Parents in Japan were just notified that in one week all schools will be closed at least until the spring in order to contain the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus, aka COVID-19. This is a nightmare in a culture where both parents work.
School closure means inviting a mother-in-law to watch the kids while Mom and Dad are at work. In Japanese culture, the mother-in-law has a special status and can give orders to the daughter-in-law, not the other way around.
Every culture probably has a few elders who have unusual opinions about child-rearing. My Irish mother believed that kids did not need direct supervision every second. Mom gave my three-year-old daughter paper and safety scissors to play with and left her alone. In that short time, my daughter cut up all the paper and then gave herself half a haircut, snipping off long locks of lovely red hair from the right side of her head. My mom shrugged it off and said, “Kids will do that. Her hair will grow back.”
That was years ago. If my mom were still alive, she would probably dismiss public health announcements as a bunch of hooey. I can see her breaking quarantine and taking the grandkids out for ice cream or sending the noisy brood outdoors to play with other kids. Fresh air is good for kids, isn’t it?
Maybe in Ireland, but not in China—and now, not in Japan. Maybe soon the schools will also close in Brooklyn or in Boston, and all the kids will be sent home to self-quarantine. Bubby can volunteer to come help out, which may not always be Mom’s first choice since moms and MILs might have different ideas about how to manage the family in a time of stress.
The truth is that for most Americans, it does not matter what you do or don’t do. Nothing much will happen to 80 percent of Americans to make this flu season different from any other. Out of every one hundred people, ten will never catch COVID-19 even if they roll around in a sea of viral droplets. These lucky people have extra-strength natural immunity.
Little kids just don’t seem to catch this virus. Men catch it more than women. Out of a hundred random adults, roughly 70 will only catch a mild case of the latest coronavirus, and they will all be fine.
Most of those grown-ups are going to have nothing more than ordinary flu-like symptoms and will get better in about a week. Keep them at home, hydrated, and away from other members of the family until they stop coughing, sneezing and throwing up.
So 80 percent will either not get sick at all or just get a mild case of this flu. What’s the big deal? It’s the other 20 percent! Fifteen percent will get very sick and need medical care in a hospital. Another five percent will be so critically ill that they will need to be placed in an intensive care unit.
And now for the worst case scenario: Hospitals are going to be full and only severely ill people who need ICU-level care will be admitted. The people who are “only” very ill are going to be refused admission to the hospital and will be sent home to self-quarantine.
Triage will be done over the telephone. Highly contagious people will be told to stay home and self-quarantine for at least a month.
Now what do you do?
There are two choices—convert an inside room into an airtight isolation ward or have the patient live in a tent outdoors.