The media is reporting the division of “sides” people are taking when it comes to the pandemic. Political agendas are pervasive and infiltrate people’s thoughts around COVID-19. As a physician, I think it’s important that patients have facts media may not report. Two key numbers are driving behaviors around COVID-19: The positivity and death rates. While important, these numbers don’t describe the main impact of the virus: Thousands of problems, loss, illnesses, and injuries that live between a positive test and a death rate in a person infected with coronavirus. This morbidity is the bread-and-butter of what we do every day. It’s what requires millions of dollars’ worth of healthcare every year, hours of labor and lost wages, destruction of family’s income, grief, and despair. What’s hurting our economy just as much is morbidity.
Coronavirus is causing blood clots, strokes in people who wouldn’t normally be at risk, and significant respiratory problems that don’t allow healthy people to walk up a flight of stairs; attacking hearts, causing young people to suffer from heart failure; leading to kidney problems and respiratory failure; and causing such extreme fatigue that people can’t go back to work for weeks or even months. You can imagine what that would do to your family: lost wages, lost jobs, stressed coworkers who have to pick up the slack, fewer resources, loss of ability to take care of or teach children or take care of elderly parents.
The public doesn’t read about these things in the statistics, because these are not being captured by every health system; we are overwhelmed treating these issues, and also, the media can’t report on individual morbidity for privacy reasons. I want my community to know this. I wish all of us would understand the importance of wearing a mask. Because here’s the most important thing: we can actually stop morbidity from rising. We can stop the spread of the virus. Simple, routine actions have the power to allow kids to return to school, businesses to bounce back, and us to get back to shopping, eating out, traveling, and all things we love and need. If we all make things like wearing a mask, social distancing, and not gathering inside in large groups a priority, we can change the course. And isn’t that what we want? People are going to read this and accuse me of spreading fear. Or politicizing. I am not a fearful person, nor do I consider myself overtly political. I am a doctor, and I am an advocate for my community to be healthy. I want to encourage you that it’s within our power. I’m coming from a position of expertise—but also a position of love. Love for you and love for one another.
A full version of the following was originally posted at becomebraveenough.com.
Sasha K. Shillcutt, MD, MS, FASE, Associate Professor, Vice Chair of Strategy and Innovation, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Nebraska Medical Center