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Exponential spread: why social distancing during COVID-19 crisis is important

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SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- Health experts across the nation continue to study COVID-19 and it's spread.

"This is a relatively new virus and there's a lot of research out there right now where people are working on this," said Siouxland District Health Deputy Director Tyler Brock. "They're working on how this virus spreads."

Brock said right now the data is showing, on average, one infected person infects two, to two and a half people.

"So if that continues to happen over a course of lifespans, the number of cases can grow what we are calling exponentially," said Brock.

So here's what that could look like. Person "A", has COVID-19 and continues being around other people. Person "A" then infects two people. Those two people infect two more, and so on and so forth.

"Which is one of the reasons why really unprecedented actions have been taken to keep ourselves away from that," said Brock.

But, if one person in this group practiced social distancing, one of those unprecedented actions Brock mentioned, it can dramatically decrease the number of infected individuals.

"We're trying to reduce that," said Brock. "The number of people that folks infect from two, down to less than one. That's how infections die out. The way COVID-19 is spread, this is spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another and the spread comes from respiratory droplets when someone coughs or sneezes. Sometimes these droplets can land on surfaces. If we touch those surfaces and then we go and put our hands in our mouth and our eyes and things like that, we can get that."

One remedy for that? Proper handwashing.

"That's what breaks the chain," said Brock. "That's what breaks the methods that this virus gets into your body."

Brock said health care providers in our area said you should be on the lookout for a fever.

Coughs and sore throats are common this time of year and may not require a doctor's attention. But, he said a fever tends to be infection-related and can be a trigger point for the virus.

If you have one, you should call your doctor before you show up.

Brock said data is showing, some people are capable of spreading the virus or "shedding" the virus even if they don't know they are sick yet.

But, he emphasizes, this is not the primary way the virus is being spread. He said if you are sick, you should avoid going out in public.

Click here for the latest news and information on the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Michaela Feldmann

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