my neighbor a physician just returned from NYC.
I've deleted names since my intent is not to embarrass anybody.
This is what she wrote in a mass email to probably everyone she knows.
Many have already shared stories of bravery and heartbreak much better than I ever could.
While I don't want to wade too deep into the streams of misinformation that are flooding our media landscape I would like to share a couple of thoughts and direct observations.
- The people of NYC have been through a truly traumatic experience. They responded admirably, and their hospitals were able to add literally hundreds and hundreds of beds full of > 90% COVID patients to accommodate the surge that has mercifully eased up. Thousands of patients with and without pre-existing conditions died suddenly in numbers not seen in a hundred years despite aggressive action taken to slow the spread. No one benefited from this. Please do not discredit their suffering or the work done to help them by giving in to lazy conspiracy theories or scapegoating.
- Projections and numbers change, a lot, especially when dealing with something as infinitely complex as human behavior on a macro level and a virus that didn't exist 6 months ago. Don't forget that we have taken aggressive actions that have undoubtedly helped when you compare what has happened to what could have happened.
- NOT the flu. NOT the flu. NOT THE FLU. Flu infects up to 9% of the WORLD every year. This has maybe infected 0.8% of that same population, and that is assuming 60 million cases versus the 3.5 million we've actually confirmed. The exact rates of infection, mortality, and exposures won't be known for years but what we do know is this: A hospital in Long Island has seen more deaths in 2 months from COVID than they saw from flu in the last 5 years. A hospital that handled every virus out there, including influenza, without any distancing went from needing 20 ICU beds to needing 170. We've never needed rows of refrigerated trucks for the dead from flu. Based on what has already happened, how can we not conclude that this thing is 5-10 times more dangerous than anything we've seen in the US since 1920?
- This virus did things to my patients in NYC that I haven't seen before after spending the last 15 years of treating only sick, hospitalized patients. Most people survive, but it killed the people I took care of at a rate that is unlike any other infection I've seen. It is nasty, and there is no cure or highly effective treatment for the sickest patients, yet. I do take some comfort in the fact that while there are always exceptions, for the most part this pathogen doesn't seem to be a great danger to children.
- Lastly, there is always a reason for hope and the right path forward will almost assuredly land somewhere in between "stay inside or die" and the idea that we need to sacrifice our grandparents to make sure the stock market doesn't get spooked. A lot of the COVID patients I saw come in had spent lots of time in small spaces with lots of other people. We know that many cases have come from workplaces, homes, and crowded indoor spaces. I can't say what is 100% safe or not but I personally would feel safe being a few yards away from other people on a beach or at a park. I know great hand hygiene, masks, and people staying home when sick will help slow the spread, probably by a lot. This thing will be around for quite some time and I'm sure that in the near future we will have figured out some better ways to treat the sick, spend time with those we love, and keep as many businesses going as possible. Let's ignore the loudest and least informed voices out there who have obvious agendas and try to craft common-sense policy that is compassionate, pragmatic, and based on observations and data. That said, I think we'll all be glad if hindsight shows that there were some overreactions rather than the alternative.
Be well, friends. This isn't the end of the World, but it is unfortunately quite real and will impact a lot of the things we took for granted as recently as February for some time. Be patient, be kind, be curious, stay connected. We need to be resilient to deal with this reality for the foreseeable future. Don't lick doorknobs, wash your hands, and don't spend time in closed spaces with someone who has a cough or fever. Please try not to watch the news too much. Both of the current narratives are full of bad math and biased assumptions that can be super frustrating and scary to me, and I just got back from the epicenter of a global pandemic!