June 11, 2020

Re-entering risk

Lots of chatter today about increasing cases in states like North Carolina, Florida, and Arizona, which is dangerously close to filling up the hospitals and ICU’s. Public Heath officials in cities across the country worry that the recent protests will cause a surge in cases, too.

That is why Seattle has increased testing capacity and made testing free so that cases can be identified and contacts traced and notified. That Public Health technique is tried and true. So far, there are no increase in cases here in King County, but we are expecting a rise. (and for those of you worried about Seattle being taking over by Antifa, read this. Misinformation has been sent out to cause fear.)

But oh, if it could be so simple to just ask people to help out by wearing masks. One study has modeled what would happen if everyone wore a mask. It shows the R0 (the R naught is the number of transmissions each positive case is responsible for) falling to less than 1.0. It can work as well as the shutdown did. That is the goal: slow transmission of the virus. But Americans are too feisty to go along. In my neighborhood, we can’t even get dog owners to be responsible for their own dog’s poop, so why should I think we can get people to wear masks?.

But I am charmed and hopeful when I have patients and families like I saw in clinic today. A three year old came in for her well child check on her birthday today. She was wearing a mask matching the one on her doll. And when her mom started showing her a picture book, she asked “Why aren’t the people wearing masks?” Lucky for her today, no shots needed this visit, we had a good check in, and we faced the new reality of life in a pandemic.

How we stay safe is to keep our risks low, no point in fighting with people who won’t listen, and follow guidelines; paying attention to new information as it comes in. We have talked about most of this already. This New York Times article talks about those rules in a sensible way. Despite the increasing cases, I feel we can keep our risks low.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, and keep a good distance.

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.