Live action heartbeat. (Photo and animation by: Wiki)
NEW YORK — The Coronavirus, which is actively spreading worldwide at a rapid rate, has no known cure. My family is taking social-distancing extra seriously because of our worry for my grandfather, Dr. Jacob Shani. A cardiologist, he continues to work every day in a Maimonides hospital in Brooklyn, New York, which is the epicenter of the coronavirus.
Five of the other cardiologists on his team already have the virus, so there is more of a need for him to come to work.
In many places, doctors have made makeshift hospitals because there are too many cases in hospitals and not enough space and resources. My grandfather said Maimonides even had to “turn many of our wards and all our ICUs into COVID and build more ICU space.”
As of May 8, there are over 1.2 million U.S. cases of coronavirus and more than 73,000 deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). These numbers have doubled in three weeks and continue to grow at an exponential rate. The virus has a relatively high mortality rate, especially for people with weak immune systems and the elderly.
If people do not take social distancing seriously, patients will overwhelm the available resources forcing doctors into nearly impossible decisions, such as choosing who will get the resources they need to live, and who will not.
According to news reports, many doctors and nurses choose not to go home to their families at all, as to not risk bringing coronavirus home and infecting anyone else.
This global pandemic has put a halt to people’s lives. Aside from the obvious health effects, other negative effects of responding to the virus include shutting down schools, college campuses, and workplaces, as well as a lack of protective equipment and critical resources for hospitals, and a massive economic decline.
One of the challenges doctors have is that patients have to be isolated and are very lonely. Dr. Shani explains that doctors have “to make sure that you call the families at least twice a day, and if they call and have a question that you find the time to answer them.”
Also, since the patients’ families cannot be with them during this traumatic time, the patients’ families do not want to be left in the dark and want to be informed. So, the doctors must not only think about their patients but their families as well and be “on-call” for them.
As for the future of medicine, Dr. Shani explains that it’s “going out at least a year to a year and a half, or until we have a reliable vaccine, we will always have to live with some COVID.”
Hospitals will have to dedicate a ward for Coronavirus patients. In this case, cross-contamination to other patients will still be a problem, so until there is a vaccine, hospitals will need “special staff, special elevators, … equipment being delivered, and food being delivered separately to that [COVID] floor.”
Along with these negative effects of the virus on hospitals, there are some positives that will come from the virus, he says.
“Hospitals learned to be more efficient, doctors learned how to be more nimble in many ways,” he says, “[doctors] learned how to adjust in real-time to situations that changed and learned how to streamline our supply lines.”
This is stressful for him and the rest of my family, because we want him to remain safe during this pandemic. People like my grandfather are working tirelessly, so the least we can do as a country is follow their instructions and limit human contact.
This piece was written for the class Environmental Journalism, which is taught at Tulane University by Dr. Ned Randolph.