I am not a political person. I am a truth, equality, and justice person. The stock market is the primary source of the money that I live on. I am being hurt by the deflating economy, likely more so than many, as I am no longer in the paid workforce. Also, I am a medical doctor who has advanced training in microbiology; It is with these facts that I write the following.
I am 67 years old, and I have been horrified by what is being promoted by some politicians in high office, as well as popular conservative commentators. There are two prongs to their comments. The first one is that the economy needs to be restarted in a few weeks. The second is that it is OK for high-risk individuals (those over 60 years old) to sacrifice their lives by returning to work early so that the next generation can live in a prosperous America.
The above statements are not only incredibly insensitive, but they are patently false. Let me expand on this.
There are over 50 million Americans who are over the age of 60. Many of us still do paid work, and many others do unpaid work. In this last week, I fixed my sister’s Mac (over the phone) and fixed my daughter’s Windows computer that had a Trojan virus. I shopped, made dinners, cleaned the house, offered support to those close to me via Facebook, Facetime, and the phone, and did countless other useful things. My housekeeping work has allowed my wife (who is a practicing Clinical Psychologist) to continue to work with patients who need her support and counsel. I don’t see my 67-year-old life as being useless. However, because I’m older and a male, my chance of dying from Covid-19 is tremendously higher than younger individuals.
We have had other times in our history where we “sacrificed” others for what we claimed was the greater good. We enslaved Africans to provide cheap labor. We infected Native Americans with Cholera by giving them infected blankets. During the Great Depression, we forced Hispanics Americans to move to Mexico to open up jobs for whites. Many of these individuals didn’t even speak Spanish. During WWII, we forced Japanese Americans into concentration camps and claimed their property and possessions. These are just some examples of how easy it is to devalue life, especially if that devaluation doesn’t impact us. Apparently, the secret is to take away from those who are most vulnerable as they are less likely to put up a fuss.
Dying from Covid-19 is not a peaceful and romanticized “Soylent Green” death. In many cases, the virus, combined with an overactive immune system, destroys the lungs. This results in a slow and painful suffocation death. When your breathing starts to shut-down, the only recourse is to use a mechanical breathing device to assist you. In other words, a respirator. A respirator can’t save everyone, but it can save many. Naturally, it can’t resolve the lung damage that is resultant from the illness. Many who require respiratory support will likely have permanent lung damage, even if they fully recover from the virus.
We do not have a medication treatment for this illness, despite what you may be hearing from unqualified individuals. Medical professionals are exploring many options, but none have enough data to suggest that they should be used in treating this illness. Promoting false information has resulted in shortages for patients who need medications to treat diseases that do respond to these drugs. A man in Arizona died, and his wife is in critical care after taking industrial chloroquine to “protect” himself from Covid-19. It is easy to believe false information when it comes to an influential authority figure. No one made this couple foolishly ingest aquarium cleaner, but the seed of the idea started from those most high.
We can assume that those individuals who are promoting the “sacrifice” of an entire generation will be protected by their wealth and status. They claim to be on the front line, but is that true? If they are working, it can be assumed that they are doing so in safe and shielded spaces. If they somehow succumb to the illness, they will be guaranteed testing and hospitalization. If they need a respirator, one will be found. The same cannot be said of millions of others.
There are also the utterly false assumptions that younger people are immune to Covid-19, or that Covid-19 is just another flu. In situations where the health care system is operating efficiently, the lethality rate of Covid-19 is about ten times that of the flu. In countries where the health care system is overwhelmed (such as Italy), it is over 100 times more lethal. Let that number sink in…ONE HUNDRED TIMES MORE LETHAL. This is NOT the common flu.
We are told that more people die in car accidents than will die from Covid-19. This is probably false. Besides, the same statement could be made when looking at the number of people who were killed during the 911 crisis. Should we have ignored that crisis based on a comparison to motor vehicle deaths? Of course not.
Since we have no currently known effective treatments for this disease, we are left with only two options. The first is to reduce the number of active cases in the system. This is accomplished by reducing the number of infections, and we are all familiar with the drill… socially isolate, shelter-in-place, wash your hands. The second is to provide supportive medical care to give our bodies a chance to heal themselves. This is where hospitalization and possible ventilator treatment comes in.
The above actions buy time to explore which of the many proposed treatments help (so that beneficial protocols can be established). And the time to develop a vaccine against this coronavirus. Also, they reduce the number of patients being admitted to the hospital, which hopefully will keep the death rate around ten times that of the flu, instead of 100 (or more) times.
To relax social isolation, shelter-in-place, and other epidemiological protocols early WOULD (not could) cause a devastating increase in the number of infections, which surely would overpower our medical system resulting in a many-fold increase in the deaths of not only seniors but all other age groups.
To think otherwise is to ignore historical facts. During 1918 Spanish flu, the city fathers of Phillidelphia decided to continue with a war-bonds parade/rally despite the powerful objection of health officials. At the same time, St. Louis followed medical advice and shut down the city. Within weeks of the parade, 4,500 Philadelphians were dead from the virus. This death rate was over twice as high as in St. Louis. Social distancing does work… why can’t we learn a lesson that was proven in our own country over 100 years ago? This is not a time in history where we should rely on a “hunch,” we have facts. By the way, why are we not seeing the CDC… the Center For Disease Control being more active? They should be as prominent as our president during this crisis.
This is a challenging and trying time for our entire planet. However, I do believe that we will develop effective treatments and a vaccine for this virus. Just as importantly, we will (hopefully) reinstitute the roles of science, logic, and common sense so we can contain the next viral outbreak, which will surely come.
I am not willing to sacrifice my life for a temporary bump in the economy (and, most certainly, a crash when an exponential increase in Covid-19 cases crushes our population). We are not sheep; we need to use our minds and real data to make decisions that help both ourselves and our country. And yes, it will be hard times.
So am I being selfish by wanting to live and to continue to contribue to our country? Is having a consumer oriented country more important than 50 million older adults? I asked my daughter this question, “Would you rather have me around or the latest iPhone?” Thankfully, she choose the former.