Today I bring you something that is out of the ordinary, but these are extraordinary times. Over the past month, the Covid-19 virus (coronavirus) has upended our way of life. I have been following this virus closely, and today would like to share some of my thoughts.
Today, a doctor treating Covid-19 patients in Mississippi gave me a FaceTime tour of his hospital. He told me about the challenges they are facing, and how they are coping and planning for more patients.
I spoke to friends and colleagues in London and Seattle who told me what’s happening there. An old friend in Madrid gave me a report on what’s going on there.
Today we saw a U.S. Senator announce that he is positive for Covid-19, and several Senators have had to self-quarantine in response.
Frankly, we haven’t seen anything like this in our lifetimes. In order to help spread awareness, today I bring you a public service announcement. This was coauthored with Greg Geyer. Greg has been an analyst and entrepreneur in the public / private sector for over 25 years primarily focused on community building and education in the energy and sustainability sectors.
Stay safe out there.
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
We are collectively at war against the Covid-19 virus and all our lives have been changed overnight, at least for now.
The bottom line for everyone young and old alike is to practice social distancing: stay home unless you have to go out. When you do go out to work or for essentials take precautions that avoid the spread of the virus.
These actions will help our healthcare system by slowing the spread of the virus. You may get the virus and it may not be bad for you at all. But as more people get it more people need care. The ability of our healthcare system to handle any type of illness is impacted.
This article is focused on what is likely to come now and over the next few weeks and months, and how to respond. Hopefully it provides some forewarning of the sound bites and helps us weather this storm.
The US will surpass all other countries in cases
We already have a great many cases in the United States that are undetected because our availability of testing has been so limited. As testing is ramped up many more cases will be found.
This is going to be a scary sound bite but the truth is at this point it is entirely expected. Due to lack of test kits, anyone with symptoms is being asked to treat themselves as if they have the virus. But, testing is becoming more available and finding cases – especially those with no or mild symptoms – allows us to stop the spread.
Depending upon the source or data analyst this fact will get a lot of negative play in the news. But every identified case of Covid-19 helps us reduce the spread.
- South Korea did widespread testing with isolation and quickly slowed the virus spread.
- China also did widespread testing with isolation and new cases there have ground to a halt.
As a percentage, severe cases will go down initially
Based on global cases, the current rate of fatality is believed to be about 1%. But there is a lot of uncertainty in that number, and wide variation across age groups and by sex. We are also not detecting every case of the virus. We initially only tested the sick and celebrities.
Media and our leaders may make a case that our severe cases are low and this may give you a false sense of security.
This message is NOT an invitation to disregard social distancing. In fact, if we make progress and people become less careful, we will lose our fight to flatten the curve.
As it stands, even at 1% covid-19 illness can overwhelm our healthcare system.
“It’s about ten times more lethal than the seasonal flu,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease, in congressional testimony on March 11. So it is certainly not “just like flu.”
If our healthcare system is overwhelmed our death rate for ALL illnesses could rise significantly
We are now doing a lot to prevent the spread of the virus, but we are a country of travelers that responded weeks later than we should have. If our healthcare system is overwhelmed the way it is starting to be in NY City our death rate for ALL illnesses will go up.
Our healthcare workers will be overworked and under equipped if they are not already
As is clear in the news, our healthcare system is already under stress. Many doctors and nurses are getting the virus because equipment is not available. When a hospital lacks test kits it has to quarantine all people exposed to a patient found to be positive. This takes more staff out of work and means the remaining staff must work harder. The number of healthcare workers who are contracting serious cases of Coronavirus is staggering and this is a direct result of lack of proper equipment.
Each of us must do our part to help our healthcare system in any way we can. We need to get them test kits, ventilators, proper masks and related equipment.
In addition, these people need our support. For the next few months at least: They are the major league sports teams, the entertainment rock stars and, as always, among our greatest heroes.
What else can we do?
In addition to social distancing we recommend that we each ask ourselves:
- What can we do to make the lives of our healthcare workers better?
- How can we help them get the equipment and safety that they need?
At the same time, let us not forget all of those who are keeping our society working. We still require food, water, and basic necessities – and many people are working hard to meet those needs.
We have a long way to go and every discovered case provides opportunity to manage this pandemic.
Slowing the spread of the virus while supporting our front-line heroes is where we start.
Greg Geyer and Robert Rapier