We in Okanogan County agree with many points made in the opinion piece by Lambert et al. on May 13 (Healthcare professionals: We have flattened the curve, now we’re behind it).
We agree we can’t expect people to stay at home indefinitely, “no new cases” is an unreasonable standard for opening up Okanogan County, and older and vulnerable people should be protected. We also agree the human cost of continuing the shutdown requires we find a way to start opening soon.
Nevertheless, the undersigned doctors disagree on several important points:
Healthcare professionals: We have flattened the curve, now we’re behind it.
1. The authors suggest that since most who died are old and Seattle’s hospitals were not overwhelmed, the stay home/stay safe order was misguided. On the contrary, those early actions flattened our curve. New York delayed and paid a huge price. The gruesome stories coming out of Manhattan and Italy suggest these measures were necessary.
2. Suggesting the virus is less deadly than originally thought and only people over 60 need protection is wrong. The Stanford study showing an infection fatality rate of 0.1%-0.2% is highly controversial and is being heavily criticized by many researchers. If Washington’s COVID-19 fatality rate were that low, our infection rate would need to be about 50 times higher than reported by the state Department of Health. Such a claim is highly unlikely.
3. Suggesting we ignore viral transmission by asymptomatic carriers until definitively proven could have terrible consequences. Evidence that infected people without symptoms can cause significant community spread is mounting and the burden should be to prove otherwise.
Other than quarantining seniors, the authors were silent about guidelines for reopening. Other countries avoided shutting down their economies through containment strategies: wide-spread testing, contact tracing and isolation of new cases. We should aggressively promote these actions combined with people’s compliance with recommended public health measures (hand washing, physical distancing, mask wearing, etc.) to prevent viral spread. Because our case load is still low, these strategies could make a big difference. The opportunity the country missed in February could be done right in Okanogan County this time. Let’s work with our public health officials and county commissioners to make reopening successful by avoiding unnecessary deaths and another shutdown.
Peter Bauer, MD
Raleigh Bowden, MD
David Clement, MD
James Clement, MD
Ann Diamond, MD
Allison Fitzgerald, MD
Victor Glick, MD
Tom Grayston, MD
Bruce Honsinger, MD
Barbara Schneider, MD
Libby Schreiner, MD
Leslie Tregillus, MD
Mike Tuggy, MD
James Wallace, MD, MPH
Elisabeth Weiss, MD
Ted Young, PhD