April 16,2020

"The Wirebrush of Doubt"*

This time last month, the doctors I work with were planning furiously for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients with the ICU’s, ER’s, and hospitals being overwhelmed. What happened? Why aren’t we there? The surge never came, even while it came in other cities.

We nailed it here in the Northwest. Remember, this is a new virus and we guessed, but weren’t completely sure, how it would behave. Some things we got right and some wrong. It turns out to be more infectious in asymptomatic people than we thought. Some models in early March showed one patient with the coronavirus infecting five other people. Now models show that we in Washington State have decreased the rate to one. Getting below one is the goal for loosening up social distancing. How were we able to manage that despite the virus being more transmissible than we thought?

We stayed home. We saved lives. Jamie said that if we could pull this off, people would say we overreacted and didn’t need to be so restrictive. Our success has led people to dismiss the problem. Already here in Seattle. I am seeing signs of loosening up, more cars on the streets, more people out, we shall see if this is too soon to relax our guard. We do risk the second wave of infections that will shut us down again.

Re-opening is in sight but we must do it slowly and deliberately or we could still get that surge. Remember that most of us still aren’t immune to SARS-CoV-2.

But today I am angry and sad that so much of the country spent yesterday and today protesting about their state’s recommendations for preventing a surge. They may be fooled by the flattening of the curve, maybe by the talk of our president, or other media. But I am heartbroken that their wishes and behavior increase the risk of severe illness and death for the dedicated health care workers and other essential workers. It is one thing to risk your own life for your beliefs, but I find this unconscionable. My heart is weeping. We should be protecting them, not exposing them. This is not about politics or beliefs, it is about what is right and wrong. Every life matters.

Seattle, we have got this. Don’t let up. Be an example for the rest of the country.

Wash your hands.

And finally, my caveat is that this is my experience and my opinions, which are subject to change as more information is available, and not related to the organization I work for. Thanks for reading.

* John O’Donohue from “To Bless the Space Between Us”