March 11, 2021

Pandemic year

Last year at this time, Seattle was in early shutdown mode, trying to desperately flatten the curve of an impending tidal wave. We had our first cases a few weeks before and we feared that the “novel coronavirus” was silently spreading and soon we would see our case loads rise exponentially. I was afraid I may have been exposed on the bus or treating a patient and self quarantined from Jamie at home. The local hospitals and medical systems were quickly planning for the worst supported by our local health department. My clinic was planning a large “acute respiratory clinic” where we would send the surge of patients for evaluation and diagnosis, several of my colleagues were preparing to help out in the hospital if the hospital doctors got overwhelmed, or worse, became infected themselves. I wrote about these changes earlier in March on my blog. The city was preparing for the worst. A large army field hospital was set up at the large event center by the sports’ stadiums. Workers were advised to work from home. People started social distancing, at a relatively close distance of 3 feet. Still no masks in sight except in the ER’s and hospitals and clinics. So much was unknown. We were afraid because so much was unclear and the virus seemed to spread invisibly. I feared the worst for my family and friends scattered across the country and world, if this epidemic spread.

Then on March 11, a year ago, cases were rising in many other cities and countries. A pandemic was declared by the World Health Organization. We all started talking about flattening the curve. It worked for us, we were spared the brunt. New York City, New Orleans, and Italy, just a few weeks later, were devastated. Heartbreak upon heartbreak.

Amazingly, we in Seattle and Washington were able to flatten the curve. The surge of COVID patients never materialized, our cases and deaths plateaued. My colleagues were not needed in the hospital or acute respiratory clinic after all. The army field hospital was dismantled, never serving a single patient. Still too much suffering occurred and too many died. But it could have been worse, we have done better than every other major city in the US except Honolulu. I thank our Governor and Mayor, our other civic leaders, the push from Amazon, Microsoft, and other companies to work from home. But we really must congratulate ourselves on how we really did look out for each other by following guidelines like social distancing and masking. We prevented so much more suffering and grief.

Now a year later, we can look back and remember those early days. Who knew it would be a year before we start to see an end to the grief? But also who knew we would have several excellent vaccines available after such a short time? We must thank and congratulate the scientists, as well as the volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and took the experimental jabs. Just as I was finishing this post, I read this article in the New York Times published today about how well Seattle did. Read it to understand why I have been heartbroken over what happened elsewhere.

Now in Seattle, that same giant event center between the Seahawks and Mariners stadiums, where the field hospital was, is set to be a mass immunization site, starting Saturday. With 2200 doses the first day, hoping to eventually give 20,000 shots per day as vaccines availability increases. Volunteers will be needed at many sites which can help you get access to a vaccine even if you don’t yet qualify. If you live here and need a vaccine go to this website https://www.seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19/vaccinations to register to get one. Get your jab so you can go and be with others and not spread the virus further.

Wash your hands, cover your nose, keep safe six, get your jab, and help out if you can.

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.

https://betsybrownmd.substack.com/p/march-11-2020

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/a-look-inside-the-army-field-hospital-at-centurylink-field-designed-to-help-medical-centers-swamped-by-coronavirus-patients/

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/as-coronavirus-spreads-king-county-recommends-avoiding-large-groups-working-remotely-when-possible/

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/inslee-sending-back-centurylink-field-hospital-to-federal-government-to-help-states-hit-harder-by-coronavirus/

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/03/11/world/covid-19-coronavirus/a-year-after-the-first-widespread-virus-outbreak-in-the-us-the-seattle-areas-success-shows-what-could-have-been

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/seattle-wants-to-vaccinate-22000-people-a-day-at-lumen-field-event-center-from-covid-19-that-effort-starts-saturday/

https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/health/volunteers-are-key-at-coronavirus-vaccine-sites-it-pays-off-with-a-shot/

https://www.seattle.gov/mayor/covid-19/vaccinations