Directly From the Frontlines: Part 4 – Guest Author Bidur Mukherjee, PT
How I wish I was wrong. How I wish I did not have to pick up my pen to write another sequel to this sad, unending story. Alas, my warning came true. As is pretty evident now: we are heading down a very dangerous route with record breaking new COVID cases every day.
Time and time again, patients who got hit hard by the disease have said what it felt like: “an elephant sitting on your chest” as it gets harder and harder to breathe. This is the perfect metaphor for what is happening today as this pandemic continues to deprive us from breathing normally as a society.
Before this article gets too heated, let me start out with a progress report of sorts. The PPE situation is significantly improved. However, the situation is far from the good old days of the past. PPE is being reused. I do not know of any healthcare professional in the country who is not having to reuse N-95 masks. That has become the new normal.
The testing situation has improved too. However, I am not certain if everyone in need of a test is able to get one in a timely manner. Are healthcare workers being tested regularly nationwide? The answer is a NO.
Healthcare workers have a genuine grievance against the media. The problem, as we are experiencing, is not being highlighted in the right perspective. Success stories of other countries find only passing mention here and there. Here is my humble attempt to bring it to you.
US population is only a little over 4% of the world population. But, we have 25% of the world’s COVID cases and about 25% of the world’s death toll. And our numbers continue to rise by the day. South Korea and the US had their first COVID cases on about the same day. S. Korea’s death toll is less than 300 and number of cases about 13,000 total. Multiply 6.5 times that to equalize for population (that would less than 2000 deaths and less than 90,000 cases) and does that even compare our 130,000 deaths and close to 3 million cases?
Let us look at densely packed Hongkong and Singapore. Hongkong : 7 deaths so far for 7.5 million population. Singapore: all total 26 deaths so far. New Zealand has had about 1500 cases, and 22 deaths. New Zealand had a very strict lockdown and then was able to declare itself coronavirus free way back on June 8th.
I am no statistician but as we all know, numbers do not lie. The sad truth is we have fallen behind the rest of the world in this fight. Our national strategy, if any, has been woefully, ridiculously, lacking. While there is by and large, no appetite for another painful lockdown – even in the healthcare community- is common sense precautions too much to ask for?
Healthcare workers are quietly doing their jobs, dealing with the surge in cases. In certain locations it is not a surge but a deluge of new patients. As per reports published a month back, at least 600 of us have already died in this country from COVID. We know we are at increased risk. And yes, uncomplainingly we are wearing masks throughout our shifts. In hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient settings, everywhere. We get it. I am sure you want us to. Then can someone explain why it is so triggering for some individuals when asked to put on a mask? As always, stupidity never needs a mask: its nakedness is for all to behold. But prudence and civility mandates one!
Are elections and economy the only things that matter? Our consumer economy operates on a golden rule: Buyer Beware. This applies to beliefs and opinions being sold as well. After more than 200 years as a democracy does anyone need to remind us that politicians do pander to our base instincts for votes? Is our hatred for “the other side” so all-consuming that we are worried about “they” running away with political advantage while ignoring the elephant in the room? Has everything, always got to be “us” versus “them”? Are we not supposed to be just us-the US?
So folks, as we light the fireworks tonight, let us recognize we need all hands on deck to get this elephant off our chests. And in this fight for once, please allow the scientific community to take the lead. Let us look again: there is no phantom vested interest here. Their advice is the difference between life and death here. Let us trust them: because, in the battle between science and ill-founded opinions, the winner will always, inevitably be the former.
Las Vegas resident Bidur Mukherjee is a Physical Therapist with 27 years of professional experience and is currently working at a local hospital in Las Vegas.
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