Eric Paul Justin, MD, MPH, MBA | 8 May 2020

Spring greetings! I hope you are well. Despite the pandemic and it’s impact on all of us there is still beauty in this world as the iris above shows (crocuses below, too).

We are many weeks into our experience with the disease named COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus. There is understandably confusion about much of this. Even though we have discovered many new things about the virus it seems many more questions arise.

The US death toll from this virus is quite high and rising (over 70,000). Only one drug has shown some promise of actually helping people with the disease. There are numerous projects underway to develop vaccines as well as study other possible medicines for use. All of these efforts are being accelerated. We can only hope that one or more working vaccines becomes available quickly. Experts suggest this is at least one year away.

In the meantime we must be cautious as we “open up.“ Thus, as more stores, restaurants, and other businesses open partially or even completely we have one basic job as individual citizens.  We must continue with the fundamentals: wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer, social distancing, avoid touching your face, cover your sneeze or cough, and wear a face mask when going out. Some of us with known risk factors should avoid going out if possible.

Ignore the nay-sayers who justify not doing these things as necessary conditions to ‘opening up.’ That is simply false. One can open up our communities and also perform these preventive measures. The consequences of NOT using these simple behavior changes will be further unnecessary deaths and severe illness. It could also mean a need to return to severe lockdown measures by the authorities to prevent further viral disease ‘hot spots’ or worse.

Here are some graphs that show where we are now. First, the entire United States. The numbers on the left side (going up) are the number of newly reported cases each day since the virus entered our country. Though not labeled, the bottom line is time from left to right. As you can see the graph seems to suggest a ‘plateau’ and possibly slowly decreasing new cases.

And now the ‘rest of the story’…a graph that shows New York City’s graph alone and the US graph but with New York City’s contribution subtracted from the US graph. 

This shows the apparent progress is due mainly to the improvement in New York City. The rest of the country shows steadily increasing new cases daily. Here is a similar comparison but now subtracting NYC’s graph along with the graphs for two additional ‘hot spot cities,’ Detroit and New Orleans. 

(Credit for these graphs goes to Lash, New York Times.)

As you can see the curve of new cases in our country is increasing despite an attempted plateau in the past month or two. 

What does this mean? 

First, WE CAN make a difference locally/regionally. As noted above…sticking with the fundamentals like social distancing and wearing masks can and does make a difference. Second, sadly we are still closer to the beginning of this pandemic in the US than the end. We will likely see a second wave or ‘spike’ in the graph for new cases sometime in the next weeks or months. 

Know your own risk factors and use them to help decide how often and how long you will venture outside your home if at all. When out and about, such as a shopping trip to the grocery store, be alert to how crowded it might be. If others are not practicing social distancing or wearing their masks it is likely to be a higher risk to stay than simply leave and shop another time. 

Just as you have so many family and friends in your own thoughts and prayers during this difficult time please know that you are in my prayers and the prayers of many others. Blessings on the days ahead.  

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