I feel like I live in two alternative universes regarding COVID-19. Being in the South, being in lots of conservative circles, being an epidemiologist – I hear 2 very different narratives. One is what is actually happening on the ground in communities and hospitals. The other is a false narrative that we have been debunking from day one of this pandemic – but has been gaining steam with major cable network news outlets, personalities, and websites (Tucker Carlson, Tom Woods, Brietbart, AIER, Dr. Atlas, Sean Feucht are just some examples.) The problem is the false reality is being believed and now perpetuated by a lot of people – and healthcare systems are paying the price. Families are too. This is no longer fringe thought. This has become mainstream in many circles and is giving people a false sense of security. As examples – 2 million people flew for Thanksgiving over the weekend and 30% of parents said in a survey they are going to take the risk of getting COVID-19 just to see the grandkids. These are symptoms of the false narrative becoming mainstream. We have lost reality.
I want you to hear the reality on the ground.
Here’s the truth:
1. 50% of ALL US hospitals will have shortages in the next 2 weeks (NPR article). Healthcare workers are pleading with us and saying “no one is listening to us”. See the gut-wrenching article in the source below.
2. “𝐈𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐛𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐜𝐡, 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐚𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐧𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐟𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐮𝐜𝐞𝐭 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐦𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐠𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐞 𝐭𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐬𝐦𝐢𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧?” (𝐃𝐞𝐬 𝐌𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐞)
3. “I really wish there was some way for us to show people what the suffering looks like,” Kathuria says. “It doesn’t hit home until it hits home.” (Time article source).
4. Rural hospitals are being slammed in this surge – For example, one small hospital in Texas has room for 11 COVID-19 patients, but only room for 3 who need intensive care. They are now having to send patients to larger hospitals – but, those are full too. The doctors are looking for space at larger hospitals in Midland, Wichita Falls and Lubbock, then in Dallas, Denver, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City – even Kansas City, Missouri, more than 500 miles away.
5. In North Dakota, a rural hospital has space for four patients and others are sent to larger hospitals or neighboring states of South Dakota, Minnesota, or Montana. The CEO said, “Before COVID-19, “I don’t think I ever made a call to another hospital, administrator to administrator, begging them to take a patient,” Shahan said. “Lately his staff has had to call seven or eight hospitals to find a bed for critically ill patients.”
6. America’s MOST pandemic-prepared hospital is hurting too. You’ve probably heard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC). This is one of the most equipped hospitals in the US for pandemics – this is where Ebola patients and SARS patients have been sent. This hospital runs drills for pandemic readiness – so, they are the elite in terms of preparation for pandemics like COVID-19. -“In the past two weeks, the hospital had to convert an entire building into a COVID-19 tower, from the top down. It now has 10 COVID-19 units, each taking up an entire hospital floor… One unit solely provides “comfort care” to COVID-19 patients who are certain to die. “We’ve never had to do anything like this,” Angela Hewlett, the infectious-disease specialist who directs the hospital’s COVID-19 team, told me. “We are on an absolutely catastrophic path.” “We’re watching a system breaking in front of us and we’re helpless to stop it,” says Kelly Cawcutt, an infectious-disease and critical-care physician.
7. “We’re drowning.” These are heroes who are trained to take care of people. But, not at the pace and toll that COVID-19 is taking.
8. You’ve seen the tent hospitals and morgue trucks in West Texas (from Lubbock to El Paso). It’s hard to write about these since I have friends who are healthcare workers in these areas. They are exhausted. Some are sick. You know people in your area who are living this reality too, I bet.
9. This also affects the techs, janitorial staff, cafeteria workers, and other people working in the hospitals. This week, a beloved ER tech for 27 years in El Paso, Jose “Jojo” Sanchez, died from Covid-19 at age 74.
I could have filled this post with lots of similar stories as above. These are not isolated events or contained in certain parts of the country. This is widespread and creeping in rural areas where many of you live. This has nothing to do with whether or not our healthcare workers are capable. They are trained to take care of people and are modern-day heroes in this pandemic. But, they are tired and pleading with us. Let’s show up for them in solidarity. What we do now directly affects what happens in the next few weeks. If we take the risk for ourselves and families, those family members still go into the rest of society next week. They will go to school, church, workplaces, and the grocery store. This virus will follow us after Thanksgiving. Let’s stop it in its tracks by choosing to not believe the false narrative and act accordingly.
-Friendly (maybe frustrated?) neighbor epidemiologist
“Noone is listening to us” story: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/11/third-surge-breaking-healthcare-workers/617091/
Time article: https://time.com/5913620/covid-third-wave/ Hospital shortages: https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/medical/hospitals-nationwide-face-shortage-of-medical-staff-amid-spike-in-covid-19-cases/ar-BB1beiV2?fbclid=IwAR2OnIwTrAwC2kEkQjqJZOhpDfZuiaLR3gIjDjP8MNOnF4eDhq4Yfz-jK2A
El Paso ER Tech, Jose Sanchez: read://https_kvia.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fkvia.com%2Fhealth%2F2020%2F11%2F23%2Fthe-kindest-soul-you-could-ever-meet-beloved-el-paso-er-tech-dies-of-covid-19%2F
1 in 3 parents saying it’s worth the risk to meet for Thanksgiving: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/1-in-3-parents-say-family-thanksgiving-gatherings-worth-the-risk-of-covid-19/ar-BB1bgAtI?ocid=uxbndlbing
How it started How it’s going: @kathryniveyy Twitter feed
Photo of nurses: In this Nov. 5, 2020, file photo, Deb Dalsing, nurse manager of the COVID-19 treatment unit at UW Health assists nurse Ainsley Billesbach with her personal protective equipment at the hospital in Madison, Wis. Conditions inside the nation’s hospitals are deteriorating by the day as the coronavirus rages through the country at an unrelenting pace. JOHN HART AP
Photo of Mr. Sanchez: Sanchez family via El Paso Matters Jojo Sanchez poses for this photo during a moment of levity at the hospital. https://kvia.com/health/2020/11/23/the-kindest-soul-you-could-ever-meet-beloved-el-paso-er-tech-dies-of-covid-19/