COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc upon the USA. We have just passed the milestone of 2,000,000 cases and the very depressing occurrence of over 114,000 deaths. It is projected that the US will have lost 140,000 people by this July 4th. We are beginning to see the results of reopening and Memorial Day activities. Utah, Oregon, and Nashville, TN. have paused their reopening efforts. Fourteen states are showing an increase in cases of 25% or more. Phoenix, AZ. and Montgomery, AL. are nearing their ICU bed capacity. Note that the impact of the hundreds of thousands of Americans involved in righteous protests over the last two weeks will be realized soon. Many states, now including Ohio, allow for testing on request. If you have been involved in protests, it would be prudent for you to be tested for COVID-19 7-10 days after your participation in protest activity. Protect others by self-isolating or at least by wearing a mask when around others until the test result is known. Additionally, the economic impact of this health pandemic is still being felt, as it will be long lasting. If you are not able to be tested, then self-isolate for 14 days. Approximately 44 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits, including 1.5 million over the last week.
We know that people are becoming not only tired of hearing/reading about social distancing, wearing a mask, hand washing, and surface cleaning, but also of complying with these measures. It is remarkable that we have done so well with compliance and thus “the curve has flattened in the USA. With that said, our case numbers have only plateaued as a country and this is still no time to let our guard down. A very recent CDC telebriefing and a press conference yesterday confirms that it is not appropriate to conduct large gatherings because of the ongoing threat of spreading this novel coronavirus. Additionally, the CDC’s guidance (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019) reconfirms that COVID-19 spread increases as the number of people in a group become larger and the longer period of time people are exposed to each other. Gatherings which are outdoors lessen the risk of spread but does not eliminate the risk. The CDC recommends wearing a mask or face covering when unable to partake in proper social distancing. Yet it is recognized that people are experiencing a “quarantine fatigue” so mask wearing, social distancing, and hand hygiene, though applauded, are being openly disregarded. This type of abandonment citizenry behavior is being green lighted by top figures in the federal administration that publicly disregards the preventative measures that have brought the country this far. They are reverting to the same science denying, head in the sand, “moving on”, mentality that many say resulted in the severe health and economic impacts under which our country is currently suffering. There is no policy prescription to address the 2.4 times higher death rate among African Americans vs white Americans from COVID-19. There is no national policy to compensate for the unequal economic impact of the virus nor to address PPE needs of working people and the public.
Be that as it may, it is incumbent upon each of us to take individual control of our own health and the health of those around us. This pandemic is nowhere close to being over! Clearly, we all would like to return to the socialization aspects of our lives that predated the pandemic. The opportunity for as many people as possible to still be alive and healthy until there is a cure or vaccine is dependent on our behavior. Although we are weary, we must remain vigilant and follow CDC guidelines. The vulnerable need to be extra careful.
Clyde E. Henderson, MD
Cincinnati Medical Association