By: Donald V. Watkins
© Copyrighted and Published on March 16, 2020
As most readers know, several of my family members and closest friends are pioneers in medicine. My brother Levi Watkins, Jr., co-developed the Automatic Implantable Defibrillator and successfully implanted the first device in a human being at Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in 1980. My brother James is a wound care doctor and former surgeon. My niece and nephew are renowned cancer doctors and leading biomedical researchers who hold simultaneously conferred MD and PhD degrees. My circle of friends includes distinguished surgeons, Emergency Room (ER) and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) physicians, epidemiologists, frontline medical responders, and other healthcare professionals.
One of my closest physician friends provided me with urgent information regarding COVID 19. This information was written by an ICU doctor and an ER physician, both of whom practice medicine at prestigious hospitals in Atlanta. My friend sent the COVID 19 information to me on March 15, 2020 and described it as "the best synopsis [she has] seen about the virus thus far." This doctor fact-checked this critical COVID 19 information for accuracy. It is totally devoid of political spin. I am sharing the information with my family members, friends, and readers, exactly as it was shared with me. The information set forth below constitutes direct quotes excerpted from emails the ICU and ER doctors sent to their family members and friends.
Key Medical Observations from the ICU Doctor:
1. "COVID 19 is here. In America. NOW. Circulating in communities, both detected and undetected. There is no stopping it. COVID 19 is a respiratory illness caused by SARS-CoV2, a new strain of coronavirus that has emerged in humans since December 2019. It is related to the SARS virus that circulated in 2002-03."
2. "It is not the flu. It doesn't feel like the flu. And, it is deadlier than the flu by every measure we have undertaken in the affected countries. It will make the rounds and many of us [medical professionals] will catch it .... [A] significant number of us will get fairly sick and may need hospitalization ... of those about half of those hospitalized will likely end up in the ICU and possibly on breathing machines ... and of those sickest, there will be deaths. COVID 19 at its best is showing a 0.8% mortality rate, which is 3x worse than the flu."
3. "Symptoms of the flu involve your body feeling like everything hurts, and you got run over by a Mack truck and you just feel awful ... in addition to upper respiratory symptoms. COVID 19 is different. You may or may not have a runny nose and fever. A sore throat becomes a major common finding... then it gets into the lungs. A dry, nonproductive cough is common, followed or accompanied by shortness of breathe. The shortness of breathe is what is triggering hospital visits, and the folks presenting to hospitals show low oxygen levels (oxygen saturations) and chest imaging typically shows a bilateral diffuse pneumonia (double pneumonia for the laypeople)."
4. "The only proven effective therapies are supportive-Oxygen and positive pressure ventilation ... either with cpap/bipap machine or with a mechanical ventilator attached to a breathing tube. There is no cure. Your body has to fight it off and it has to run its course. There is no Tamiflu equivalent that works for this. There are smart medical folks out there spitballing ideas, but nothing is proven to work."
5. "Babies and children are making out Ok ... even if they test positive, they haven't been dying of it in China, in Italy ... however, healthy young adults, even athletic types in their 30s-50s are coming in very sick and some are dying. From there, the older one is, the higher the hospitalization rates and the mortality rates."
6. "The biggest danger right now, and the reason why I am writing this ... is that this will "explode" here [in the U.S.] like it has in Italy, Iran and how it did in China."
7. "We only have so many hospital beds. We only have so many ICU beds. We only have so many ventilators ... we only have so many trained staff who can care for patients. If this [virus] blows up massively beyond the ability of the healthcare system to treat and rescue patients, people who COULD have lived will simply die."
8. "COVID 19 is here ... it will sweep the nation. There was never anything we could have done to stop it because of the way we live and conduct business. BUT, what we have to do is SLOW IT DOWN."
9. "If we SLOW IT DOWN so that the number of unwell and critically ill don't explode and overwhelm the system, then everyone has a fighting chance. Give time for the flu season to end and get flu patients out of the hospital. Give time for the first wave of COVID patients to get well enough to get out of the hospital."
10. "So ... to SLOW IT DOWN ... practice frequent handwashing. Don't touch your face, nose or eyes without washing your hands first. Frequently disinfect common surfaces."
11. "PRACTICE SOCIAL DISTANCING. COVID LOVES A CROWD. If you are gonna spread disease around, lets spread it to only one or two people, not 100 people at a time. Stay away from large groups... or stay home. If you go out and touch common surfaces, clean your hands before touching your face. If you are sick, stay home. Don't visit vulnerable folks. If it gets in your household, accept that its there and try not to give it to your aunts, uncles and grandparents. Stay home, don't go to school."
12. "For the elders reading this: I need you to stay home as if your life depends on it. Because it very well does. Your age group is the one having the worst time with this. And it gets bad, all I can say is that in Italy [last] week, if you were crashing and over 60, they didn't even consider offering a vent to them."
Key Observations from the ER Doctor:
1. "The positive results are starting to pile in. I'm contacting patients today [March 15, 2020] who we swabbed on 3/11 and discharged. They're positive. We are hoping they truly self-quarantined and haven't been out and about like half of Atlanta was on the beltline yesterday."
2. "[T]rust me when I say that our curve has followed Italy's nearly exactly and it is terrifying. The hospitals aren't going to save us guys ... we will have to drive this ourselves and force then to give us what we need."
Key Observations from My Doctor Friend (Who Fact-Checked the COVID 19 Information Above):
1. "We don't have N95 respirator masks [at the Atlanta hospital where she works] to protect us [frontline medical responders] from getting the virus."
2. "The virus keeps mutating ... it can actually last up to 45 days in your system. And, we don't know the longterm effects after the initial illness."
3. "The virus is airborne. Can last in the air after a person coughs for a few hours. Super contagious."
Key Observations from Me:
1. Stop worrying about your 401K and the stock markets. The economy is going to tank and it will come back in a year or two. The airlines, banks, life insurance companies, large publicly traded corporations, and cruise lines will get a government bailout, as they did during the Great Recession of 2008. The government always finds a way to take care of large corporations and the super-rich. Last week, the Federal Reserve Bank, alone, injected $1.5 trillion of liquidity into the ailing national economy. The decision Americans have to make as a society right today is whether we want a tanked economy with a low body count or a high body count.
2. Stay safe and follow the COVID 19 medical advice listed above. It comes from the "best of the best" frontline medical providers. What is more, this advice is well-researched and free of political spin.