I have a short but important blog today. Over the next few weeks the first wave of the pandemic will crest in most of the US. What makes this time so important is that this first surge of the virus cuts through the population most aggressively. There is no immunity among us and the spread can be so rapid that the numbers of sick people can overwhelm the healthcare system. If we can all focus and prevent this from happening, everything in the future will be easier. While I agree with former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottleib that there will be additional waves of infection in the future, many people will be immune from prior coronavirus infections, there will be drugs and better approaches to manage the sick, the virus may mutate to a less aggressive form and sadly, some of the most susceptible individuals will no longer be with us. Therefore, the future coronavirus waves will be manageable compared to what we’re facing now.
What is happening now is like rush hour; too many cars on the road leads to gridlock, especially around constrictions like tollbooths and bridges. However, in this case the cars are sick patients and the restrictions are emergency rooms and intensive care beds. If we can just spread out the infections past “rush hour” the system will be able to handle them.
How can you help. There are a number of simple but important tasks we can all do to protect the healthcare system.
Keep yourself from getting infected with the coronavirus, especially at this time. Practice social distancing, hand washing and do everything you can to avoid becoming infected. Even delaying the infection for a few weeks may help preserve the healthcare system at this important juncture. So focus and avoid the infection.
If you do become infected self-diagnose, alert your doctor and isolate at home. Don’t go to the emergency room or the hospital, or wait hours in your car for a test unless instructed to by your doctor. If you do become short of breath, especially if you have heart or lung problems, immediately contact your doctor and head to the hospital as instructed. I have provided a plan for this in a previous post.
Make sure you are capable with Face Time, Skype, Zoom or whatever platform you use for video conferencing. You can contact your doctor without going to the office or the hospital. This will avoid risking exposure to the virus for both your caregivers and yourself.
Check that you have an adequate supply of your medicines. I recently had an interview on this issue with asthma for Allergic Living magazine, and it should be obvious that people with lung problems need to take their medicines. It is important, however, to remember this with any illness. You don’t want to have a stroke or a heart attack because you ran out of your blood pressure medicine. Especially use your mail order pharmacy or the drive-up window for your local pharmacy to make sure you are not putting yourself at risk when getting your prescriptions filled.
Don’t do anything to put yourself at risk for injury. This includes extreme sports, climbing on ladders, or any activity that can cause you an injury where you require hospitalization or emergency room care.
Slow down. You can imagine what it will be like after an auto accident in an emergency room full of coughing Coronavirus patients. Truthfully, most of us have nowhere to go right now and lots of time to get there; so slow down and make the ride safer.
Make sure at-risk relatives and friends are cared for. An act of kindness may prevent that person from being at risk for infection and winding up in the hospital.
If we get through this next few weeks the world will look much better. The actions of each of us can determine how well we weather the surge of this first wave. Focus on the next few weeks and everything else will follow.
Be safe-for all of us!