What we have learned from COVID-19

I woke up this morning and realized that we have been dealing with Covid-19 for about six months.  I closed the Fulcrum offices and sent my people to work from home on March 13th.  I started thinking about all that we have learned about the virus and ourselves over the last six months—looking back I many positive things and some negative ones.


At the start of this pandemic, our health care delivery system was presented with a new virus that they had never seen.  As patients started rolling into the hospitals and ICU’s our health care professionals were truly learning as they went.  The approaches to patient care and the treatments at their disposal during those early days are very different than what they do and have now.  You can see a dramatic drop in the fatality rate from those early days to now.  Simply put, our health care delivery system and the professionals who work in it responded to this new challenge with incredible speed and effectiveness.  Even today, they continuously challenge themselves to do better every day.  One of the things we have learned from this crisis is just how amazing and capable our health care professionals are and that we are lucky to have them.


In addition to the advances in the clinical approach to COVID, we learned that, for the most part, the people who have dedicated their lives to caring for others did it because of the passion and commitment they have for patient care.  If not, we would not have seen so many stories of doctors, nurses, and other professionals working mind-numbing hours while putting themselves at risk of contracting the virus.  We saw stories of nurses leaving the safety of their homes and traveling to New York and other hot spots to help out.  I, for one, gained a little bit more hope for humanity watching these health care professionals.  We owe them a debt of gratitude that should not be soon forgotten.  I hope none of you know someone in an ICU with COVID, and I hope you never do, but for those who do know someone, you understand what I am saying.


We have also learned that America has an incredible capacity to rise to a challenge.  We were presented with a never before seen virus, and it looks like in less than 12 months, we will have not one but possibly three safe and effective vaccines available and fully vetted by large scale clinical trials available to protect not only our country but the world over.  That is truly amazing.  I would argue that this is bigger than Kennedy’s challenge to walk on the moon.  If 2021 is a return to normal, it will be in large part to the incredible efforts of those people who did the work and the research to develop these vaccines.


We also learned that as a society, we have an incredible capacity to adapt.  Our education system adapted to distance learning, businesses adapted to things like curbside pick-up, and physicians adapted to telehealth.  We adapted and made the best of a bad situation.  Don’t get me wrong; there are still way too many people who have been hurt by this crisis and too many small businesses that will never recover from this blow.  I don’t want anyone to think that I am minimizing that.


We have also learned some bad things about our society right now.  Like any challenge, we have stumbled along the way.  As long as we learn from these stumbles, we will be ok.  If we fail to learn from our mistakes, then we are doomed to repeat them.


At times we have stumbled by not trusting the experts and believing the science.  My son as a t-shirt that says; “Science. It’s like magic but real”.  We need to remember that and trust the science.  We stumbled with Hydroxychloroquine by rushing to use if before it was proven safe and effective.  What we eventually learned is that it is neither.  We stumble when we don’t listen to the experts talk about mask-wearing and social distancing.  It still amazes me when I go to the grocery store and watch adults walking around with no mask.  I watch them walk right next to someone who is elderly and, as such, is at high risk for COVID.


Speaking of mask-wearing.  We have learned that we are incredibly polarized right now.  We see polarization on race relations, political affiliations, and many other areas.  What amazes me is how we can turn something like wearing a mask into a political debate.  In my mind, and the minds of any rational physician out there, mask-wearing is not a debatable issue.  It is clearly a good and easy way to help slow down the spread of a very dangerous virus.  How anyone can be in public not wearing a mask is beyond me, but I see it happen every day.  We have stumbled here, and we need to learn from this mistake.


My last concern is around the very promising work on a vaccine for Covid-19.  Let’s not stumble on this one.  Let’s not rush these vaccines to market before they have completed the necessary clinical trials.  Trust the science.  Let’s not make the same mistake we made with Hydroxychloroquine.  Then when the vaccine is available, let’s not turn that into a political issue.  Here is a news flash for everyone.  COVID doesn’t care if you are a republican or a democrat.  It’s an equal opportunity virus.  If you get the virus it also doesn’t care who you give it to.  It is just as happy to spread to your loved ones, strangers, and yes, it will equally spread to those people who agree with your politics just as well as to those that don’t.  There is overwhelming consensus from the scientists who have spent a lifetime in this field that our best chance of beating this virus is social distancing, mask-wearing, good hygiene, and a safe and effective vaccine.  No matter what anyone else says, sunlight, ingesting disinfectant, and toxic plant extracts will not do the trick.


So, to end on a positive note.  If you are reading or listening to this and you are a front-line healthcare worker, Thank You.  If you are an essential worker making sure the rest of us can get our food and other essentials, Thank You.  If you are a teacher in this challenging time, Thank You.  If you are doing your part to help us all get through this, Thank you.  If you don’t fall into one of those buckets and can’t even be bothered to wear a mask in public, get with the program because if you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem.


Thank you.  Be safe and Be well!


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