COVID-19: 6 months, 10 observations
Updated: Aug 12, 2020
Although coronavirus/COVID-19 first began being discussed widely in the country around the first of the year, March was the month that brought the first significant impacts that we are still feeling today. If we count March as an "official" beginning that means we are now entering our sixth month of dealing with this new reality. In the United States alone we have lost more than 163,000 lives (as of 8/11/20). During that time we’ve learned some lessons, but we still have a long way to go. Here are 10 things that have stood out to me over the past six months.
10 observations on COVID-19
1. We’ve become numb to what should be a shocking death toll. In July, we lost more than 1,000 people on almost every single day of the month. We need to remember that those people aren’t just data points. They are real people whose names we shouldn't forget.
2. The lack of a national strategy has been a tragic mistake. Leaving it up to each state to secure PPE, decide which safety efforts to take, build their own testing and contact tracing approaches, etc. has been an utter disaster. It’s estimated that a more serious approach from the federal government early on could have saved 36,000 lives. Now, testing delays are creating a serious problem in many parts of the country.
3. Everyone is an “expert,” and that’s a really bad thing. American trust in expertise has been declining for some time and the pandemic is highlighting that problem. I might opine on many aspects of COVID-19, but never on the science or medical direction. I trust the experts for guidance in those areas.
4. COVID-19 is much worse than the flu. This is directly related to the point above. Thinking that COVID-19 is really just a bad version of the flu is wrong on so many levels, and among them is the fact that we are still learning about the massive – and possibly – long-term impact COVID-19 can have on your lungs, organs and general health.
5. We know what works to stop the spread of COVID-19, but too many of us lack the will to do it. Wearing a mask and keeping your distance from others seems pretty easy and reasonable. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do it at the level needed to shut down the virus. In fact, some of us are purposely being unsafe. Case in point:
6. COVID-19 has once again exposed the major issues we have with health equity in this country. Minorities have been hit hard by COVID-19, and I fear that is one reason why this country has struggled with the points above. For many Americans, this is a problem they don’t see in their own communities (yet), so the response has not been as serious as it should have been.
7. Healthcare can change quickly when needed. Standing up video visits is just one example that proves that the healthcare industry can adapt and change when necessary. This has been a benefit for patients that I hope will continue when we get past our current situation.
8. Healthcare disruption is here in a way that we never expected. We’ve been worried – obsessed might be an even better word – about Amazon, Apple, retail health and other “disruptors” taking the place of traditional healthcare providers. COVID-19 is the disruption we didn’t see coming, and I wonder if it will open the door to massive change in how people access and pay for care. Prior to COVID-19, I felt that a Medicare for All approach was still decades away. Now? Not so much. Read my full blog post on that here.
9. The 80% healthcare economy is here to stay for the near future. Like other industries, healthcare is not going to return to 100% until a vaccine is available. Even when that happens, all of our previous customers/patients will be dealing with economic challenges and fear of getting care. Read my full blog post on that here.
10. Workplaces have changed, but will they snap back? It’s hard to know how durable the “work from home” shift will be over time. Although I've personally found it to work well - and it's really the only safe option for many people right now - some people are questioning the trade-offs.
As much as I hate to say it, it seems pretty clear that we'll be dealing with most of the same issues listed above for at least the next six months. Buckle up and stay safe. And wear your mask!