April 21, 2020

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Working the first 3 weeks into our local covid surge left me more limp than I had anticipated. I’ve been off now for 10 days and  torn between wanting to write every minute that I’m not reading, and being so lazy I’m leaving a slug trail on the kitchen tile.

Three curated articles for your consideration, finishing with a brief bit of video humor. First up is a piece I wrote detailing the exhaustive work of trying to remain virus-free during a single 12-hour shift. Think of it as a trip to the grocery on steroids.  A Miracle in Evolution

With the sporadic protests leading headlines, some of you may be wondering, as my mother-in-law was, how to respond to those who think this is all an exaggeration. The next article is a short, sensible description of herd immunity and why that’s not a solution at this point. My reply to rob’s mom follows that (in italics).


I understand your frustration and anger. I have it too. We health care workers are out there every day putting our lives on the line, getting this disease, and some dying from it. That’s reality, not inflation. We report the data, not politicians, and we are not making it up, or the elaborate rituals we must go through to protect ourselves, our patients, and our families.  

The response boils down to a couple simple precepts you already likely know, and a little math. 
– We have no “natural” immunity. 
-Immunity comes from surviving the disease or getting a vaccine. 
-Best guess is around 1% of the people who get it will die. More elderly deaths but plenty of young healthy people, and some children. 
– Best guess is 1% of US population infected so far. This means many people do not yet know anyone who’s had it—especially in middle of country, where it has arrived last.  This leaves the impression on some that it’s exaggerated. 
-Vaccine for mass distribution is at least 9-12 months away, maybe more. Until then wave after wave of infection will circulate when/ where distancing is ignored or dropped without adequate testing and isolation.  
-No state has anywhere near enough tests to determine who is infected, or has been. If we had enough tests, and knew their reliability we could open up quicker by finding and isolating new cases right away.
– The great news is most people aren’t going to get terribly sick, and most will survive. But some will play viral roulette and lose, and no one can tell who. 
– The world population is 8 billion.  1% of that is 80 million deaths.
-US pop 330 million.  1% of that is 3 million. First wave 40,000 deaths so far (over about 6 weeks). A drop in the bucket. Guarantee as that number climbs, everyone will know someone who died unnecessarily. 
– For comparison, flu and pneumonia deaths in the US are 60,000 per YEAR. We are about to overtake that number in just 2 months of covid. 
-Those deaths will occur gradually, in waves, over 2 years (as happened in 1918 pandemic). Unless we open up everything fast, in which case the natural death rates will skyrocket to unnatural rates from health care system being overwhelmed.  (Look at Italy and Spain or UK 10- 14% death rates). 
So my suggested response is to simply say something like this: The virus doesn’t care what you think.  It will continue regardless. 
People will lose friends and family, and not just the old and weak. They can learn the easy way—by looking at what’s happened to others around the country and the world–or the hard way, by waiting for it to happen to them.  
When they start to see their behavior as contributing to the illness and deaths of those they care about, their attitude will likely change. However, putting other people’s lives in danger in the meantime by ignoring community safeguards is not acceptable.  We are all in this together.  
If they’re still not believers tell them they can come make hospital rounds with me, without a mask.
Hope that helps.  
To illustrate that point, this is a link to an unfortunate Ohio man whose story sadly shows the unpredictable, deadly consequences of not taking covid seriously. We must, all of us, continue to have faith in community and look out for one another. I do believe, despite the deniers, this smoldering crisis is going to overwhelmingly result in a more humanitarian future.
Finally, a laugh. A brief video of a conductor’s performance, as viewed from the symphony players. Enjoy.   https://www.facebook.com/100003698791769/posts/2003764786423462/

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