May 17, 2020


We may feel like we are failing as a country, lots of disagreement, lots of disappointments, but we, the people, actually did an amazing job of caring for each other. The shelter in place we did made a huge difference in the epidemic. We should be feeling successful. We did it. You did it by staying home, washing your hands, staying 6 feet away, wearing masks. We crushed it, down from an estimate of up to 2 million deaths, we lowered that by a huge amount. Yes, we still might have 200,000 deaths by August 1, but it is not 2 million. Great job everyone, really.

We did it, but why does it feel like we failed? Some of it is negativity bias, which is we forget the positive and remember the negative. Part of it is that pockets of the country really suffered, like New York and New Orleans, part of it is that other parts are really suffering now, like the Navajo and other reservations, workplaces like meatpacking plants with increased infections and little safety measures, the economic and racial disparities that are so clearly an issue, nursing homes and retirement communities are suffering still. Part of it is the anger and denial that are forthcoming now. Add to that the economic suffering that is occurring. The other part, especially for me, is the disappointment in leadership and what has happened with the CDC, once a truly shining light to the world. This pandemic should not be political, we should all be doing what it takes. When both the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, the two most trusted and prestigious medical journals in the world, are calling out our national response, I feel ashamed. How will we recover?

Testing and contact tracing are the answer to keeping the pandemic at a dull roar as we start re-entry. There are some great ideas out there and lots of people willing to help. I do feel like it is time to re-enter and slowly put our feet in the water again.

The New Yorker has a very thoughtful article by Atul Gawande, which supports the recommendations that we are already following. It points out reassuring data from hospitals and other health care facilities regarding the very low level of transmissions occurring when the guidelines are followed. This is so reassuring. And my favorite Infectious Disease guru Paul Sax from Harvard has good advice about being outdoors. He says “But do go outside and get some fresh air. Don’t yell at the jogger across the street without a mask, or the person having a picnic in the park with their family — they are not going to infect you.” Sound advice.

And congratulate yourself, your friends, your families, your communities, we did this. It is always so easy to focus on the negative, but what we did was an amazing collective act of love.

Wash your hands, cover your nose.

Bonus link to an audio New England of Journal Medicine interview of how to find reliable information about COVID19

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.