I’m not sure everyone fully appreciates the extreme risk we are facing from COVID19 so I am going to write a little bit about why this situation is so critical and why I have been working so hard to get others to understand. It is, admittedly, hard for us to grasp the danger when we have not actually seen or personally experienced what is happening in our midst.
We are probably about 10-14 days behind Italy in our trajectory. It is likely that the virus is silently spreading, which we don’t realize, as very few tests have been done in the U.S. overall. And because of the long incubation period, we are discovering confirmed cases only after someone becomes seriously ill and it is all but certain that many others have been exposed. Additionally, the guidelines for when to administer the test are narrow, so that those who should be tested are not being tested.
We know that serious concern is the capacity of our healthcare system to manage a surge in cases. Here are some numbers for Boston:
- The population of Greater Boston about 4.9 million
- Available hospital beds in Eastern Massachusetts = 2,500
- Available ICU beds = 150
- Assume 40% will get sick (estimates range from 20 to 60 % of the global population) = 1.96 million in Greater Boston
- Assume 20% of those will need hospitalization = 380,000
- Assume 4% will need the ICU = 76,000
2,500 hospital beds will be available for the 380,000 who need them; only 150 ICU beds will be available when we need 76,000. We have many fewer beds than they have in Italy and we have fewer doctors per capita as well. The discrepancy between beds and need is why it is so important to “flatten the curve” (see below) which we can do by washing our hands diligently (better than hand sanitizer), using hand sanitizer when we can’t, creating social distance, and limiting travel. We are trying to build the capacity of the health care system to care for those who become seriously ill from the virus. We know the elderly and immunocompromised are most at risk, but it is NOT said that you or one of your loved ones won’t be one of those who need that hospital or ICU bed no matter how healthy you currently are and we want to make sure you get it. Read this article:https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/03/13/world/asia/coronavirus-death-life.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage
This is my recommendation: Do NOT go out more than is essential, e.g. grocery stores and pharmacies. You are okay to go outside if you get cabin fever but make sure to create social distance and stick to all the CDC’s recommendations. Do NOT go to the movies, the gym or your local bookstore. Do not have playdates. Be fanatical about hygiene.
These measures are meant to flatten the curve, i.e. increase the capacity of our healthcare system to manage this pandemic. Hopefully, this will also buy scientists time to develop an antiviral medication and immunization as well.
Here is an information sheet from Children’s Hospital about Covid-19 that you are welcome to share with families:
If you develop symptoms of Covid-19, please call your doctor’s office. Keep in mind that most individuals who develop coronavirus will have mild to moderate symptoms and will be caring for themselves at home so please do NOT panic.
– Susan Arase, RN