I’ve noticed through this pandemic that I am between 1-3 weeks ahead of our government. I cancelled travel in February, and started cleaning out my pantry and restocking. I started telling people to cancel their trips, stock their pantries, and get medications a few weeks later – before the news and CDC suggested it. And a couple weeks ago I stopped seeing patients in my office and went entirely to remote patient care.
I haven’t been to a store since early march and when groceries get delivered I spray them down with rubbing alcohol and wash my hands after putting them away. My daughter has been home from school for the same amount of time because she had a cold and I wasn’t willing to expose her classmates and teachers.
Am I being extreme? I’m not in a panic, I’m simply doing my best to lead by example. And while Newsom’s shelter in place order tells me I can keep working, I think it’s the wrong thing to do.
Don’t I think Osteopathic Medicine is important?
Of course I do, it’s my life passion. I see how it heals people when I put my hands on them. I’ve watched illness, pain and chronic conditions evaporate under my hands. And I love talking to people, guiding them, and giving treatments. But right now what we need is for people not to get this virus. We need as many healthy physicians as possible. We need our medical centers to be free of patients who do not have emergent health crisis.
And here’s the way it would look, if I was still working: I see one person who is infected, and without symptoms, and every single person that walks in the door after that gets infected. Even if the children got mild illnesses from this, who would they infect when they went home? How many of their parents have cardiovascular disease or diabetes? How many of them see their grandparents? And the grownups in my practice? Of course some are immune compromised, and those that aren’t, what if they end up in the hospital?
I have sanitizers and cleaners in my office. I wash my hands and spray down the table after use. Isn’t that enough?
But, if a patient wants to risk it, that’s their choice, right? If they are under 65 won’t they be fine?
Here’s the truth: In the countries who’ve been hit before us, 50% of the people in the hospital with severe disease, needing respiratory support, are between 20-50. Do they survive? Yes overwhelmingly, people under 65 even needing hospitalization are surviving, if they get the medical care they need.
But here’s more sobering truth: hospital beds are already nearly full with people with the flu, cardiac issues, with other illnesses that are unrelated to coronavirus. And in Italy doctors are being forced to remove treatments from patients over 65 to treat those under 50. These doctors will, for the rest of their lives, remember having to make the choice about who lives and who dies.
Governor Newsom is predicting that up to half of all Californians will get this virus. This thing is real and we have to make sacrifices now.
I mean to be alarmist. Because what I am seeing is that we are faced with some horrible decisions and some people aren’t making the right ones. We are looking at a major crash in our economy and that is not simply some abstract budget of trillions of dollars that the government will lose a vacation over. We are talking about businesses closing – our families our friends, you, or someone you know, closing the doors of their business. We already face the impact of our fire season on the local economy, how will we weather shutting businesses for several months?
I don’t have an answer. I am trying to figure out how to keep my office, when the truth is my practice has an extremely high overhead. And even if I close the doors of my office, I will continue to have expenses to just to remain a licensed physician. Even as I offer virtual consultation, my income, of course like everyone else’s, will drop to nearly 0. There is simply no way to avoid this reality. But it isn’t a reason to risk lives.
That’s the truth, decreasing the number of deaths requires making these kinds of choices. I’m willing. Are you?