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Research COVID-19 Podcasts

Coronavirus: ‘Right Now, We’re Just Trying to Buy Time’

Hand washing, social distancing and keeping grandparents safe

Author Guest Contributor | Publish Date March 16, 2020

On March 12, only two months after the novel coronavirus outbreak, now known as COVID-19, started gaining traction in the Hubei province of China, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. COVID-19 has now reached over 100 countries, including over 1,200 cases in the United States, prompting President Trump to declare a state of emergency on March 13.

In January, faculty from the Colorado School of Public Health convened an expert panel on coronavirus. Two panel members, Thomas Jaenisch, associate professor of epidemiology and pediatric infectious diseases, and May Chu, clinical professor of epidemiology, recently sat down to talk about what we know – and still don’t know – about COVID-19.

Jaenisch said, “Right now, we’re trying to buy more time – both to prepare vaccines and therapeutics, but also to slow the spread of disease and keep our healthcare systems from getting overloaded.”

Chu added, “You have to remember, we’ve only known about this virus for two months, and there’s still a lot we don’t know. So far, 80% of those infected develop only mild symptoms. About 20% of people are at high risk of developing more serious disease, usually those older than age 60 with comorbidities or younger people with underlying conditions.”


May Chu and Thomas Jaenisch, epidemiology faculty in the Colorado School of Public Health.

Topics covered include:

  • Alternative greeting methods
  • How long the virus can survive on surfaces (estimate)
  • Colorado’s COVID-19 testing capacity and turn-around time for results
  • Whether spring will slow disease spread
  • Discrimination against Asian Americans

For those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, including low fever, headache and unproductive cough, Chu recommended they get tested if possible and then stay home. “You don’t want to be the gift-giver for COVID-19.”

Photo at top: Provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’s Rocky Mountain Laboratories.

Guest contributor: Shawna Matthews, a freelance writer specializing in science and healthcare.