We have lost TWO HUNDRED AND TWENTY THOUSAND Americans to COVID. In the last 10 years the worst flu virus killed roughly a third of that in the US (80,000). Incidentally, 80,000 is the capacity of AT&T Stadium in Arlington. So the worst flu season in a decade killed a Cowboys’ stadium’s worth of people. In 2020, we have essentially filled the stadium twice and wiped out all those loved ones and are on our way to filling it again in the roughly 8 months since COVID has come to be among us. Folks, this is real and it is not going anywhere. With the current trajectory of cases and deaths I am concerned we’ll top 300,000 before we have made it a year. That’s about half of the leading cause of death – heart disease. COVID is a heavy weight.
I have heard it said that we have COVID fatigue. That we should just go on living our lives and quit fighting it. I have heard that it will go away after the election. (Seriously, people? Viruses care about elections?) I have heard that masks don’t work so we shouldn’t wear them and even if they did work, asking people to wear them is somehow infringing on their right? To infect people, I guess? All of these lines of thought are seriously problematic and part of why the uptick in cases has once again descended upon us. The graph illustrating the number of daily new cases in our country looks like what I wish my 401K looked like. We are in the midst of our third surge and it appears that this fall the surge will be higher than either of the 2 preceding surges. And North Texas, Erath County, our graph mirrors the US graph. We are sick of COVID and many of us have given up.
But the most problematic behavior I have noticed recently is having ignored the CDC recommendations for isolation after infection (usually about 10 days since onset of symptoms) and quarantine (14 days from last exposure). Businesses and citizens, your need to work and the inconvenience of having been exposed to COVID does not change the biology of the disease. The incubation period has not changed since the virus emerged. You STILL need to quarantine for 14 days from last exposure. If you live with someone who has COVID and can’t isolate from them, your quarantine BEGINS when their case is over – usually about 10 days after the onset of symptoms. That means your quarantine might last 24 days. That sounds terrible! I know! I shudder to think about missing 24 days in my clinic for many reasons. My patients depend on me for care. My family depends on me to provide. My staff depends on me to generate revenue. But if I ignored the recommendation for quarantine, I would be putting my family, patients and staff at even more risk. Ending a quarantine or isolation prematurely increases the likelihood that the virus will continue to propagate among us. Quarantine is not about you. It’s about your neighbors. The ones Jesus told us to love.
When we first learned that COVID was coming, I thought to myself, “Who am I going to lose?” Based on the information we had, I could think of many patients who had better not become infected because they were surely at the highest risk. Interestingly, several of those patients have become infected and survived. Many of them are still suffering from residual symptoms but they have survived. What baffles me is the patients who have contracted COVID and had a prolonged hospitalization/ICU stay or died despite not being at any particularly increased risk. I am distraught by my inability to predict who will do well and who will not. Once you have COVID, it seems that you are just along for the ride. You may be headed down a raging river rife with rapids and waterfalls or it may be a placid stream with no hint of danger. The best thing is to simply avoid the ride.
Please understand I AM NOT in favor of shutting down businesses or isolating to the degree that we did this spring. There are too many other complications associated with total isolation that can be just as awful as the disease – or worse. Do I think it was the right thing at the time? Absolutely – we needed to develop contingency plans and learn more about this virus. But not now. So if we are not to close businesses and we are to go to church and we are to go to school and football and volleyball games, we have to count on one another to not launch us down the COVID river by selfishly skimping on the quarantine. If you are exposed, QUARANTINE – and do it right. A negative test one or two days after exposure DOES NOT mean you are in the clear and should return to work or school. Honestly a test that soon after exposure is a waste of money and resources unless you have symptoms. I will attach the CDC recommendations to this article for you to review yourself. It is very easy to read and understand. We know a lot more about the virus than we did at first. In fact, one of the things we have learned is that some people test positive for low levels of the virus for 3 months after infection without actually being infectious. But one thing that has not changed is the incubation period after exposure and thus the quarantine is still just as important as it has been all along. If you have questions about quarantine, any of us docs at Stephenville Medical and Surgical Clinic or your city health official, Dr. Kelly Dogget will be happy to answer those for you.
COVID is not going away.
COVID fatigue is not an excuse to give up fighting. I’m going to steal Dr. Kelly Dogget’s analogy – if our parents and grandparents just got “tired” of fighting during World War 2, our country and world would look a lot different than it does today.
Wear a mask.
Wash your hands.
And for Heaven’s sake, if you have been infected, ISOLATE, and if you have been exposed, QUARANTINE.