Young and healthy should still plan for coronavirus quarantine, senior military doctor says
Stars and Stripes is making stories on the coronavirus pandemic available free of charge. See other free reports here. Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. Please support our journalism with a subscription.
The U.S. military is experiencing another wave of the coronavirus in Europe and everyone should have a plan for possible exposure, a top military public health doctor said.
“Anywhere you go, you risk being exposed,” said Col. Rodney Coldren, chief of Preventive Medicine for Public Health Command Europe.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people who test positive for COVID-19 isolate themselves for two weeks. In such cases, family members in the military community are immediately quarantined, Coldren said.
Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick, while quarantine describes the separation and restriction of movement of people who were exposed to a contagion to see if they become ill, the CDC explains on its website.
Everyone needs to prepare for the possibility of contracting the virus or coming into close contact with someone who has, Coldren said.
He recommends having two weeks of food in the house, cash to pay for deliveries and a computer that will allow telework.
Coldren and his family have an agreement “with our German neighbors that, if one of us is quarantined, the others will shop,” he said.
Service members are supposed to be supported by their chain of command.
“People shouldn’t expect to have to fend for themselves,” said Gino Mattorano, a spokesman for the public health command.
But for the parents of small children, isolation is tricky if not out of the question, Coldren said.
Little kids “really can’t feed themselves, they need to be tucked into bed,” he said. “With infants, it’s absolutely impossible.”
While the risk is “pretty low” of young children developing severe illness with the coronavirus, he said, an infected person must isolate from adults with risk factors for COVID-19, such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney or lung disease, obesity and other medical conditions. Smokers and pregnant women are also at greater risk of developing severe illness if they contract the virus, the CDC says.
While many in the military have the advantage of youth and good health, neither protects against “long-haul COVID,” where symptoms such as fatigue, muscle weakness and cognitive dysfunction continue long after a negative test for the virus, Coldren said.
Being young and fit also does not guarantee that a patient will suffer only mild illness, he warned.
“We have had young, healthy individuals with COVID become quite ill,” he said.