No One Thought This Through - Letter to the Editor
Covid-19 brought with it panic, and the wrong solutions.
Shutting the country down isn’t a solution. It should have never been our solution. Some politicians simply panicked and copied China and South Korea. We are not China. We have a better hospital infrastructure and are not a command-and-control, tyrannical government. Nor are we a small state like South Korea, tolerant of authoritarianism, with a pre-existing national testing infrastructure.
Instead of tackling the coronavirus with apt solutions for America, we’ve been held hostage by panic and politics, with devastating costs.
“Flattening the curve” was meant to spread the same number of cases out over a longer period of time, not eliminate cases.
Our best chance at reducing deaths is to not overwhelm hospitals and hospital staff.
The equation we’re looking for is hospitalization cases = hospital capacity. Our mission is to find this balance, protect hospital staff and serve the vulnerable. We don’t need to shut down the country to accomplish this mission.
Our kneejerk shutdown is causing a torrent of other crises, including millions losing health insurance as they lose their livelihoods. Why was the shutdown our answer?
We’ve spent trillions. Are our hospitals prepared? Are we serving our vulnerable?
Or, are we creating millions more vulnerable people?
What have we done besides serve panic and politics?
Testing! Testing! Testing! will not save us.
Widespread testing was never practical. We didn’t have the capacity from the beginning. We will have widespread testing, but not for many months. We don’t have the PPE nor personnel, and demands to open up a wild west of testing have given us unreliable kits.
In any case, people can test positive over and over, and for months at a time!
Many who push widespread testing insist that we also surveil and quarantine those who test positive. Is government quarantine the right place for your family members who test positive? In the words of one man who’s spent over 3 months in Wuhan’s industrial quarantine blocks, “I can’t take this anymore!”
Trace and quarantine isn’t the right solution for America! That doesn’t mean there is no solution! Our choices aren’t: widespread testing or hiding; hiding or dying of COVID-19; nor hiding or a vaccine.
Those shouting that we have no other choices shouldn’t be trying to lead during a crisis.
We are serving panic and politics, not the hospitals and vulnerable.
Epidemiologists knew the virus would spread widely, affect mostly older and sick populations, and be with us indefinitely.
From early February, epidemiologists also knew that the high 3-4% death rate was unique to Hubei, where the virus started. It was high for three reasons: counting only the very sick, not knowing how to care for patients, and overwhelmed hospitals. Outside Hubei, death rates were 0.4%, according to NPR. We can expect our death rate to be lower than that when we do get a clearer understanding of infection rates (which are proving high), and if our hospitals are prepared.
Our lowest-ranking healthcare facilities are being hit the hardest. Half of our cases are in New York City, which ranks 47th out of 50 in patient safety, according to the New York Public Interest Research Group. Twenty percent or more are in nursing homes – and, according to NC Policy Watch, nursing homes with the worst health and safety rankings.
Doctors are still begging us to focus on our original mission: preparing hospitals, including support for over-stressed staff, for the inevitable cases to come.
Prepare our hospitals, protect our hospital staff, serve our vulnerable, and open our economy.