Infectious disease doctor says working at home might save more lives

Posted at 9:46 PM, Mar 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-16 21:53:53-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

CINCINNATI - Ohio has closed restaurants, bars, schools, churches and sports venues and limited other gatherings in trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus. But a top infectious disease doctor in Cincinnati thinks we may have missed a door.

Dr. Carl Fichtenbaum of UC Health said we may look back when it’s over and wish more businesses had enabled workers to do their jobs at home.

“I don't think we're overreacting,” Fichtenbaum said about the sweeping measures taken to limit the number of people exposed to COVID-19. “The better we do this now, the less we will have to suffer later."

Fichtenbaum said Cincinnati employers could save lives by having more people work from home. Procter & Gamble and Western & Southern are doing just that. Larger employers like them might be able to make adjustments more easily.

But a small manufacturer like Casco Manufacturing Solutions on Spring Grove Avenue would not, said president and owner Melissa Mangold.

“We have people who need a paycheck, and here at our company if the people don't come we are going to be in a world of hurt,” Mangold said.

Mangold said workers are busy building up inventory in case they have to shut down.

“I said to them, ‘I can't deliver a sewing machine to your house for you to work from home,’” Mangold said.

So they're sanitizing everything at night and educating employees on how to do it at home.

“We’re a close-knit group,” said Mangold. “They all know that my husband is sick. They all know that I’ve had my fair share of bouts with cancer, so they're all very sensitive to each other.”

Fichtenbaum recommended calling employees before each shift and asking if they or anyone around them is ill. If we don't contain this now, he fears hospitals could become overwhelmed.

"I think our capacity is good right now, but obviously one can’t predict the future,” Fichtenbaum said. “If people don't listen to these directives and they are not mindful and the epidemic spreads unchecked, then it will tax any healthcare system.”

Doctors stress if you feel sick, don't just show up at a hospital or an urgent care clinic to get a test. Call before you go and talk to the doctor about protocol, because they may want you to stay outside. They have tents set up at UC Health for that exact reason so you don’t go inside and infect more people.

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.