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Photo courtesy of Ted Warren/AP
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By John Lynch (MPH '11) and Karin Huster (MPH '13)

As we swiftly surpass 100,000 cases and 4,000 deaths globally, every one of us is understandably rattled and may be asking, will I be next? Will I get infected with COVID-19? Will I end up in the hospital? Will it kill me, my family or friends?

While many of us may get infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, we can be reassured that the vast majority of us won’t die as a result of it. Sadly, the same cannot be said of our elderly population or those with underlying illnesses, for whom there is little doubt COVID-19 is dangerous. In Italy, which has one of the world’s oldest populations, the vast majority of its deaths have been in the elderly. In Washington state, 14 deaths were linked to a nursing home. For those who don’t die, many of them will require long hospitalizations and life support in intensive care units.

The other — and perhaps more concerning group at risk — are the workers staffing our hospitals. In Wuhan, China, they were hit hard with thousands of infections and a dozen deaths. These individuals put their own health at risk to provide the care these patients need.

There currently are no cures or vaccines for COVID-19, so improving outcomes hinges on preventing infections in the community as well as providing supportive care in hospitals. It is these priority populations — our elders and those who will take care of them — that we must protect and prevent from getting sick.

Read the entire story at the Seattle Times. John Lynch is an associate professor of Medicine and Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Karin Huster is a field coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. Both have Masters of Public Health degrees from the University of Washington.