catch it or spread it. That means no going shopping when bored, no play dates at local parks without following social distancing guidelines, and no social gatherings.
“Don’t ask for trouble. There’s a reason everything is getting closed,” said Sanela Mandzukic, the hospital’s senior infection preventionist.
While gas stations and grocery stores are considered essential services, residents should make as few trips as possible to limit possible exposure, she said.
At least for now, she said, the measures are intended to slow the spread of the deadly illness. As researchers study the virus more, some of those restrictions could ease or change.
But right now, researchers aren’t sure of all the ways the novel coronavirus might spread. It’s a brand new strain, and they’re still learning about it, Mandzukic said.
One piece of information that seems to be emerging is that people who catch the virus may potentially be able to spread it before showing symptoms, and for as long as a month after their symptoms go away, she said. And while the virus seems to be most contagious while a patient has symptoms, people who catch the coronavirus but have no symptoms at all can spread it, she added.
Katie Grimm, the hospital’s patient care executive, echoed Mandzukic’s warnings.
“(Health care workers) are literally risking themselves to take care of our community,” she said. “The shelter-in-place is serious.”
Instead of a whole family going grocery shopping, Grimm said, one person should be making the trip. Seeing groups of people at local parks, traffic out on the streets, and families shopping together has her worried.
“This type of behavior is going to make the pandemic worse in our community,” she said. “So please, save my life and stay home.”
Lodi police officers have been trying to educate people in the community about the social distancing requirements and the pandemic, and urging them to stay home as much as possible.
“We’re putting out a bunch of social media posts to encourage people to do that,” Capt. David Griffin said.
Officers are encouraging their friends and family to spread the word, as well as the business owners to share information with their customers.
But it’s hard to convince a family that only one member needs to go to the store, especially if they’re all bored at home and used to going together, he said.
“We’re trying to be cognizant that people have lives to live,” Griffin said — but also encouraging them to stay safe and get educated.
For now, the best way to avoid catching the virus and spreading it is to avoid other people.
While some community members have taken to wearing personal protective equipment like gloves and N95 masks, it may not be helping them stay healthy, Mandzukic said.
Many people don’t know how to wear the masks correctly, she said, and taking them off and on can spread germs to the mask and your face. Gloves can protect hands, but once you’ve touched anything, those germs are now on the glove, and can be spread to the next thing you touch.
“It’s now on your face, in your hair, and are you going to go home right away and wash your hands?” she said.
With a shortage of N95 masks and other protective gear for health care workers, it’s best if people who don’t need masks and gloves preserve them for medical personnel and at-risk groups.
Instead, Lodians should stay at least 6 feet from other people when in public — even in lines — and practice good hygiene, such as cleaning hands with sanitizer before entering your car while running errands.
Even if you go for a walk, Mandzukic said, stay outside and stay away from others.
“Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. I can’t emphasize that enough,” she said.