Obama Chimes in on Pandemic, Pushes for Social Distancing Policies to Stay in Place

Wednesday morning former President Obama shared an article about overworked hospital workers in NYC and tweeted:

These are the burdens our medical heroes already face in NYC. It’s only going to get harder across the country.

Another reason to maintain social distancing policies at least until we have comprehensive testing in place. Not just for our sake—for theirs.

From the New Yorker:

Matthew Morrison is a thirty-six-year-old E.R. doctor at BronxCare, a hospital in the South Bronx, which has a large Dominican population. He speaks “medical Spanish,” he told me. “Fiebre. Dolor. Náusea. Vómito.” On Wednesday, he treated a woman in her mid-sixties with telltale signs of covid-19: fever, shortness of breath, coughing up blood. She was terrified.

She told Morrison, with tears in her eyes, “Doctor, no me siento bien.” Before admitting her, Morrison gave her the same speech he’d been giving all his patients: “You’ve come to the right place. We’re here for you. Unfortunately, we don’t have a specific treatment for covid, but we’re able to offer all sorts of supportive care.” People were anxious. Another likely covid-19 patient, an older African-American man, had taken a cocktail of medication—Percocet, Benadryl, an antibiotic—to treat his aches and fever, before arriving, disoriented, at the E.R.

New York City has become an epicenter of the crisis, with more than ninety-six hundred confirmed cases as of Sunday, and hospitals are struggling to keep pace. BronxCare workers were in the process of setting up a separate triage tent, to manage covid-19 patients. Until then, the E.R.’s waiting room would be crowded with the “worried well,” or, in this case, the worried sick—people with coughs and flulike symptoms that might or might not be signs of covid-19, who’d come because they wanted to get tested. Most were sent back home, with orders to self-quarantine. Tests were being reserved for people sick enough to be hospitalized.

“It’s challenging,” Morrison said. “Nobody has any experience with this at all, because there’s been nothing like this since 1918. We can all read the Wikipedia page on the Spanish flu, but that doesn’t show what it was like or describe the experience of people who had actual responsibility.”

He was avoiding news stories about health-care workers who’d died of the virus: the doctor in Wuhan, the one in Seattle. But it was hard not to think about them as he donned and doffed his personal protective equipment and pictured all the things that could go wrong, the ways he could inadvertently touch a mask or a glove and become exposed. “The biggest fear is realizing that you’re probably going to get coronavirus no matter what you do.”

Jessica van Voorhees, a forty-three-year-old E.R. doctor at Methodist Hospital, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, found herself watching the disaster with morbid curiosity. “There is something that’s sort of fascinating about watching a pandemic unfold in real time, and seeing the exponential curve,” she said. She was working night shifts on March 8th, 9th, and 10th, when the first patients started trickling in. “At first, it was a big deal. Like, ‘I think we just had a covid patient!’ Then we had three.

And every day it more than doubled.” When I spoke to her on Thursday, the E.R. was getting hundreds of patients with coughs, fevers, and sore throats—most of whom just wanted to be tested for the virus. As in the Bronx, they were being sent home, with orders to self-quarantine. Testing had to be reserved for the very sick. For that reason, van Voorhees had concluded that the official numbers are “totally off. Way off!” She went on, “I think we’re probably testing a small percentage of people who come in here and are clearly positive.”

Read more here.