For weeks, I have done all I can to educate my community so they understand the importance of staying home so we may “flatten the curve.” This is the only way we can slow down spread of COVID-19, a highly infectious novel coronavirus. “Novel” means this virus is brand new, never seen before until now, so there’s no FDA-approved treatment or vaccine to prevent it as of today. Although I feel like a broken record, my message is vital. I don’t care if in three months people think I over-reacted (I haven’t!). As a physician leader with 25 years in clinical medicine, a major in microbiology, and experience as chair of Infection Control for a large military base, I assure you my sense of urgency in calling our communities to be responsible and wise is based on science, knowledge, and expertise. And my deep desire for our communities to handle this crisis well is based on empathy, genuine concern, and love.
So today I created a new hashtag that I hope will go viral because, truly, we are ALL in this together, one depending on the other to stay healthy, and too many depending on each of us to stay alive.
Enter the new hashtag: #YouAreNotExempt.
Social Distancing is imperative and applies to everybody. You Are Not Exempt. Your family is not exempt. Your friends are not exempt. Your group is not exempt.
The CDC guideline is clear: “If there is substantial spread in your community:
Cancel events of ANY size.” Even the previous guidance of “less than 10” is not sufficient (just look at the image).
To be clear, central Florida already has substantial spread, as well as community spread (i.e., not just travel-related). We need to shelter in place NOW. This is a small sacrifice to ensure Florida’s healthcare system is not completely overwhelmed before this gets worse. And that is around the corner! We already have a serious need* for personal protective equipment (PPE) for physicians, nurses, and all first responders. And if you knew how many ventilators are available in each hospital compared to the need in states like Seattle and NY, you would stay home!
If physicians and nurses are scared, please listen. This is not panic in the least. This is wisdom and prudence based on science, epidemiology, sound infection control practices, public health, expertise, learning from the past (1918 flu pandemic) and the present (China, Korea, Italy, Seattle, New York, Miami, as well as the much more effective response in Singapore and Hong Kong). In New York, this just started and they already surpassed 16,000 confirmed cases (this means there are thousands more undiagnosed, as in central Florida)! In most of Florida, our numbers have been “paused” for >2 days (I’m following closely). Why? MINIMAL testing capabilities in most major cities.
Thankfully, and not a day too soon, a drive-thru testing center opened in Tampa. One opened in Broward County last week, and Jacksonville is in the works. This week, as the Orange County Convention Center drive-thru testing site opens in Orlando, we will see the numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases skyrocket over days and weeks. This will simply document the fact that this virus is already in our communities by the thousands (i.e., “substantial spread” is already upon us!). So please act NOW to slow down the spread and Flatten The Curve. Please be wise, prudent, and a good neighbor and stay home. Shelter in place. Please stay connected in other ways. Follow national, state, and local guidelines, and cancel events of ANY size. The time is now.
I Am Not Exempt. You Are Not Exempt. Be a good citizen. Please be responsible.
This is the way to Love Your Neighbor NOW!
With National Physicians Week starting in 2 days (March 25-31, 2020), please show your gratitude and appreciation for physicians and the entire medical team by helping to spread the word (#YouAreNotExempt), flatten the curve, slow down spread of this virus so we may all get through this time … together!
* Read more here regarding the medical professional PPE crisis within the COVID-19 crisis and ways people can help. My friend Dave just had a patient drop off an N95 mask for him! Made my week!!