May 31, 2020

Looking back

Looking back to late February and early March in Seattle, we had messaging from some of the virologists at our research institutes that wondered if the virus had actually been circulating for 6 weeks or more which meant that the numbers of infected were about to explode. Microsoft and Amazon immediately had their employees start working from home. The medical community started gearing up for a huge surge. Soon, the schools were closed and the city shut down and the surge never exploded. We were lucky. This article in the New York Times explains what happened and the differences in the outbreaks in New York and Italy. For Seattle, the urgency of the specter of the virus silently spreading was lifesaving. The conjecture about when it really did arrive has been confusing over the past few months. I think this article clarifies the situation. And let me reiterate. We were lucky because of those early analyses. I expected overwhelmed hospitals and ICU’s.

For me, I see the confusion with my patients and the results of their COVID-19 antibody testing. Many patients think they had it- an unexplained illness with cough and other symptoms in either January, February or March. But so far, everyone of my patients that had symptoms in January and early February that I have tested, are negative for antibodies, only one positive so far in late February and a handful in March. Interesting results that are in line with these analyses.

The big questions for the future, especially the fall, are about the return to school. We are learning more about transmission and symptoms in children, so these are good questions to consider, especially since the data shows that closing schools made a difference. Tough to think about closing schools again though.

But that is why mask wearing is important. I know that early on their effectiveness and usefulness was not clear, which gave mixed messages. Many people use that argument now to decline to wear a mask. This very good analysis in the reliable Annals of Internal Medicine supports that they decrease transmission and are effective. Data may help some that are reluctant to wear masks. I am looking forward to seeing how the masks protected the clients at the hair salon in Springfield Missouri who were exposed by the stylist. I am hoping that they cut down on infections.

We are all in this together, even more so with the divisions erupting in our country. Data helps, kindness is key, wearing masks is actually a gift to others and not a weakness. Anyone who says otherwise is suffering a lack of self esteem and concern for others. Concern for others besides just ourselves is how we move forward toward healing and recovery.

Wash your hands, cover your nose.

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.