Posts Tagged ‘medical surge’

Whether you’ve realized it yet or not, WW III has started, and the enemy is the trickiest the world has faced in over 100 years. Like many wars, it started on foreign soils, so America felt safe in our geographic isolation. But over the last two months—before battle was even declared—it made a pre-emptive strike on cruise ships and airlines. It highjacked hapless travelers, infiltrated businesses and schools, and even poisoned nursing homes. And now it stands poised to attack one of the essential pillars of our society—healthcare.

The enemy is the coronavirus: SARS-CoV-2, to be exact.
The weapon: COVID-19

This illness, if not controlled, could attack over 60% of our population. Yet the real threat is not “getting sick.” After all, over 80% of those infected have “minimal” symptoms. The real threat is to our healthcare system.  Throughout the world, over 15% of symptomatic patients with COVID-19 require hospitalization, and at least a quarter of those require intensive care and ventilator support. If COVID-19 spread is not controlled quickly, the United States healthcare system could be overrun within the next 1-2 months, with consequences extending far beyond the care of COVID-19 patients.

Already, routine visits to the doctor feel dangerous and elective surgeries are being postponed.  As things worsen, hospitalized patients could be transferred to nursing homes to free up beds for incoming infections. If community providers are needed in hospitals, access to outpatient care declines.  Basic supplies and medications run short. Ambulances may not respond to car accidents or heart attacks.  You get the picture. COVID-19 has the ability to markedly limit health care for everyone, infected or not.

If you live in a community or state with only a few identified cases, this may be hard to believe. After all, you’ve been hearing about COVID-19 for weeks now but no one is sick and your hospitals are functioning normally. You are forced to trust experts and officials, and admittedly, the messaging has been mixed. But from an epidemiology standpoint, this pandemic is “textbook.” To control a virus like this, interventions need to be started weeks before the threat becomes visible.

Gearing up for War

War is painful. It damages economies, interrupts social structures, and kills people. War is also winnable, given effective leadership, use of all available resources, and full buy-in by citizens.

But victory takes time. Intelligence must be gathered, strategies planned, and soldiers (healthcare providers) deployed. New weapons must be developed—vaccines and treatments, in this case. To gain that time, urgent action is needed. We must suppress the virus quickly so that healthcare will survive until long-term solutions are found.

War requires sacrifice, particularly when it occurs on your own soil, yet most living Americans have never faced this. War creates economic hardship—loss of employment, closing of businesses, evaporation of investments. War interrupts social functioning on every level. War also means constant change, as battles wax and wane, and strategies evolve. Societies must adapt in order to survive war.

Most importantly, in war, the good of the community takes precedence over the wants of the individual. The freedom to eat what we want, travel where we wish, function on our own timelines—these “luxuries” cannot be assumed if they interfere with the war effort.

Notice I said “wants” of the individual, not “needs”. Part of a successful war effort ensures that essential needs—food, shelter, healthcare—are available to everyone, independent of age, socioeconomic status, or other factors. It will take time for our institutions to figure this all out. Meanwhile, the responsibility falls to us—family, neighbors, friends—community—to make sure no one falls through the cracks!

Our Best Weapon

For now, humanity’s best weapon is social distancing. As the battle zones shift, this could mean anything from avoiding large meetings to complete quarantine in your home. When you quickly and uncomplainingly follow these instructions, you not only fight the enemy.  You are protecting the troops—the healthcare workers who put their lives on the line to save yours!

How long will this go on? Months for sure, and maybe longer. Wars don’t come with an “end” date. Some of the strategies needed to save healthcare may even prolong the war. But it will eventually end, and humanity will recover. Maybe we’ll even learn some lessons in the process.

In the meantime, it comes down to you. What are you willing to sacrifice, not just to protect yourself, but to support our troops and keep society functioning?

Stay healthy.