Prologue - Some Facts
Designed for low attention spans. See end for sources.
- Peak Death Rate in the United States will be on or around April 14, with a likely number of 2,300 per day.
- Total deaths in the US by one study could be as low as 40,000 or as high as 170,000, with an expected number around 80,000 deaths. This lines up with predictions of up to 1,000,000 infections in the US in the next few months.
- Even if you don't get the virus, it will overwhelm many hospital systems, and patients needing non-Covid urgent treatment will not only have reduced medical assistance, but will be brought into increased contact with the virus.
- Most urban centers will be in isolation until May.
- The symptoms are fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Do not seek medical attention unless you need medical care to assure your safety.
- This isn't the Flu! The flu doesn't have doctors sleeping away from their families, or the federal government ordering manufacturers to produce goods in the name of national defense.
Reports from the Field
The Curve Is Not Flat Enough
The coronavirus is quickly overwhelming New York City. Here are some quotes on what is happening, based on this superb article in The Atlantic.
Speaking to a former Army doctor who has researched the spread of infectious disease:
I asked him to think back to the Disease X war game. The coronavirus “is much worse than what I had envisioned,” he said. “You never think the planets are going to align. You get used to the near misses. I’m taken aback by the scope, the speed, and how relentless it is. It’s amazing.”
The shortage of ventilators, and people dying without their families:
Already, ventilators in New York City are in short supply. “Everything is chaotic, and the staff is stretched really thin,” one physician wrote to me yesterday. She has had to pronounce two people dead who have been utterly alone, owing to the rule against visitors that hospitals have established for COVID-19 patients. “It’s really eerie and sad to have no family or visitors around to grieve their deaths,” she told me.
The tough decisions doctors will have to face if Covid-19 overwhelms their ICU:
The instructions could be as strict as age limits for intensive care, or withholding care from people who have the lowest chance of survival, such as those suffering from heart failure or emphysema. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that Northwestern University’s medical center, in Chicago, was considering putting every patient with COVID-19 on “do not resuscitate” (DNR) status. This would mean that if their heart stops, no “code blue” would called; instead, a time of death would be noted.
A New York Doctor’s Warning
I do not want to see you in my hospital. I do not want you to go to any hospital in the United States. I do not want you to leave your home, except for essential food and supplies. I do not want you to get tested for the coronavirus, unless you need to be admitted to a hospital.
Our ventilators are almost all in use, and the ICUs are at capacity. Although our hospital has received extra vents here and there from other hospitals in the region that can spare them, those few additions are merely a stopgap. Will we soon have patients sharing vents?
I recommend reading both articles in their entirety. These highlights are to get your attention, but they are not exaggerations out of context.
Personal Note - I am not taking this seriously enough.
I feel guilty after reading these articles. I am keeping clean, maintaining social distance, and avoiding contact with common surfaces. But I'm still getting food once every other day from a restaurant. I go on walks with people. In light of the severity of the NYC outbreak, should I be locked in my house for the next three weeks?
The answer might be "no" for you or me individually, because "I am careful enough". But I tell you what: I've seen a lot of other people who are not careful enough. And they put me, and everyone else, at risk. So absolutely, we should all be away from others as much as possible. If not for our own safety, then to set the example for all the dirty open-sneezers to feel bad going out, too!
If you have an alternate or additional perspective you'd like to share, and are qualified to do so (member of the medical community or emergency response), contact me on Facebook or email me - wonk at wannabewonk.com