The moving target, COVID-19


I write this article today, about a month into quarantine to hopefully mitigate some of the pessimism surrounding COVID-19 and to hopefully provide another source of information for college students to form an opinion on, rather than the ever so ignorant information they see daily on Twitter. With that being said, I am the furthest thing from an expert regarding how to handle a pandemic situation like that, nor should I be an expert. Frankly, none of us should be as this is the first pandemic we have witnessed in our lives. 


However, I do believe there is an attitude we should have, specifically towards the way we are approaching handling the pandemic itself. I have always been one to never jump at the first bit of information I see, which I believe is extremely important at a time like this. If someone who loathes their own country wants to retweet a tweet that says “The United States has more cases than country X, therefore we are handling it poorly and need to blame the president!” Not true, they may just have less testing available or are less transparent about disseminating their data. 

Or, if someone sees a video of Dr. Fauci giving a weird look to Trump that was skewed into a trend of Dr. Fauci not being aligned with Trump, nothing is stopping them from spreading that information. It becomes a problem when agreeing with those tweets sparks a fire, and more energy is put into creating a divisive environment rather than trying to do something to help prevent the spread itself.  We have been instructed to do nothing. Put the phone down and pick up a book, and you can say you’ve had a productive day because you’re doing what needs to be done, stay inside. 


Turn the pessimism into optimism. I don’t mean to say think of this as a good situation, because it’s not. We have lost loved ones, lost jobs, and lost many other tangible and intangible aspects of life. But, we shouldn’t waste the little energy we do have into creating a hateful and pessimistic atmosphere during these trying months. No one knew something of this magnitude would happen. Reporters on both sides of the political spectrum never thought this would happen. 


I, as someone who will be working in healthcare, never thought this would happen, and didn’t think people should freak out about it. This was at the very beginning of March. An emergency physician I spoke with to pick his brain about COVID-19 said he thought the same, and he used the phrase “over sensationalizing it”. This was at the very beginning of March, and he was actually in Spain at that time. However, and this applies to both of us, it only took a short week after that when cases started to become more and more transparent in the vulnerable country of Italy when we knew this was something to be taken very very seriously. 


So, to those that think we could have reacted quicker, I could bet you didn’t think we should close down our country in late February. All opinions aside though, and this is where I hope to bring some optimism, I wanted to ask the previously stated physician what the atmosphere is like in the hospital during this time. At first, he said it was incredibly eerie. This was due to the sheer ambiguity of the whole situation. When will this hit us? Will it hit us? How hard will it hit us? Those were frequent questions, and still are day in and day out which can be daunting. However, he seemed to be comfortable and confident in our system, which was nice to hear. I asked about PPE and he stated they had enough. I asked about intubation, and he said they only use it if necessary, just as they would before. So, regarding practice, they’re not going in blindly and are confident in treating patients just as they were if the patient just had normal shortness of breath secondary to say, COPD. 


I then asked about the system as a whole and got some interesting insight there. When I asked about capacity, he shared some measures that are being taken. First, they, as well as many other hospitals, have canceled elective surgery to clear up space for patients that need intubation and acute care for COVID-19 symptoms. These surgeries could consist of hip replacements, ligament repairs, etc. Anything that’s not an emergency. Also, he stated that many patients with COVID-19 are being referred to specific hospitals, allowing easier analysis of volumes needed, ventilators needed, etc. This also allows for the isolation of positive patients, protecting our providers dealing with patients of their own.  


All in all, after talking to him, he seemed confident, was poised, and hopeful that this will blow over. I could tell he was also extremely confident in the care he’s able to deliver, which I expected from him as I have been there with him on the front lines, and his practice is superb. So, going forward, I hope to see less of “We should have done that” or “We should have done this”, because we are all struggling together, and playing the blame game won’t help. We have the brightest minds in healthcare fighting for us, and a leader that has taken every piece of advice Dr. Fauci and his team have recommended. Whether you believe it or not, we are in good hands. 


The term “moving target” was used in the phone call with the ED physician when describing the virus. This is extremely accurate. It is extremely hard to combat something this infectious without awful consequences following, but we can sure try to make sure to reduce those consequences, both economically and on a public health aspect. As I said before, we are in good hands. So for now, stay at home, stay safe, be hopeful, but be aware. These are trying times for everyone, and I pray for you to stay safe and healthy over these next few months.