Preparedness not panic – that is the order of the day. Having flown off of aircraft carriers and taken care of very sick patients in the operating room, I don’t get too excited about most things. However, I believe that the threat of COVID-19 is very real, both in terms of its ability to spread rapidly and the potential to harm a lot of people.
Dr. Martin Makary, a health policy expert at Johns Hopkins, laid out very specific concerns about COVID-19 in a recent article, including the potential to overwhelm the health system (medpagetoday.com/infectiousdisease/covid19/85324). Since data on the outbreak is still evolving, we don’t know the exact percentage of infected people who will require hospitalization or need ICU care, and we don’t know the mortality rate. However, Dr. Makary makes the point that even if the estimates are on the low end, they will probably be 10 times worse than a bad flu season.
While I feel that if I get the coronavirus I will likely do OK, I am concerned about the impact on me and others if I have to be quarantined for two weeks. More than that, I worry about passing on an infection before I know I am infectious to others who are at risk, like my 91-year-old mom or my pregnant daughter-in-law.
Please take the risks and precautions seriously, and try to counter the message that this is media hype. I am doing my 20-second hand washes, regularly using my wife’s ‘home brew’ hand sanitizer, being careful about opening doors and doing fist bumps instead of handshakes. I am a supporter of social distancing as a strategy to slow the spread, such as telecommuting and closing schools if indicated. I’ve asked my mom to stay home except for truly necessary trips, and we’re doing her shopping for her. Please try to model a tone of preparedness – not panic – and look after those around you as the experts try to sort this out.
Dr. Tim Hannon, Carmel