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If you have flu-like symptoms and someone tells you to stay home, please: Don’t go to that party. Even if it’s the most exciting night of your week, even if you wanted to catch up with a friend or get someone’s number or partake in a rousing game of darts. Do not attend. This is — it should go without saying — especially true if you suspect you have coronavirus.
This public safety announcement comes in the wake of reports about a male medical worker at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, back from a recent trip to Italy, who went to the hospital on Friday because he had a fever. The staff who checked him out did not test for COVID-19 at the time, but advised him to self-quarantine while they ruled out other flu and cold viruses over the weekend. But instead, three hours later, he went to a mixer for fellow doctors and Dartmouth students at a bar over the river in Vermont. Monday, he returned to the hospital and tested positive for coronavirus, and now everyone who attended the party or who went to the bar over the weekend is potentially at risk. A “close contact” of the unidentified patient has already tested positive for the virus, too.
In addition to questions about what in the world could have so important about the party that this feverish man attended it, the situation at Dartmouth brings up a very real issue in treating coronavirus. Before a person is officially diagnosed — when they typically receive a formal isolation order from their state government — enforcing quarantine is largely left to the honor system. No one is physically or legally forcing patients who exhibit symptoms into the recommended 14-day quarantine — which is a good thing, obviously, as the idea of some kind of enforced system for anyone who has a cough or fever is extremely terrifying. So it really is up to people to be vigilant about their own symptoms and to initiate the inconvenient but necessary 14-day self-quarantine, even if they are not totally sure how ill they are.
If you are having a party, simply gently remind your would-be guests: If you don’t feel well, do not come. And if you are going to a party, ask yourself: Do I have a fever? Am I coughing? Did I go to Italy? And do the smart thing. Stay in and watch Contagion.