You Can Help Break the Chain of Transmission

We all must social-distance as much as possible to limit the impact. Utmost in my mind at the moment are the health care workers, some of whom are my friends, who are going to be on the front lines. They are the heroes, and by limiting transmission, we are all helping them do their jobs and save lives.

And the risks and interventions will change over time, as people better understand the situation. We should not think that this will blow over in a few weeks and then life will resume as it was before.

BH: Sustainability is a completely reasonable thing to be worried about. But it’s not an excuse for not taking urgent action now. We must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

The most sustainable measures will be put in place when the incidence of infection is low. Because when the incidence is high, the only way to save lives will be with really extreme interventions — the lockdowns, police on the streets like we have seen in Italy.

Coronavirus may not be dangerous to most people; if you are under 40 or so and have no comorbidities, you will probably be fine. But it is transmissible enough to infect a very large number of people. And even a small fraction of a very large number can be a large number — certainly enough to overwhelm our health care system.

It’s important to distinguish between the short term and the long term. The long term is hard to predict, but there are a lot of things we can do now, and many of them are common sense. As I keep saying: It’s epidemiology, not rocket science!

The uncertainty and unpredictability are confounding.

HJ: Yes, but an immediate crisis on our doorstep is that Personal Protective Equipment — masks, shields, gloves and so on, or P.P.E. — is running out for health care workers. We’d been hearing about a movement afoot to get the Defense Production Act invoked, and now that has happened, allowing mass production of P.P.E. and other necessary equipment. We are essentially entering a wartime situation and need to behave with that in mind; call your senators and other representatives, anything you can do to enact change. Health care workers are our front line soldiers, and we need to protect them. Talking of a “wartime situation” might sound scary, but remember: This is an opportunity for everyone to unite against a common enemy. I’ve been incredibly moved by how much important work everyone is doing to help one another. If we can harness that effectively, then I can start to feel more optimistic.