Workplaces should develop flexibility for working from home for mildly ill people who might otherwise “tough it out.” As COVID-19 becomes more widespread, this is not just humane, but good business sense. The virus has become particularly contagious once it gets inside establishments like a church in the case of South Korea and a nursing home in Washington State. Institutions should carefully monitor food handling practices to make sure workers are not sick and are taking proper precautions for hygiene. Practices that can make it easier to transfer the virus between people should be examined carefully, and if possible, adjusted.
In a few weeks or months, much more intensive measures, such as closing schools and canceling public events, may become routine, as they have become in China, Japan, Italy, and elsewhere. But the most impactful steps may be the things that individuals can do on their own to lower their personal risk. These measures can also slow the spread of an outbreak.
As epidemiologists know, a slower-moving epidemic will infect fewer people, reduce peak demand for health care and buy us some breathing room. We need to use that time smartly, to learn how to treat the sick, control its spread and develop a drug or vaccine to help vanquish it.