Survival guide: How to fight COVID-19 like Contagion stars Kate Winslet, Matt Damon and Laurence Fishburne

Steven Soderbergh's 2011 masterpiece Contagion bears a striking resemblance to what the world has come to today amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Kate Winslet in Contagion
Kate Winslet in Contagion

Steven Soderbergh's 2011 masterpiece Contagion bears a striking resemblance to what the world has come to today amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The movie follows the rapid progress of a lethal airborne virus that is spreading in the world and killing millions.

As the fast-moving epidemic grows, the worldwide medical community races to find a cure and control the panic that spreads faster than the virus itself. At the same time, ordinary people struggle to survive in a society coming apart.

The movie starred Kate Winslet, Matt Damon and Laurence Fishburne among others. The three megastars reunited after many years to release a series of PSA videos in association with Columbia Public Health.

The videos throw light on what the virus is and how one can help in slowing the spread of it. 

Actress Kate Winslet: Stopping the spread of coronavirus is in your hands
In the movie Contagion, I played an epidemiologist trying to stop the spread of a hypothetical virus. To prepare for the role, I spent time with some of the best Public Health professionals in the world. What was one of the most important things they taught me?

Wash your hands like your life depends on it because right now, in particular, it just might or the life of someone you love or even the life of someone you might not know but is still deserving of your consideration.

Like the people on the frontlines of this fight right now - the Doctors and the Health Care Providers or the people who are still working in the grocery stores or delivering food to your homes, which is where you should be right now.

So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, a little bit powerless, here’s something we can all do to make a difference and it doesn’t require a medical degree, or a microscope or a ton of knowledge – Soap and Water are all you need. The water doesn’t need to be that hot and any soap will do.

The way soap works is that one end of the soap molecule binds with the water and the other end binds to the grease on your hands. The virus is washed away with that grease when the soap molecule attaches to it. A scientist taught me this and taught me to wash my hands for 20 seconds.

Remember, there is only one way to get COVID-19 – if you come in direct contact with a droplet from the cough or a sneeze of an infected person and that droplet finds its way into our eyes, nose, or mouth. Gross, but true.

That’s why people need to cover their mouths with their elbows because COVID-19 can also live on surfaces or as scientists call them – Fomites.

Fomites include – cardboard boxes, stainless steel forks, carpet, bedding and clothes. Depending on the surface, COVID-19 can live there from a few hours to a few days. So, wipe down surfaces that are frequently used with a disinfectant.

Here are the rules for that: Spray, wait for four Minutes and then Wipe. Yes, it takes four minutes for a disinfectant to do its job. Avoid touching your face.

It’s not easy but it is important. Because if you touch a surface with your hands and then you touch your face, you can get infected. So, to put it simply, the health of our society is quite literally in your hands.

I know this is hard, and this is new, and it’s scary, but you really can defend yourself and the people you love with a bar of soap, a sink, some water and by listening to the Public Health Experts where you live.

We all want a cure but until we have one, we need to be that for each other, starting now. 

<em>Matt Damon in Contagion</em>
Matt Damon in Contagion

Matt Damon: Listen to experts 
A few years ago, a bunch of us did this movie called Contagion, which we’ve noticed is creeping its way back up on the charts on iTunes for obvious reasons, given what we’re all living through right now. Everything you are going to hear from me has been vetted by Public Health Experts and Scientists. So, I am here to talk about Social Distancing, something we’ve been hearing a lot on TV since the last couple of weeks.

In the movie, I played a guy who was immune to the hypothetical virus that was spreading around the world. So, a few things to start, that was a movie, this is real life. I have no reason to believe that I’m immune to COVID-19 and neither do you, no matter how young you are. This is a new virus, it’s going to take some time for our bodies and our doctors to understand the best way to protect us.

New viruses emerge all the time. This isn’t the first and it won’t be the last. So, the good news is, we have seen things like this before and we emerged stronger as a result. And in time, we’re going to win against this one as well. Nobody knows how much time, but we do know how to make that day get here quicker.

Social distancing means – Staying six feet away from another person. It means not gathering in groups. It means staying home or sheltering in place if that’s what government officials are telling you to do. People can have COVID-19 and have very mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. So, even if you think that they’re healthy, or you think you’re healthy, don’t take that chance because it’s not worth it.

Every time that you pass this virus to someone else, you are actually giving it to three or four other people as well and then those people are going to do the same. So, before long, that one person turns to hundreds, which turns into thousands and that’s how we got into this situation in the first place.

Now, if you’re young and healthy, you might think that this is no big deal because you’ve heard that this virus is nothing more than a bad cold for you which is not true.

Almost 40% hospitalised in this pandemic are under 55. And if you know anybody over the age of 55, or anyone who has any kind of pre-existing conditions, this is a lot more serious for them.

So, you can literally save their lives just by staying away from each other. You can actually sit on the couch or in a chair and watch TV and save a life at the same time. You can work from home, you can use social media to communicate, you can save a few more.

Now is the time to spend all the time you want staring at your phone or your tablet and if anybody gives you a hard time about it, tell them not to bother you because you are saving lives. Just make sure that you tell them that from six feet away.

We can all do this together just by staying apart. Please do your part. Other generations have been asked to do extraordinary things. We’re being asked to just stay at home. We got this. Let’s please respect and protect our elders.

<em>Laurence Fishburne in Contagion</em>
Laurence Fishburne in Contagion

Laurence Fishburne: How to stop the spread of COVID-19
In the movie Contagion, I played a doctor at the Center for disease control. The virus in Contagion was created by a screenwriter. COVID-19 is very real. Most of us aren’t old enough to remember the diseases smallpox and polio and the way those diseases affected billions of lives.

But they changed the way that people lived. It looks like COVID-19 is forcing us to change the way that we live, at least for a while.

Now there is a scene in the movie, about the tradition of handshaking. You extended your hand and showed the person you were meeting that you didn’t have a weapon, that you weren’t carrying one.

Well, now the way we are living is like, we are all carrying a weapon and we don’t even know it. What we do know is that the virus travels through human contact - that’s one of the ways it travels. It needs us to survive. So, let’s not give it any help.

Quite simply, one of the best ways to prevent yourself from getting COVID-19 is by behaving like you already have it. Which means: Social distancing, Stay at home if that is possible for you, Wash your hand often like it’s your job and listen to your Public Health Officials wherever it is that you happen to live.

A pandemic means that the virus is everywhere, but it won’t be at every place at the same time. So, if it’s not where you live today, you can bet that that’s going to change. If you don’t know anyone who is sick yet, you can also bet that that will change as well.

Our Public Health Experts are telling us that the virus could affect as many as half of us in the coming months moving forward. And that would mean that you, or I or someone very close to you will contract the disease, and will contract the virus.

We need to do everything possible. Everything that we can to prevent that from happening. If we can slow this thing down, it will give our doctors and our nurses, in our hospitals a fighting chance to help us all get through this together.

Everything that we can do to stay healthy will keep our people on the frontlines from getting sick and that is so important.

I know it’s frightening to wake up every day and to see on the news that more people have died but the overwhelming majority of us are going to live. Every day the number of those who are being cured will increase.

Our scientists can learn from how their immune systems defeated the virus and discover treatments until we have a vaccine. So, until we have a cure, you can be that for the people where you live and for the people that you love.

We can beat this thing together just by staying apart. Thanks a lot. Bless you. Stay healthy. Stay safe.

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