Understanding the Coronavirus

It’s Just a Virus, What’s the Big Deal?

How many times have you heard your doctor try to reassure an anxious parent with these words (and avoid giving an unnecessary antibiotic)?

Over the last 100 to 200 years we have conquered the dreaded viruses and bacteria that routinely devastated the human population time and time again throughout history.  The plague, smallpox, measles, cholera, typhoid fever, yellow fever, polio, tuberculosis – most of the practicing physicians in the U.S. have never even seen active cases of these illnesses.

Yellow fever nearly wiped out Memphis in the late 1800s.  Tuberculosis was a regular occurrence well into the 1950-60s and is still active but rare in this country.  Typhoid fever made regular deadly outbreaks until the early 1900s.  It’s still quite common in other parts of the world.  There are still outbreaks of plaque in the middle east and the southwestern US.  In the middle ages ½ of all the people of London died from the plague!  Cholera still is seen (Haiti 10-15 years ago.) The mid-1800s saw worldwide outbreaks of cholera, especially in Nashville and middle Tennessee.  President Polk likely died of the Cholera.  Polio was only brought under control in the 1950s—most of the 60+ year olds remember going to school on Sunday to get a pink sugar cube of new vaccine which almost eliminated the disease worldwide.  My grandfather trembled as he told me about being forced – by the doctor – to use scab from his older children to vaccinate the smaller kids. One of my aunts became very ill due to the vaccine.  The alternative was to risk death because of the local outbreak of smallpox and shortage of vaccine in the 1920s.

And then, along comes totally new viruses, like Ebola, HIV/AIDS, SARS.  We have to start all over and learn new tricks to protect ourselves.  It makes us think we’re not as smart as we thought.

A new version of an old disease showed up in the middle of the first World War.  It became known as the Spanish Flu of 1918-19.  It happened to be very easily and rapidly spread from human to human. And it happened to be deadly.  Spain was neutral in the war; they admitted to the world that they were dying in large numbers.  The French and British and Americans denied any problem.  Germany said, “Flu? What Flu?”  The soldiers were dying in the trenches.  Many days there were not enough healthy soldiers to “go over the top” and launch an attack.  But you don’t admit that to your enemy! New recruits at Ft. Dix died carrying their bedding from barracks to the infirmary.  More people died from influenza than died from the bullets and bombs and gas of WWI and WWII — and Korea and Vietnam!

We have not seen a flu like that in 100 years.  That is why we try to keep as many people as possible vaccinated against “the next big one.”

Seasonal flu is what we call the usual, every year, fall, winter, and spring outbreak.  For most of us, it can be an annoying bad cold or a couple of days in bed feeling like we’ve been hit by a truck.  For the elderly and people with other health problems (diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease) the seasonal flu can be deadly. Some varieties can have the same bad outcome for young healthy men and women and for pregnant women.  The CDC notes the death rate for seasonal flu is about 0.1%.  That is one death for every one thousand people who get the flu.  That’s still a lot of people and a lot of people get the flu every year (moderate to heavy this year).

So, what is this “novel coronavirus”?  It is a new strain, not seen before in humans and not previously identified from animals.  Being a new strain, no one has resistance to it (unless they have had exposure to a very similar virus—which does not appear to be the case).

No one has resistance to it.

For many people, it will produce symptoms of a mild cold (coronavirus is one of the families of virus that are recognized as “cold viruses” along with rhinoviruses and enteroviruses).

So far, most children under 10 seem to be spared the severe cases (like other “childhood diseases”). This probably accounts for many of the “random” cases we are seeing in non-travelers – infected by people with very mild symptoms.  The CDC estimates the death rate in infected persons to be about 1%.  This is one out of every 100 cases. That is 10 times the rate of death from seasonal flu.

In less than four months since the discovery, this COVID-19 has now spread to all continents (except Antarctica) and to a large majority of countries around the world.  That is why it’s called a “pandemic” (pan meaning everybody or everywhere).

Because it’s new and has never affected humans or livestock, there is no vaccine available to give us immunity before infection. (Today’s news just reported the start of human trials for a vaccine!)  It will likely take 12-18 months to produce a good vaccine in enough quantity to stop the spread.

There are no known antiviral drugs or treatments for the infection.  We do have some good antiviral drugs for influenza and herpes viruses and for hepatitis and HIV, but none is known to work on COVID-19.

The South Koreans are trying a combination of an HIV drug and a malaria drug.  There are no reports of response to this combination.

At the present rate of spread, we can expect millions of cases of illness by June or July with hundreds of thousands of seriously ill patients and deaths.  This will overwhelm the hospitals, ICU’s and respirators—in the U.S. and around the world.

Hand washing, self-isolation of anyone ill, closing non-essential public places and canceling gatherings of more than 10 people (president’s current recommendation) are projected to slow the spread of the virus, to lower the peak of infections and to decrease the overburden on the healthcare system.  This worldwide level of caution may also lower the total deaths by some amount.

This is real.
This is here.
This will not go away soon.
A shot of Penicillin won’t help.
You are likely to be infected with this virus – eventually.
You are not likely to become seriously ill, but some will be.
Masks won’t protect you but may help keep you from spreading the virus if you are ill.
Social distancing and hand washing are our best methods of slowing the spread and protecting ourselves and those around us.

Wash your hands.
Give a fist bump or elbow bump (not a high five).
Avoid crowds.
Wash your hands.
Stay in if you have any cold symptoms or fever.
Keep your hands away from your face (if you get the virus on your hands, you don’t want to rub it in your eyes nose or mouth).
Keep in touch with family and friends.
Let someone know if you need any help.
Wash your hands.

Let the elders, staff, deacons, or any Estes family member know if you need anything.

If you have any questions or concerns that I can answer, let me know.

Dr. Paul Schwartz, MD is a community physician and elder for the Estes Church of Christ

COVID-19 Update

Update 3/17/2020

Dear Estes family,

As we continue to learn more from medical professionals about the risks of the coronavirus and the best ways to protect those who are most vulnerable, we must constantly re-evaluate our plans.  The most recent guidelines from the federal government suggest that group meetings should be limited to ten people.   Because of these changing realities, we believe we must temporarily change the way we meet for worship on Sundays.

Beginning this Sunday we will move to streaming an online Bible class and worship service until further notice.  This week, we will be working with our ministers and song leaders to plan for these classes and for worship.  A link will be made available no later than Sunday morning for you to join.  We will have class as usual at 9:30, followed by worship at 10:30. One of our preachers will bring a lesson.  An option for online giving will also be made available, and we ask that you would continue to give generously, which enables Estes to support a number of missions and ministries locally and around the world.

Plans are being developed to make communion supplies available.  More information about this will be shared later in week.  Or you may choose to purchase your own communion supplies.  Some of you may want to meet in small groups with other members of the Estes family in homes.  However, we strongly encourage all of our members over the age of 60, and those with pre-existing health conditions, to stay in.

We realize that this is an unsettling time for many.  We do not want to be alarmists, and we certainly put our confidence in our God, who is mighty to save and the greatest of physicians.  But we believe these measures are reasonable and are in keeping with our Lord’s desire for us to care for each other and for our community.  We trust you will find peace in Him, and we look forward to the time when we can all be together again in our building.  These changes are temporary, and the elders will continue to assess the situation in order to bring us back together as soon as the imminent threat is over.

Until then, please know that we are concerned not only for your physical well-being, but especially for your spiritual well-being.  If you need anything, please do not hesitate to call one of us.

Romans 8.38-39 – For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Update 3/15/2020

In addition to our spiritual well-being, the elders are also mindful of our physical and social well-being, and we want to be good stewards in our community.

In consideration of health concerns for our community and church family, there will be no services at the building tonight or Wednesday night, March 18.

We will be streaming a message tonight at 5:00 p.m., and you can view it on Facebook Live (even if you do not have a Facebook account). You can join us online or use this time for Bible reading, study, prayer and reflection.

Our Hispanic ministry will meet tonight at 5:00 p.m. at the building.

All other services and events are postponed for the time being.

Check your email for announcements and information on upcoming worship assemblies and church activities.


An update from the Estes Elders 3/14/2020

The Estes Elders have been following the developments of COVID-19, or novel coronavirus 2019, closely. While the risk to the general population appears to be low, the situation is changing day by day and exercising caution is prudent. We are carefully evaluating options and responses that will protect the health and well-being of our entire Estes family.

With that in mind, please consider the following.

Join us in prayer regarding this developing situation. Pray for our Estes family. Pray for our community. Pray for our nation and our world.  We serve the Great Physician, and during times of uncertainty there is nothing better we can do than bring our cares and concerns to Him.

As of now, we will hold our regular class and worship assemblies on Sunday, March 15. However, all fellowship activities, including visitation team meetings, youth events, Incite, and other events taking place at the Estes building, are postponed until further notice.

The virus appears to pose a greater risk to our senior saints and those with compromised immune systems.  Because of this, the elders encourage these members of our Estes family to avoid gatherings – including worship assemblies – until more information is known or the situation changes. You can stream our worship services and classes online. Please let us know if you need assistance setting this up.

If you do not feel well, stay home. Before attending any event, including our worship assembly, we ask that you pay close attention to symptoms including fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you believe you are developing symptoms, please consider the health and wellbeing of your Estes family and remain home.

Be mindful of good hygiene. Whether at Estes or at any public place, be aware of the recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control, including avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, avoiding contact with your eyes, nose or mouth, and washing your hands often with soap and water. You may wish to bring personal hand sanitizer for use before and after communion service to minimize the spread of germs. You can find more tips at CDC.gov.

Look for opportunities to serve. We are a family. Be on the lookout for unique opportunities to love your brothers and sisters. The next time you go to the grocery store, consider asking one of our senior saints if you can pick up anything for them so they don’t have to get out.

This is a fluid situation, and the elders are prepared to take reasonable and responsible actions to protect the well-being of the Estes family. There will likely be more decisions and changes made in the coming weeks, so check your email often. We will keep you updated and informed.

We love our Estes family, and we are praying for your health – both physical and spiritual.

The Estes Elders

Wednesday service information

Our Wednesday, Feb. 5, service will be at 6:00 p.m.  All adult classes will meet in the auditorium.
 
Our speaker will be Hiram Kemp. Hiram preaches for the South Florida Avenue Church of Christ in Lakeland, Florida. Hiram is a graduate of Bethune-Cookman University (B.S. in Criminal Justice), Nova Southeastern University (M.S. in Reading Education), the Florida School of Preaching, and Freed-Hardeman University (M.A. in Old Testament). He and his wife, Brittani, have two children, Nadia and Andre’. He teaches at the Florida School of Preaching.
The Hispanic ministry will also meet at 6:00 p.m. in the fellowship hall. Barton Kizer will be teaching from Luke 6 about reaching the community around us.

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