It was discouraging, with pandemic disease moving silently among us, to encounter a reactionary political tract masquerading as medical opinion, “Healthcare Professionals: We have flattened the curve; now we’re behind it.”
Nurse Practitioner Karl Lambert and two of his RediMedi employees may well be NCW’s least-involved clinicians in actually caring for victims of COVID-19, but they are now the first to openly undermine collective efforts to fight this terrible disease.
RediMedi’s self-serving and factually challenged complaint comes just five days after Dr. Peter Rutherford published his thoughtful, heartfelt and information-rich essay on this same page: “We Are All In This Together.” This is a must-read piece.
Dr. Rutherford leads a team of hundreds of doctors and nurses in clinics and hospitals across the region who are actually caring for the afflicted in this crisis. These are the people who have courageously shouldered the triage burden, serving to inform, prepare, test, track, treat, intubate, and save precious lives, all at great cost and risk to themselves and their families.
They have waged a battle invisible to most of us, struggling with cumbersome protective gear, masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, (if they can even get hold of them,) constantly cleaning and re-cleaning, and facing sometimes losing battles with a deadly virus no one fully understands. We are deeply in their debt. We should honor them by following their lead.
This is no time to carp from the sidelines, when we all need to cooperate and pull together, but that is just what MediRedi has chosen to do.
Healthcare professionals: We have flattened the curve, now we’re behind it.
Worse, they rely on distortions, cherry-picked numbers, and exaggerated assumptions to try and hammer home their political “open-it-up now” message.
In the process, they presume to speak not just for their clinic but for health care workers in general, including frontline ICU staff, and arrogantly suggest that many are “too afraid” to speak up. Insulting words these, about professional nurses and doctors who’ve shown no hesitation to speak out angrily about the gross failures of the federal government to provide clear guidance, adequate protective gear and testing capacity we still don’t have.
Aside from giving lip service to “protecting and sheltering the aged and vulnerable” — the authors provide no clue as to how this would be done with the virus freely circulating in the community — there is not a single serious medical consideration addressed here.
No discussion of testing shortfalls; of future spikes in infections certain to accompany premature opening; of the vulnerability of small-community health systems to becoming overwhelmed; of the visible lack of cooperation within this community with required distancing protocols and essential face coverings to be worn by all of us; of the special hazards facing our local farmworkers and packing house workers; of scofflaw business owners defying safety stipulations; and of the likely resurgence of the virus in the fall, complicated by seasonal influenza infections.
Instead, the authors recklessly assert that our state’s coronavirus response has been a “travesty.” They show no concern about Trump’s tax cuts for the rich “saddling future generations with crushing debt” but worry about deficit financing to save lives. They falsely claim “healthy individuals under 60 have to stay at home indefinitely” to protect the aged and infirm. They threaten that suicide and depression will claim as many lives as COVID-19 (a spurious comparison, what with nearly 100,000 COVID deaths now, of all ages and health status, and rising by thousands every day). They willfully deny the danger of “silent carriers,” demanding “proof,” warning us instead that we’ll live in “a perpetual state of fear” if we don’t decide to just ignore, as they have, what Dr. Rutherford stated clearly days before, that “the way COVID allows for asymptomatic but contagious individuals is unusual behavior for viral infections.”
Unusual, and dangerous. We don’t know all the ways this disease attacks the human body, but they are many, some hitting even young children in bizarre and increasingly lethal ways. Studies have shown that 40% of people currently working in “essential,” often low-paying, jobs live with a family member who is at high risk for COVID complications and death.
Were it not for the so-called “travesty” of wisely curtailing virus-spreading activities, many more would have died. Studies now reveal that had “Stay Home, Stay Safe” measures been enacted nationwide just one week earlier, 35,000 fewer people would have died; two weeks earlier, that number would be 54,000 still alive. It is fashionable now to speak of “flattening the curve,” as if the “curve” didn’t represent actual people sickened, lives lost. Yet even a cursory glance at the graphs The World updates daily show no such “flattening” in Chelan County, but instead a steady upward climb, even as many of us shelter in place, and COVID testing remains inadequate.
We are all in this together
The RediMedi line is exactly the wrong one. Trashing Jay Inslee even as he arguably has outperformed every other governor for wise handling of this threat, nitpicking this or that protective policy, is ignorant and damaging. As for professional healthcare advice, I’ll take my cue from a genuine healthcare leader who has earned our trust from the very start. As Peter Rutherford reminds us, it’s time that each of us takes responsibility for how this all turns out. It’s a matter of life and death, and it’s up to you and me to do right.
Stan Quast is an Entiat resident