Important and simple ways to stop spread of COVID-19

Researcher Ben Jacobson from Harvard Global Health Institute offers tips to stay healthy


Kate Spillane

The pre-packed Big Box of groceries from Russo’s in Watertown, Mass., comes with about 30 items.

Allie Spillane and Kate Spillane

Ben Jacobson is a 2019 Princeton graduate. He currently works at the Harvard Global Health Institute. Ben is a research assistant that focuses on international and domestic health. Over the last two weeks, the entire institute has been focusing on COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.

Ben says that, “we should all spread the word about social distancing and post things online about it.” 

COVID-19 is so much bigger than the flu and has the ability to spread very fast. Some people might not even know they have it, since symptoms do not show for days.  When people go out in public and touch things without gloves, they might be able to give the virus to other people who don’t have as good an immune system as they did. Ben said, “especially young people need to stay home and social distance themselves to keep the germs away.” 

Young people need to stay home and social distance themselves to keep the germs away.

— BEN JACOBSON, Harvard Global Health Institute

It is important to check the facts and sources when you are looking online to determine what is true and not true about COVID-19. Ben shared two reliable sources for information: and the Johns Hopkins Tracker: 

Ben is hopeful there will be a vaccine for the coronavirus. Once they find a vaccine for this, it will improve, however it will take about a year or so because they have to make sure the vaccine is healthy for people and it won’t make anything worse or make them more sick. 

During the remote interview, someone asked how long COVID-19 has been around. Ben said, the first documented case in humans was in December 2019. It is believed that animals have carried this virus for some time. Ben said they are still researching the animal that carries COVID-19, but it is highly believed that bats are the carrier for this virus. 

Ben stressed that the public “needs to be comfortable that this is a big deal.” We need to change our habits and really practice social distancing until things have improved. Some of the habits that people can practice are washing their hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, especially before eating any meals or snacks. When water is not available, hand sanitizer is fairly effective. When purchasing hand sanitizer, Ben said to be sure that it has 50%-60% alcohol content. Ben recommended Purell as a brand that is effective. He did say, “nothing beats washing hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds.” 

Since the virus is spread so easily, Ben also said it is important to wash countertops and other surfaces that are frequently touched and used. 

Another way people can rethink their daily habits is by changing how and when they shop. For example, Ben said that in China, grocery stores did stay open, but many stores went to either limited hours or had delivery to your door at home or to your car. There are many local stores offering similar  services close to Watertown.  

Kate Spillane
The pre-packed Big Box of groceries (and flowers) from Russo’s in Watertown, Mass.

Russo’s, a produce market on Pleasant Street in Watertown, Mass., is offering shoppers to purchase either a Basic Box or Large Box of groceries that can be ordered online and then delivered right to your trunk.  The Big Box costs $100 and contains about 30 items that range from eggs and milk, fresh produce, baked goods, and a bouquet of flowers. The Basic Box at Russo’s costs $50 and contains 15-20 items. On a personal note, the Big Box was a success in our family of four! We were pleased with how fresh the produce was and the amount and the size of the produce was also impressive. 

From Ben, we learned to use trustworthy sources when reading about the coronavirus and also how important it is to rethink our daily habits — from handwashing, cleaning the house and shopping in a different way.  Most importantly, Ben really talked about how we need to practice safe social distancing to really prevent the virus from spreading!

(For more information about the Harvard Global Health Institute, please go to its home at:

Ben Jacobson from Harvard Global Health Institute is interviewed remotely by student reporters with Headliners in Education on March 18, 2020.


–March 20,2020–