Letter to the Editor 3-20-20
To the editor,
So, here’s my thoughts at this time on COVID-19:
I will admit that even a week or two ago, I thought that things were being blown way out of proportion. However, over the past week I have been reading a lot and educating myself. I have seen how people and medical “experts” have seemingly blown past pandemics out of proportion, and not much really came of it. I think that is why I had not had much concern initially with COVID-19. But folks, things are about to get real. I am not an epidemiologist or infectious disease expert. These people are the experts in infectious diseases and disease transmission in communities. I really think that we need to defer to these experts on the best ways to help contain this virus and keep the greatest number of people safe. The way that this virus has spread is something remarkable, not like anything I’ve seen. We are on uncharted waters right now. You can be for sure that this is going to affect your daily lives. For how long, that I don’t know, but probably for weeks. I say these things because I think we all need to take this seriously. As a physician, I am a lifelong learner. I have to be able to examine new data and new facts, and help change my practices and educate my patients to do the same. If I spoke with you a week ago and told you I wasn’t concerned about Corona virus at that time, it was true...but now I am. I am not concerned that the majority of you will need medical care or hospitalization. I think the majority of people will be fine. However, if too many people get very ill too quickly, it will overload our hospitals throughout the country. I don’t want to be the person who has to tell you, “I’m sorry, your ______ (Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, Son, Daughter) is going to die because we don’t have the resources here to help them, and the higher level of care hospitals don’t either. There are just too many people sick.”
Why am I saying this? I don’t want you to panic and buy more toilet paper or bottled water. You do not need to stockpile these things. However, I do want you to take the appropriate precautions that are recommended by the experts who can help us through this crisis.
1. Wash your hands (you should be doing this regularly anyway, so this shouldn’t be a big lifestyle change).
2. Avoid touching your face, mouth, nose, eyes (this one is going to be more tough for most of us).
3. Stay home as much as possible/practice social distancing. This one is going to be really difficult. But this is what experts tell us we need to do to “flatten the curve”, to prevent rapid disease spread which would overwhelm our hospitals and lead to increased death rates due to lack of services/supplies. Now is not the time to take an extra vacation since crowds will be down or have extra play dates or parties. Stay home, play outside with your kids, go for a walk, just stay away from other large groups of people. With technology today, you can always Skype or FaceTime family and friends to get that social interaction you crave.
4. In our community, we often ask grandparents to care for our sick children when they stay home from school. Please do not do this if at all possible, as our population over age 60 and those with chronic medical conditions have the highest death rate and severity of illness with this.
5. Please work from home if possible. Employers please be flexible with your employees and allow them to work from home if possible.
6. Please be kind. Understand that this is not something any of us have been through before. Be understanding of your government officials and school officials, hospital administrators and staff. We are all doing the very best we can to learn and use all available information and resources we can to help do our absolute best for our community. We are all working continuously and communicating together to figure out the best plan of action to keep us all safe. We know that the needed measures to contain this outbreak are going to majorly impact our daily lives, but are hoping to minimize this as much as possible.
7. If you are sick, please stay at home. If you feel like you are needing medical care for your symptoms, please call the hospital ahead of time so that you can be given appropriate instructions on how to proceed with getting the care you need with minimizing your risk and those around you.
With these measures hopefully our community will not be severely affected, and we can all look back on this time and think, “Eh, it wasn’t as bad as everyone thought it was going to be.” That’s the goal.
Dorothy Breault, MD
Disclaimer: these are not the thoughts/statements of my employers, just my own personal thoughts.