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New data suggests staying home, social distancing is saving lives

Data released by the Kinder Institute at Rice University shows that everyone's sacrifice is paying off.

HOUSTON — With everyone anxious to get out of the house and get back to normal, new evidence shows that staying home and practicing aggressive social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic is saving lives.

“In the Med Center, I’m actually looking out my window at Methodist Hospital and St. Luke’s is right here – our hospitals are doing a wonderful job getting ready for this,” Dr. Lisa Ehrlich said.

Ehrlich is an internal medicine doctor at Baylor St. Luke’s, watching firsthand how the Texas Medical Center is handling COVID-19.

“They pulled the National Guard out of Harris County because we really are so prepared.”

It’s a glimpse of light amidst fears Houston could be the next coronavirus hot spot.

Data released by the Kinder Institute at Rice University shows that everyone's sacrifice is worth it.

“I think the data if we look at South Korea, even out of Italy and other Euro countries it really does seem that social distancing is helping curve those numbers,” Ehrlich said.

In the two weeks since Harris County's "Stay Home, Work Safe" ordinance, experts estimate 4,533 lives have already been saved and 48,812 fewer people have had to be hospitalized due to the virus.

So now is not the time to let up. As the people of Houston and Southeast Texas continue to stay home and practice social distance, experts say by April 22, 13,220 lives could be saved and 125,733 fewer people would need to go to the hospital.

The data suggests if the Stay Home order remains in place through May 22, some 22,356 lives could be saved and nearly 214,000 people could avoid hospitalization.

The alternative is painful.

Without staying home, more than 2.4 million people in Harris County could contract COVID-19 and more than 24,000 people could die.

The numbers from the Kinder Institute are proof that every single solitary person staying home is having an impact.

The choice to stay home can -- and is -- keeping people alive.

“One of the tough thing is to try and tell the public when we change our minds – when we have a new recommendation that seems different from an old recommendation its because we have new data, we have more data,” she said.

Like the new masks guidelines that went into effect earlier this week, Ehrlich says its just another challenge the medical community is facing as it learns more about the new virus.


Coronavirus symptoms

The symptoms of coronavirus can be similar to the flu or a bad cold. Symptoms include a fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  Some patients also have nausea, body aches, headaches and stomach issues. Losing your sense of taste and/or smell can also be an early warning sign.

Most healthy people will have mild symptoms. A study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China showed 80 percent of the cases there were mild.

But infections can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death, according to the World Health Organization. Older people with underlying health conditions are most at risk for becoming seriously ill. However, U.S. experts are seeing a significant number of younger people being hospitalized, including some in ICU.

The CDC believes symptoms may appear anywhere from two to 14 days after being exposed.

Human coronaviruses are usually spread through...

  • The air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

Help stop the spread of coronavirus

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Eat and sleep separately from your family members
  • Use different utensils and dishes
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hand.
  • If you use a tissue, throw it in the trash.
  • Follow social distancing

Lower your risk

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • If you are 60 or over and have an underlying health condition such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or respiratory illnesses like asthma or COPD, the World Health Organization advises you to try to avoid crowds or places where you might interact with people who are sick.

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