Prevention is the key part of treatment in the Coronavirus pandemic. Like my specialty of cardiology where diet, exercise, and cholesterol management are important preventive measures, social distancing is the most important preventive measure for the Coronavirus pandemic.
Unlike prevention measures in heart disease which impact only the health of the individual, social distancing in the Coronavirus epidemic also impacts the people around us. And unlike heart disease where prevention is a lifelong consideration, social distancing measures to prevent the Coronavirus epidemic will last only weeks.
Social distancing is not a guarantee of not getting ill but certainly decreases the likelihood we will acquire the disease. It also increases the likelihood the health system will be ready to take care of us when someone gets ill. Social distancing is the application of the golden rule to do unto others like we would like done for us.
The framework of social distancing is derived from measures taken during the 1918 influenza epidemic and lessons learned from the current Coronavirus pandemic in China, South Korea, and Italy. As healthcare providers, we understand the importance.
Social distancing measures separate us physically from one other. This reduces transmission of the virus and is especially important because of the ease of transmission of this virus from one person to another and its variable and long incubation period.
Social distancing reduces the number of cases of Coronavirus and spreads out the number of people infected over a longer period of time. This prevents the healthcare system from being overwhelmed by too many patients all at once.
Our community’s healthcare systems need to be working on all cylinders to care for people suffering from medical problems related to the Coronavirus. In addition, it is equally as important to remember that the health system also must be here functioning for everyone else.
The presence of the Coronavirus does not decrease the number of people needing help for major heart, lung, and kidney disease, cancer, and other infectious diseases. The healthcare system is near capacity during any year when just influenza cases are high. The Coronavirus pandemic is an addition to an already busy sector. We are essentially restructuring our community and national healthcare systems overnight.
Social distancing reduces the risk of illness to healthcare providers throughout our community, nation, and world. The Coronavirus pandemic will continue for weeks. As it reaches its peak, more healthcare workers will be exposed to the virus and the expectation will be that the incidence of illness will be higher than the general population. The success of social distancing will help us to keep the healthcare workforce healthy so they can care for all.
Social distancing will buy time for government and private industry to marshal resources against the virus. It allows time for America to put the full weight of its strength, ingenuity, and flexibility to help us overcome the Coronavirus pandemic.
Social distancing allows time for America to supply the needed Personalized Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and others who have greater contact with the Coronavirus. It will allow time for private enterprise to retool and supply important resources needed to fight the epidemic.
Social distancing will allow time for dozens of companies already working to supply antiviral therapy and a vaccine. It gives time for the development of public and private partnerships and it will allow us to develop better systems to isolate and protect the most vulnerable in our society.
Over the weekend, those of us in healthcare received a letter from Governor Edwards thanking us for our service. He wrote “I recognize that there are very challenging times and that you all have been working long hard hours and are making many sacrifices including time away from your families to serve your patients
Governor Edwards wrote “In difficult times, I lean on my faith and I am reminded of the word of Isaiah 41:10. ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous hand.”
We know the current social distancing measures can’t go on for too long a period. We have to sustain our nation’s economic health to preserve its public health. I am sure our government leaders will continue to weigh the importance of each social distance measure on a daily basis. It is unlikely there will be an immediate miracle cure. This is uncharted territory, we will just need to adapt our course as we go along.
Speaking for all of us in healthcare, we are grateful for our community and all sacrifices made by everyone. We are especially thankful for unsung heroes checking us out at the grocery store, fixing our food, driving supplies all over the country, and carrying out the multitude of essential tasks required.
We are personally thankful government leaders in our nation are taking this issue seriously from the start. Our community and our nation has bonded together to do what is needed for the greater good.
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow but we do know this community, our health systems, and the nation can and will adapt. Lives will be saved when we work together as we are doing now.
Let me take some words from Governor Edwards’ letter directed at us and direct it back to you. “Each morning as you head into a world of uncertainty, please know we are lifting you up in prayer and your sacrifices are never out of our mind…we sincerely thank you.”
In Philippians 4:6 the Apostle Paul writes “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” We are grateful for our community working together to prevent and slow the Coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Phillip Rozeman is former chairman of Blueprint Louisiana and the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and a current board member of the Committee of 100, CABL, PAR, and LABI.