Answer: GOOD CALL, HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN
We’re learning COVID-19 is far from “just a flu.” If you’re done hearing about its seriousness, read on; if you want a quick summary, read this footnote.
Our greatest risk is overwhelming our already heavily-loaded health care system, especially hospitals. When they can’t treat severe cases the mortality rate shoots up. Postpone as many cases as possible, aiming for a vaccine as the goal post. Social distancing is the best way to flatten the curve.
Health Care Capacity
For 5 days I observed one of our community hospitals tune its front line response. I had elective surgery (badly needed, worked out great), and my hospital room was across the floor from the growing “COVID village.” Both facility and staff exemplified extensive planning and training we’ve grown to appreciate in our Puget Sound hospitals. But this hospital has a limited number of contagion controlling rooms with special air conditioning. Hospital staffing is already short. Once overwhelmed, we’re back to triage medicine – who do we save? Exhausted dehydrated medical workers get infected and removed from the frontlines, resulting in greater shortage.
Our medical capacity is the dike on the river of contagion. Spillovers increase mortality, because these are the people who need to be in the hospital.
Social Distancing Works, but We Need You to Participate
You can see the effect by comparing two cities during the 1918 flu, from this highly informative article. Every day of postponement can make a dramatic difference since infections are growing exponentially otherwise.
We join with Seattle sports fans in lauding the thoughtful yet rapid government action (Seattle Times “Good Call, Governor”), and the cooperation of business & civic leaders and residents.
Talking to Skeptics
It’s natural to be skeptical of taking aggressive action when the case rate seems low. However, note that the reported case rate is artificially low because of grossly inadequate testing. And until the infection rate is cut via Social Distancing, the contagion is spreading exponentially. With the context painted, the decisions make perfect sense.
So, next time you hear somebody complaining about overreaction, paint them some context and suggest they spread the word.
Notes to Ourselves
As we look back on this crisis and review our readiness, we’ll learn a great deal.
- High on that list should be our medical treatment capacity and resiliency in dealing with epidemics.
- Our unsolved poverty and homelessness amplifies our risks in a crisis like this, as the virus tears through chock-a-block shelters and camps, and leaves droves of gig workers without a gig or a way to get medical care as they get infected.
Meanwhile, next time you see a doctor, nurse or other medical worker, thank them for putting their bodies on the line.
…ended yesterday, and included funding for the COVID-19 response. We’ll follow up with more detailed analysis later.
GO GREEN SEATTLE Conference Postponed
 COVID is contagious well before the carrier has any sense of being infected. About 15% have been needing hospitalization, with 10x to 30x higher death rates than the flu. Actual case counts in our region are likely exceeding reports by ~10x because of inadequate test kits.