The Coronavirus Pandemic is horrible, terrible, and heartrending. I have, like so many others, lost dear friends and colleagues. The prediction of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the United States from COVID-19, despite mitigation and “flattening the curve,” is dreadful and disconcerting. Yes, this part is doom and gloom. As a physician, I feel the pain, suffering, and devastation harder than most. I have family members fighting the virus in the trenches and frontlines as doctors and nurses. They deserve our praise and good wishes. Nothing has prepared us for this moment.
This is the bad news, but there are signs of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. I have much to say on the subject of what could have and should have been done. This is not the time. I also have a serious opinion about the Chinese cover-up and mismanagement of the coronavirus. Some might recall the expression “China Syndrome,” related to a nuclear meltdown disaster. I think it is more appropriate here. Once the pandemic is over, there will be plenty of time to analyze and scrutinize China’s culpability.
One sure thing to come out of all of this is that reliance on China for necessities was way beyond anyone’s imagination. N95 masks, vital antibiotics, anti-malarials like Hydroxychloroquine and other lifesaving medications all came from China. America will not tolerate this dependence in the future.
Another side benefit is that people are refocused on the important things in life, like health and job security, in addition to family and G-d Almighty. This has been a tremendous wakeup call. All of our lives needed a reboot. Technology was consuming us. This puts everything into perspective. This is a dose of reality that is shocking and life-changing. To say that people’s heads were not screwed on right is a major understatement.
Even the people who disliked the President have to admit how sincere and down-to-earth he actually is.
His daily Task Force press briefings have been a lesson in transparency, civics, and empathy. He gets very high marks for the way he manages these conferences. It is not a wonder why these are viewed by more people than the most popular TV shows, and some have gone on for three hours. Even the media has been much less hostile. Perhaps they are learning a thing or two about respect and fairness.
The polarization of America can be directly attributed to the media’s bias, misinformation, and agenda. During the pandemic, Americans just won’t tolerate it any longer. Hopefully, it will carry over to the post-pandemic period.
There is no question that healthcare workers and hospitals need more masks, face shields, gowns, and gloves, and patients need more ventilators. No one could have predicted a crisis of this magnitude and severity. America is indeed stepping up to the plate and being a beacon of hope to the rest of the world.
The good news is that it will end. Society has been transformed in the process. Life will never be the same, just as it wasn’t the same after the September 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks. I don’t expect anyone, after this is over, to be allowed onto a plane or into another country without proof that he or she is immune to COVID-19 (this will happen as soon as antibody testing becomes available) – “immune passports” or do not carry the virus (via swab testing).
We learned a lot about the coronavirus from the Diamond Princess Cruise Ship. It had 3,711 passengers and crew. Among them, 712 people were infected; 18 percent of all infected people had no symptoms. Seven people died – approximately one percent of those infected.
Although we are not necessarily able to extrapolate how cities like New York will behave, it does give a rough idea of expectations. The good news is that only approximately 20 percent were infected. Some have said that this percentage could go to 70 percent of the population, but even the Spanish flu of 1918 involved 33 percent of the population. The Diamond Princess Cruise ship was felt, because of its confined space, to be more likely to infect its passengers than most cities. With mitigation, there is no reason to think that more than 20 percent of people in big cities will be infected.
In addition, many more people were exposed in New York long before mitigation efforts were instituted. This could increase the percentage of those infected, but at the same time it will probably mean that New York will be up and running sooner than other cities in America. Only when antibody tests are available, will we know for sure. I cannot stress enough how important the antibody testing will be.
Ultimately, the vaccine will be the main game-changer. Other countries will not hesitate to use a vaccine, once proven effective, a lot sooner than the year or year and a half than has been talked about. We must figure out how to fast-track that vaccine so we in the United States can do the same.
Joseph M. Frager is a physician and lifelong activist.