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COVID-19 and How California Should Not Be Let Back Open and Stop Social Distancing

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We have all felt the devastating effects of the coronavirus disease pandemic (COVID-19) on our families and communities. It is unequivocal that this pandemic has led to a near total disruption of our social fabric. Global economics have been all but paralyzed. Under these circumstances, one can imagine the psychological toll is significant. While there is no doubt that COVID-19 is causing significant stress, we won’t grasp the long-term mental health effects until we conduct future research

At the same time, and because of this pandemic, we see a positive impact on the way we consider mental health and how the healthcare system operates.

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Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household

To practice social or physical distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Social distancing should be practiced in combination with other everyday preventive actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, avoiding touching your face with unwashed hands, and frequently washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you—or they—do not have any symptoms. Social distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. COVID-19 can live for hours or days on a surface, depending on factors such as sunlight, humidity, and the type of surface. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes. However, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Social distancing helps limit opportunities to come in contact with contaminated surfaces and infected people outside the home.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), viral diseases continue to emerge and represent a serious issue to public health. In the last twenty years, several viral epidemics such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) from 2002 to 2003, and H1N1 influenza in 2009, have been recorded (Perlman S, 2009). Most recently, the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. In a timeline that reaches the present day, an epidemic of cases with unexplained low respiratory infections detected in Wuhan, the largest metropolitan area in China's Hubei province, was first reported to the WHO Country Office in China, on December 31, 2019. Published literature can trace the beginning of symptomatic individuals back to the beginning of December 2019. As they were unable to identify the causative agent, these first cases (n=29) were classified as "pneumonia of unknown etiology." The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local CDCs organized an intensive outbreak investigation program (Azhar EI, Hui DSC, 2019). The etiology of this illness was attributed to a novel virus belonging to the coronavirus (CoV) family. On February 11, 2020, the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced that the disease caused by this new CoV was a "COVID-19," which is the acronym of "coronavirus disease 2019". In the past twenty years, two additional CoVs epidemics have occurred.

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As shown above, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. There are some coronaviruses that commonly circulate in humans

These viruses cause mild to moderate respiratory illness, although rarely they can cause severe disease. COVID-19 is closely related to two other animal coronaviruses that have caused outbreaks in people—the SARS coronavirus and the MERS (middle east respiratory syndrome) coronavirus.

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Hui DSC, Zumla A. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome: Historical, Epidemiologic, and Clinical Features. Infect. Dis. Clin. North Am. 2019

Azhar EI, Hui DSC, Memish ZA, Drosten C, Zumla A. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). Infect. Dis. Clin. North Am. 2019 Dec;33(4):891-905.

Perlman S, Netland J. Coronaviruses post-SARS: update on replication and pathogenesis. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 2009

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