OP-ED: David Cantral

As most of you know I am a pulmonary and critical care physician in Kearney. I practice at both hospitals and spend a lot of my day in the ICU. I have now seen Covid-19 firsthand and have watched a man die from it. Sadly he is the first of what will likely be many. I know watching the coverage of the pandemic on TV can be mind numbing and it is easy to feel a sense of detachment about what is going on in cities like New York and Seattle. I have stopped watching the coverage and simply want to focus on here and now. Covid-19 is here, now. It will be here for the foreseeable future and it is going to get really bad. People you know will die. Before I talk about what we can do to minimize the damage I want to give you some simple and widely validated facts. 81% of people who get it have mild symptoms that resolve in days to weeks. That doesn’t sound so bad does it. Until you realize that 14% are sick enough to be in the hospital, 5% are in the icu and require life support and about 2% die. So if 100 people get it that is 14 hospital beds and 5 ventilators occupied. In most communities the attack rate is 30-70% of the population. There are about 50000 people in Buffalo county. Let’s be hopeful and say only 30% or 15000 get the virus. That’s 2100 hospitalizations and 750 patients on life support and 300 deaths. I need to mention that the drawing area for the two hospitals covers a population of 190000. Staggering. The only way we can possibly manage this situation is to dramatically slow its progression. It will take more than social distancing to make it work. It has not worked most places. We have to dramatically reduce our physical interactions with each other for several months. One thing about this virus that does not get talked about is that it is most contagious BEFORE a person has symptoms. And most teens and young adults have few if any symptoms with this infection. Those two facts are I believe the reason it appears to spread so quickly and comes out of nowhere. If we wait till we have symptoms to reduce our interactions we have already infected people around us. We all need to hunker down in our own homes for awhile and most importantly keep your kids at home away from other kids. Hard I know. But if you can do this you will literally be saving lives. You will be the heroes. We will have an effective treatment and/or a vaccine eventually. Hopefully by fall. Pray that it is sooner. Then we can all get back to whatever it was we were doing before this horrible disaster hit. Short term pain for long term gain and as I said you will be saving the lives of people you know.

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