|President's Message on COVID-19
As president of the Washtenaw County Medical Society, I'm writing to inform you of the work we're doing to support and facilitate the county-wide response to COVID-19. I hope our efforts will result in the lowest per capita infection rate and lowest per capita death rate in the state, the country, and the world. Your tireless work as physicians on the front-line, treating patients, allocating PPE, and implementing community efforts, has been critical. We hope to continue to count on you in what is likely to be a year-long battle.
The status of this pandemic is in flux as I write this…every day brings more cases, more challenges. Our medical system is top notch, but limited. There are many factors we cannot control. I am asking for each of us to follow our leaders' directives and limit the number of physical interactions with each other to “bend the curve” and thereby limit the number of cases to below the number we can effectively treat and manage. Of course, this will have a huge economic impact, especially on the service industries. I worked my way through undergrad as a waiter in a middle-class family restaurant. Closures jeopardize industries like this in ways we cannot imagine. We must be thinking about our neighbors during this time and considering innovative ways to support one another. There is currently no medical solution to this pandemic, only a societal one.
I grew up in the shadow of the Cold War with nuclear annihilation a daily threat. People are reacting to this challenge with good humor, sometimes dark, but always in the proper spirit. The teams I work with at the Washtenaw County Medical Society and the University of Michigan Department of Anesthesiology are fully dedicated. We have real skin in the game, managing airways in patients every day, risking exposure to all sorts of pathogens. We need to consider the effects of this on health care professionals, the daily stress and the stress on their families when exposed or testing positive. My greatest hope is that we can avoid the need to triage care for patients. Having to decide who gets a limited resource will take a large toll on those who make these decisions. May G-d be with them and with us during this time.
We may not win, but we will fight the good fight and I am proud to be a part of the team in Washtenaw County. Keep in mind the short essay by C.S. Lewis, in regard to the atomic bomb, quoted below:
In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”
In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.
— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays
This is not a nuclear war, we will not have our infrastructure destroyed by weaponry. We can’t join our friends at the pub or play a game of darts, but we can reach out in the virtual word; supporting one another and using social media for good: sharing laughs, virtual happy hours, cat videos, silly memes, and real information and resources.
Know that we stand ready to help you in these trying times.
James F. Szocik, MD