Sigh. I don’t know how to say this without coming across as a complete a-hole, but when epidemiologists, the majority of physicians, public health experts, etc. are all recommending major social distancing measures in order to prevent the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. from looking like that in Italy or Iran, you may want to listen and take heed.
We are not a group generally known to be alarmists. We routinely deal with illness, death, and very high-pressure situations. We’re not known to overreact, and we’ve spent a decent portion of our adult lives training and practicing to become experts in our respective fields. None of us want to cancel our vacations or scramble to figure out how to get care for our kids because schools are closed or miss out on an event we’ve been looking forward to; and we’re not denying that true social distancing measures are going to be rough. We are endorsing these measures because saving lives is more important than going on vacation. Saving lives is more important than the NBA or March Madness. And I think you would agree that if one of the lives saved belongs to a loved one or even yourself, saving lives is more important than the unfortunate economic burden these changes will require.
I have no idea how to stress how important this is. Since the first cases started happening in the U.S., trust that I have not been out buying toilet paper stashes or bottled water. I have been obsessively reading and learning about this virus. What does it look like when it is mild? What do critical cases look like? Can we predict who will do better or worse? Which countries have done a good job of minimizing the disease impact, and how did they do that? I have been participating in a physician group where we share what information we have to offer and what we are seeing on the ground. We want to save lives: the lives of you and your family members, and our own lives as well. Remember that we are the ones who will be exposed to this virus over and over again. We are the ones who know what health care resources our country has, and we also know that if we do nothing, the exponential spread of this virus will overwhelm our resources.
Please listen to the experts. Help us save lives. Please do not turn this into a political issue or minimize it with your opinion that this is “just like the flu.” When a crisis occurs involving your area of expertise, I will be sure to listen and defer to your advice. I humbly ask that you listen and defer to us now as we try to save your life. If you’ve read this far, thank you.
Sara Shelton Kerley is a family physician.
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