A website developed by a team of scientists from Oregon State University and the Oregon Health and Sciences University dispel rumors and false information about the COVID-19 coronavirus has itself gone viral with more than 1 million views.
Melissa Haendel, Director of the Center for Data to Health at OHSU and Director of the Transitional Data Science at OSU, said the website is gathering information from and sharing information about the virus with people around the world.
It is updated daily.
Information for the new website www.flattenthecurve.com was initially gathered by Julie McMurry, an assistant professor in the OSU College of Public Health. Other members of the team are Monica Munoz-Torrez, PhD; Scott Teesdale epidemiologist and Benjamin Lange, PhD.
“The goal is to help people around the world share data that can lead to drug development to decrease morbidity associated with the coronavirus,” Haendel said.
The term “Flatten the Curve” refers to taking social distancing measures — closing schools, restaurants and bars, working from home — to slow the spread of the virus. The goal is to slow the spread of the virus and give scientists time to develop a vaccine for it.
“COVID-19 is officially a global pandemic, let’s get informed and act together,” the website notes.
It adds people need to be “Prepared Not Panicked” with “Verified Collective Intelligence,” delivered “Global, Inclusive, in Realtime.”
The website uses charts and graphs to back up its bullet points of information.
— Yes, this is bad: Don’t panic but do not brush off the public health warnings.
— This is not a normal flu. “The World Health Organization estimates 3.5% mortality rate is an average across age groups. Older persons have a higher mortality rate: 3.6% for those age 60-69; 8% for those 70-79 and 14.8% for those over 80.
— The U.S. health care system is not well enough prepared. No one is. In the U.S., health care capacity is less than 1 million staffed beds with an anticipated need of 4 to 8 million.
— U.S. labor and health care policies are a perfect storm for pandemics. There is not guaranteed paid sick leave; no guaranteed paid family leave to care for sick family members; many people are underinsured.
— There is a need for easily accessible worldwide tracking systems.
Haendel said McMurry noticed data about the coronavirus coming from China weeks ago.
“She said this is the big one,” Haendel said. “People just weren’t getting the message.”
Haendel said the website is being translated in numerous languages worldwide.
Haendel said information on the website is non-partisan, non-rumor, it is “science-based, evidence-based. We want it to be real fact-based science and historical.”
Haendel said Americans need to be informed and to take action accordingly when it comes to dealing with COVID-19.
“A week ago, Americans began getting message from Italy warning us that this is real, but we didn’t listen,” Haendel said. “They said that in Italy, people kept going out in public and as a result, their older parents and grandparents began dying.”
Haendel said pandemics occur regularly worldwide and it’s important that factual information be available to deal with them effectively.
As with any major world event, long-term there will be changes that take place such as learning alternative ways to do things and new ways of teaching — such as distance learning now underway at most colleges and universities.
“We have provided government leaders with information about Flatten The Curve and we hope they will use the information there in their decision-making,” Haendel said.
Haendel said her team is now working on coordinating data sharing concerning clinical drug trials.
“In most research systems, you have research scientists, clinicians and patients,” Haendel said. “Our goal is to help all three sectors share information on a real-time basis.”
Flattenthecurve encourages people to “act and prepare.”
— Do: Wash your hands.
— Stay connected, but avoid crowds.
— Lower your overall risk by avoiding contact sports, avoid inside events, staying home if possible.
— Get a flu shot.
— Cancel all non-essential face-to-face medical appointments.
— Cancel all non-essential travel.
— Stock up on food and essentials, but do so gradually and responsibly. Don’t panic.
— Work from home if possible.
— Have a flu buddy to check on each other daily.
— Reduce non-essential social interactions.
— Keep your home clean and develop a staging area for entrance into your home where shoes, outerwear can go.
— Look beyond yourself. Be kind to each other and mindful of other people’s worries.
— Prepare a “hot zone” in your home in case a family member gets ill. Stock the room with food that can be eaten with little preparation and other necessary items.
— Do not: wait to see how the virus plays out; touch your face; be taken in by false remedies; hoard masks; shake hands; touch public surfaces with your fingers; go to work if you are in any way sick; go to the doctor or other medical facility without calling ahead; spread misinformation; be careless.
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