Social Distancing and Flattening the Curve
As the global pandemic evolves, I thought I’d share some thoughts as a physician currently on the frontlines (with a background in public health), as well as a person who has diabetes.
There's a lot of talk about how the canceling of events, travel, and social gatherings are all overreactions. The thing is, these are not meant to be reactive measures at all - they are proactive. If they work, we will have much less to react to.
It is really hard to be proactive when we can’t see the immediate consequences (or even benefits) of our actions -- this is true for both personal health and for public health.
Take vaccines -- they’ve been so successful in eliminating disease (measles is 5 times as contagious as COVID-19) that it’s now easy to forget about their huge benefit and focus on possible risks.
So when we think about the current situation, let’s remember that Italy went from cases in the single digits to now over 15k in a matter of days.
Given the US’s already poor response coordination and preparation, it’s likely we’re headed down a similar road.
In this situation, health systems will be so overwhelmed by the number of people infected that we will be unable to care for our patients properly, regardless of COVID-19 status.
So we must be proactive.
Being Proactive With Coronavirus & Diabetes
The public health concepts of social distancing and self-quarantining exist to limit the spread of infection.
Not because it makes you less likely to be infected or infect others (most of us will probably get it anyway), but because it helps distribute the burden of infection over time, something now known as "flattening the curve."
And as someone who is already seeing the impacts of limited resources and capacity to handle this pandemic in my daily work in the hospital (the US has a dysfunctional, strained, and inequitable health system on a good day), this is what worries me the most.
This is key to understand: if these social-distancing and self-quarantining measures work well, we won’t notice. And we will feel like we overreacted.
But that is precisely the goal.
So yes, it is no fun to cancel dinner plans. It's hard to not go to your local coffee shop each morning. It's annoying to cancel your nail appointment or golf tournament.
But it’s important. It is vital. For all of us.
Your actions will affect others that you bump shoulders with, and vice versa. So stay home as much as you can, wash your hands as often as you can, don’t touch your face, and listen to professionals and the CDC for updates as they evolve.
This is a community effort -- to stay isolated -- for those of us with diabetes, as well as those without.
Stay calm and stay informed. Every social distancing effort counts. Every day counts.
And don’t hoard masks; those of us in the hospitals need them. It’s still flu season, after all! 😷🏨