Who are we protecting?
The coronavirus has yet to hit Charleston full force, and of course we hope that it never does. But while we’re preparing to deal with health impacts, school closings and anticipated economic impacts, it’s worth a moment of thought about our role in all of this. The pandemic brings to mind a conversation I had at a local gym a few years ago. Flu season was well underway when one of the regulars said he never gets the flu shot. I asked him why. “Just not interested … don’t think it even works that well … makes the pharmaceutical companies a ton of money.”
I listened to each of his reasons, but then shared: “You know, Bill, it’s not about you, it’s about protecting your family and the members of our community who are the most vulnerable.” He paused, seemed to hear me, then responded: “I never thought about it that way.”
The principle is clear: If the members of a community work together (say, by getting the flu vaccine) it reduces the spread and impact of the disease. The relevant term is “herd immunity” – a form of immunity that occurs “when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population (or herd) provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity.”
While it doesn’t directly apply to COVID-19, since no vaccine is available, the principle is the same – by taking positive actions, we’re protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities.
And with COVID-19, this is ever more important given:
• the speed with which the disease has spread in some regions;
• the severe impact that it has on the most vulnerable; and
• the limited number of health care facilities available if there’s a massive run on hospital beds and ventilators. This is precisely, and tragically, what has happened in Italy, where doctors are forced to choose which patients to treat.
So, while you’re washing your hands for 20 seconds, urging your business to step up its telework options, or staying clear of social engagements, try to remember that the people you’re helping most are out in the community, people with impaired respiratory systems who might, just might, not be able to get a ventilator if the spread of the disease takes a turn for the worst.
This is unchartered territory – we’ve never lived through a worldwide pandemic.
Do your best.
FREE RESOURCES: TELEHEALTH VIRTUAL CARE PROVIDERS (COVID-19)
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MUSC Health Virtual Urgent Care
Prisma Health Virtual Visit
Roper St. Francis Healthcare Virtual Care