Over the last few weeks, many other developed nations around the world have taken COVID-19 seriously and fought back against a virus that has proven to be significantly more deadly than the flu. South Korea, Japan, China and Vietnam are three great examples of countries that have taken testing seriously, taken quarantine seriously, and in the process, saved countless lives. In Italy, like the US, they waited too long and what is happening there now is absolutely terrible…
In China, tens of millions were put on lock-down and two new hospitals were built by the time they reached the statistics that the US has now. Italy waited too long, and just today (Sunday March 8) they reported 1492 new cases and 133 new deaths, despite locking down 16 million people. Based on the best information we’re able to ascertain at this stage, just 2-3 weeks ago Italy was in the same position that the US and UK are in today (in terms of infection statistics).(Source – Fast.ai)
As many of you know, my wife and I decided to start quarantining ourselves in our apartment in San Francisco last week. None of us have symptoms, we aren’t panicking, but we are very concerned and are now prepared to quarantine for a month or more. I broke quarantine for about two hours on Saturday night and that’s likely the last time I will do it until the COVID-19 outbreak is contained in the US.
Unfortunately the US has fallen far behind just about ever developed nation when it comes to testing and taking the proper steps to truly prepare for COVID-19.
The sluggish rollout of the tests has become a debilitating weakness in America’s response to the spread of the coronavirus. By this point in its outbreak, South Korea had tested more than 100,000 people for the disease, and it was testing roughly 15,000 people every day. The United Kingdom, where three people have died of COVID-19, has already tested more than 24,900 people.(Source – The Atlantic)
If you don’t yet realize how serious this is, I want to share some incredibly powerful and touching words from a Doctor on the frontlines in Italy. Please take the time to read this, if it changes your behavior then it just might save a life, or ten or a hundred given how fast this virus spreads:
If there’s anything you take away from this it should be that even if you are young and healthy you can still spread the virus to people who are not. I know that some of us will lose family and friends over the coming months. These same family and friends would have been able to get treatment at hospitals if they had the flu, and their life very likely would have been saved. Other people will lose family and friends to other medical issues that aren’t able to be treated because our hospitals will be so overrun with COVID-19 patients.
People keep trying to compare this to the flu but we should all know by now, this is not the flu:
The flu has a death rate of around 0.1% of infections. Marc Lipsitch, the director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at Harvard, estimates that for covid-19 it is 1-2%. The latest epedemiological modeling found a 1.6% rate in China in February, sixteen times higher than the flu1 (this might be quite a conservative number however, because rates go up a lot when the medical system can’t cope).(Source – Fast.ai)
Like the Doctors in Italy are seeing first-hand, the challenge is that our hospitals are not prepared for what is coming. Italy has a population of 60 million people and a great healthcare system, the US has a population of over 320 million people and a, well, not-so-great healthcare system.
A nationwide survey National Nurses United (NNU) conducted of registered nurses, the country’s frontline health care staff, reveals that the vast majority of United States hospitals and health care facilities are unprepared to handle and contain cases of COVID-19. The results were shared at a press conference held Thursday by NNU, the country’s largest union and professional association of registered nurses.(Source – NationalNursesUnited.org)
Please take this seriously, what is happening in Italy can and very likely will happen here in the US. This means if you are under 65 and are struggling to breathe or are watching your husband or wife struggle to breathe, there will likely be no hospital to help them. With such a long incubation period it also means that you could have no symptoms but when you were at the gym you could have unknowingly infected countless people.
Now is the time to get prepared, not to tease or degrade those of us who are. I really liked this tweet from Balaji Srinivasan a brilliant Stanford engineer who is now an angel investor here in SF:
The next couple of months are likely to be incredibly hard for many of us, for our families, and for our friends. Let’s all bind together as humans and not let politics, race, language, gender, or anything else divide us. Instead, let’s come together and finally please – take this seriously.
If you haven’t yet, take some time to look at what countries like South Korea, Japan, and Vietnam have done to stop this virus in its tracks. If you live in the US and aren’t yet taking this seriously, now is the time to do it. If you’re young and healthy, do it for your parents, do it for someone else’s parents, but think about someone else besides yourself.
Phew – I know this was quite a dramatic post but I felt I had to write this because if even one of my readers changes their behavior after reading this, that could a life, or ten, or more. This is not the flu, every year hospitals around the world are not completely overrun by the flu. COVID-19 is different and you can avoid getting it and spreading it, so why not at least try?