Coronavirus Update: August 10

Dear Patients,

I am typing this message from 30,000 feet above the ground. We are heading home from 6 days of celebrating Chris. He turned 50 this week! As his big day loomed and we bugged him for gift ideas, he adopted this mantra: Do nothing. Buy nothing. Plan nothing. Well, there was just no way I could let his 50th come and go without ANY acknowledgment.

So, the kids and I surreptitiously planned a trip to one of his favorite places on earth: Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

To be honest, I looked at this trip as my wifely duty. I had no desire to visit Wyoming and I fully expected to trudge through days of hiking, wildlife spotting, and nature appreciating. This is a good time to remind you all that I am much more “indoorsy" than out.As it turns out, we all—myself included—had an amazing time. We spent every possible moment outside. We did, in fact, hike, and spot wildlife and appreciate nature. (See video here, featuring one angry bison.)

For this trip we flew United Airlines. They had open seats and a mandatory mask policy. They boarded all of our flights from the back forward, and we deplaned 5 rows at a time. At our hotel, we were asked to attest to a statement that no one had been ill with CoVID-19 symptoms and our temperatures were checked as we arrived. Masks were worn by everyone in all public places unless seated in a restaurant. I field dozens of patient questions each week about travel, and the best way I can describe it is this: Travel this summer is like drinking. It is not for everyone. It can be enjoyable, but can also be risky. If you are considering traveling, you must do so responsibly. How? Know the status of the area you are going to (for example, Wyoming has an extremely low case count – 2,500 cases vs. PA's 110,000). Understand the risks of both how you are getting to your destination (flying, driving, etc.) and for the people you're seeing/meeting there (considering the highly vulnerable or those with pre-existing conditions). Once you are there, spend most of your time outside, avoid crowds—especially bars—and wear a mask. As much as I love Disney World, that is an example of a trip I would NOT take right now. Florida’s cases are high. “Disney” is practically synonymous with “crowd” and I imagine the high proportion of children coupled with heat and humidity would make consistent mask-wearing difficult.

Besides Chris’s birthday, August also brings another highly anticipated event: flu vaccine delivery. This year more than ever, we are encouraging everyone to get a flu vaccine early – a critical step to keep our health systems from being overwhelmed this coming season. Even when the vaccine is not completely “right” — as in, combatting the exact strain of flu that the season brings — still, people who get it tend to have less severe illnesses. Put simply: The more people we can keep well or minimally ill by utilizing the flu vaccine, the more resources we will have to deal with CoVID-19 patients until THAT vaccine is available. The flu vaccine has a seasonality. Typically, we expect immunity to last a few months. So most years we recommend patients wait until late September or early October. This year, with so much uncertainty around CoVID-19, I would encourage everyone to get the vaccine as soon as it is available. There is a great deal of realistic optimism surrounding the vaccine to SARS CoV 2. While I personally do not believe this vaccine will be available in November, I do think using this time to get as many people immunized against the flu as possible makes sense. We are essentially buying time for that vaccine to become available. In late August, we will receive our first vaccine supply and we intend to begin distributing it ASAP. We will have Flu-Block (not made with eggs, for those with an allergy) as well as high-dose vaccine. Patients can get the vaccine here at our offices as a tent service for as long as weather permits.

And now, a few parting thoughts. COVID-19 has become our society’s criminal. No matter where you live, potential dangers lurk. Just as it is naïve to lock yourself at home waiting for all crimes and criminals to be eliminated, we can no longer bide our time until this virus “goes away.” Instead, we must learn to live with it by taking smart, diligent steps to protect ourselves. Wearing a mask is the viral equivalent of locking your front door; avoiding crowds, the equivalent of not running alone at night; repeated hand washing, the security system of anti-viral protection. Is anyone really angry that we live in a world where we need to protect ourselves? Does anyone ever protest the idea of locking their door? Has anyone EVER thought “I just wasted 30 seconds locking that lock — I should have just taken my chances"? I don’t think so. At this moment 5 states (California, Florida, Texas, New York and Georgia) account for 40% of the US’s 5 million cases. We need to not only look at where these states have struggled, but where the other 45 states have succeeded. To do this, I look to my kitchen. Every soup in my culinary repertoire has a mandatory 5 ingredients: onions, carrots, celery, water, and salt. Consider the following to be the 5 mandatory ingredients of COVID-19 protection: mask wearing everywhere outside of your home, frequent hand washing, avoiding crowds (especially bars), keeping any recreation or social activities outdoors as much as possible, and social distancing (6 feet or more wherever possible). Making a good soup is a slow, methodical process. Every time that I have tried to take a shortcut, the result was not nearly as good. So, accept the list of ingredients. Accept that this is not a Rachel-Ray-30-minute-meal but an all-day-Sunday-simmering-on-the-stove type of deal. And now that I've been through every possible analogy — from drinking to crime to making soup — thank you for staying with me on this. Stay safe out there, and we'll see you soon for that flu shot.

With gratitude,

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