COVID-19: Putting the Disruptions in our Lives in Perspective

As an ICU doctor, it’s all about the graph below

Image for post

My local high school has canceled classes. My daughter’s college will go to virtual classes until at least the first week of April. My place of worship has canceled religious services, and I told my father to skip them as well. I changed my schedule so I can attend a PTO fundraiser…until it was cancelled. We are preparing that our younger children’s school will also close and stay closed for a while.

The NCAA has cancelled March madness. The NBA has suspended its season. Several meetings have been cancelled in my own hospital, and we are working very hard on planning what to do in case a COVID-19 patient shows up. We have set up a tent outside of our ER. It is likely going to get much worse before it gets better.

I really understand why all this is happening, why authorities are canceling large events. It is really important that they do so.

Still, I really understand why all this is happening, why authorities are canceling large events. It is really important that they do so, and it is because of the graph below:

Image for post

All of these disruptions in our daily lives are occurring because we are trying — as hard as we can — to stop the virus from propagating. The more we do — by washing our hands (again, and again, and again), by coughing into our elbows, by staying home if we are sick , and limiting large gatherings — the more we can help slow down the progression of the virus. And when we can do that, we can help prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.

Delaying sports and other large gatherings are nothing in the big scheme of things if we can prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.

This is not only bad for those with COVID-19. There people who have heart attacks, strokes, other infections, cancer, and the like. They also need the hospital. If the local hospital is overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, then those other patients can’t get the vital care they need as well. This is a major problem.

If, however, we are patient with the disruptions and do all that we can to limit the spread, then hopefully we can contain the outbreak and have a situation characterized by the blue part of the graph.

Image for post

Yes, even in that blue graph situation, I will likely be very busy as a Critical Care physician. At the same time, I won’t have critically ill patients housed in the hallways, as is the case in other countries around the world. So, we need to be patient. And if these disruptions get worse, our employers, as well as our government, need to support us through these disruptions.

In the big scheme of things, delaying games and fundraisers and events are nothing when compared to protecting the country — especially its most vulnerable population — from the ravages of this disease. And it takes all of us to come together and take the disruptions to our daily life — very likely temporary — into stride. We will all be better, and safer, as a result.

Written by

NY Times featured Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist | Physician Leader | Author and Blogger | His latest book is “Code Blue,” a medical thriller.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store