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COVID-19 Update September 20, 2020: 200,000

By Dr. Arthur Lavin

Glossary

  • Virus– a type of germ that consists solely of a bit of genetic material (DNA or RNA) wrapped in a protein coat.  The coat gets the genes into the target cell where the genes force the cell to make zillions of new viruses, and on it goes.
  • Coronavirus– a species name of a number of different viruses.  Called corona because its protein coat is studded with spike shapes that form a crown, halo, or corona of spikes
  • SARS-CoV-2– the specific name of the new coronavirus
  • COVID-19-the name of the illness that the new coronavirus is causing
  • Endemic– an illness always present in a region.  One could say strep throat is endemic in the US
  • Epidemic– a sudden burst of an illness that comes and goes over a limited time
  • Pandemic– an epidemic that bursts across the world not just one region
  • Spreadability– how contagious is the disease, how many people will end up infected
  • Symptoms- the experience of being ill, for example- fever, cough, headaches, loss of smell etc.
    • Asymptomatic– literally means “without symptoms”.  For COVID-19 it refers a person infected with the virus but has no and will have not symptoms
    • Presymptomatic– This is a person who was infected with SARS-CoV-2, and will feel sick, but hasn’t yet
  • Severity– what harm does the disease cause, in terms of  how sick you get and how many it will kill
  • Mask- a mask is a loose-fitting cloth or textile that covers the mouth and nose loosely.  A surgical mask is a mask used in surgery
  • Respirator-  for the purposes of the COVID-19 pandemic and other respiratory illnesses, a respirator is a mask that fits very snugly or tightly to the user’s face.  An N95 mask is a respirator.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)- PPE are any item that covers any part of the body with the design and intent of keeping viruses in the environment from infecting the wearer of the PPE. PPE’s include all masks (which includes respirators), face shields, eye shields, gloves, gowns.
  • Ventilator- a ventilator is a machine that can force a person unable to breathe to inhale and exhale and control both effectively.  They are sometimes called respirators, but during this pandemic the word respirator is now reserved for reference to a tightly fit mask.
  • Live Virus Swab– this is the swab which attempts to swipe live virus from one’s nose or throat to see if you are currently infected.
  • Antibody Test- (aka serology test) this is the blood test which looks for antibody to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to see if you have been infected in the past.

 

200,000 

There are now 3 dates that will live across the history of our nation, all in this year, 2020.

January 20- the first recorded case of COVID-19 in the United States

May 27- the day that 100,000 Americans died of COVID-19

September 20, 2020- the day that we have now lost 200,000 of our fellow Americans

This moment calls for a number of important observations

First- This is a staggering loss of life.

I say this as a doctor who has devoted his career to the saving of life and helping people.  And as a person who cares.  I have never seen a virus appear and kill 200,000 of my fellow country people in the span of exactly 9 months.

And across the world, we are about to record 1 million lives lost.

Second- How do we avoid becoming numb to the scale of the catastrophe?

Just recently, a post in Real Answers reviewed the numbers we use to try to communicate the scale, the progress of the Pandemic, and we titled it Are You Numb?

Numbness threatens us by the avalanche of information- case numbers, various rates, risk of infections, days of contagion.

Numbness threatens us by the mammoth scale of loss- how do we continue to care as numbers of those lost and hurt continue to mount?

But, again, as a doctor, and a person, I must not become numb.   There is a reality to the loss of 200,000 of us who were very much expecting to be alive in 2020, until this virus arrived and took their life.

We know that, somehow we must find a way to feel it.  Today is an important day to try.

Third- Look at the time line.

It seems we have been in this Pandemic forever.  But here in America, it has been exactly 9 months, the length of a full-term pregnancy.  A long while, but not that long.

On January 20 we learned there was one person in our country who had COVID-19.

It took a little over 5 months for that one case to lead to 100,000 deaths.

Since we watched as 100,000 of us died, it only took about 4 months for the next 100,000 of us to die.

A moment to look at how long it takes this virus to take 100,000 of our lives can help interrupt the numbness.

And more, looking at the time line reminds us that this Pandemic is very real, very dangerous, has killed so many, and is right now killing so many of us.

Fourth- The virus causes COVID-19, but it is our choices that define how many will be lost

As we take a moment to think and feel the loss of 200,000 of us, the most important point is that this loss of life required the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but could not happen without our choices.

Two links will show what this point is about:

These web pages dramatically show that choices have been made across all the national communities around the world. Some nations have chosen to take actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 and some have not.

The results have proven that whether this virus spreads in our neighborhoods is up to us.  If we choose to stop it, it will stop.  If we do not, it will spread and cause more deaths.

And this information also demonstrates that in our nation, here at home, the evidence is conclusive that our actions have chosen to allow this virus to spread, only partially contained.

Today we know the cost of choosing to only partially control the spread of this virus is the loss of 200,000 of our lives.

Our hope is that on this day, when we mourn the loss of 200,000 lives that we pause to think of all we have lost, and why.

And work from this time, to protect ourselves, those we care for, our nation, and world.

To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin

 

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