Eric Paul Justin, MD, MPH, MBA  |  17 April 2020

Peaks are challenges, things to surmount, and they represent the goal of any mountain climber. Arising long before dawn to start our approaches to such peaks, life was always flavored by eagerness and excitement.

At the beginning of such a glorious climbing adventure we focused on the peak above us. The last several hours involved ridges that provided our pathway to the peak. As we trudged along these ridges we tired. Looking up, the peak seemed nearly close enough to touch. One’s mind would race. The climb was almost accomplished. The summit seemed at hand!

Many hundreds of steps later we realized we had climbed a “false peak.” If one looks at the ridge lines leading to the summit or peak on the photos above and below, one clearly sees the false peaks. Each false peak is an achievement but it is simply a step on the way to the goal. False peaks humble us. False peaks teach us patience, persistence, focus. All must be climbed.

Soon, we are told, we will see a COVID-19 peak. This will happen, but at various times in different parts of our country. But will we have achieved our goal? When mountain climbing, the spectacular view is a major goal. What should the view look like for the true COVID-19 peak?

Hopefully that view will include:

  1. Minimizing loss of life and minimizing suffering including for those workers in harm’s way.
  2. A judicious return to work and normal social activities in steps that are closely measured for increasing infection rates as time moves on. This means massively increased testing!
  3. Acknowledging that we are all still “in this together.” The climber at the front of our team gets to the peak sooner then all others. That climber looks back down the mountain to confirm the safety of all climbers.

Be prepared for one or more false peaks. A “second surge” of infections with serious viral cases and deaths is likely to happen. The size of such a second surge will be determined by how we all adhere to social distancing practices. The more people who “protest” social distancing by shoulder to shoulder meetings and avoidance of using face masks in public, the higher the peak will be in the second surge and any others that follow.

False peaks? Expect them. Until one or more medical breakthroughs occur we must rely on the simplest but most effective measures as our leaders have instructed us to do. Stay well, stay connected, socially distance, and realize we are all on this “immense climb” together. And just like God has been with me on all my climbs, He is with all of us now.

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