I'm an Infectious Disease Doctor and You're Making This One Mistake
As the country braces itself for "apocalyptic" coronavirus surges in multiple states across the country—including Texas, California, and Florida—not everyone is surprised. In fact, the majority of infectious disease experts—including Dr. Onyema Ogbuagu, a Yale Medicine infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Yale School of Medicine—saw this major COVID-19 resurgence coming from a mile away.
"This was all so predictable," Dr. Ogbuagu tells Eat This! Not That Health. "An old saying goes, a wise man learns from the mistakes of others. We are yet to collectively show the wisdom it takes to beat this epidemic in the United States and we are supposed to be the example to the world."
So, where exactly, did we go so wrong in our efforts to flatten the curve of the highly infectious virus?
And what does Dr. Ogbuagu beg you to do to stop it?
We Failed to Follow Successful Models Demonstrated by Other Countries
One of the important lessons from countries that experienced the COVID outbreak earlier on was that progressive public health measures can be effective in stopping the spread of the virus, points out Dr. Ogbuagu. These include border closures to limit imported cases from global hotspots, containment by ramping up testing and infrastructure to identify and subsequently isolate infected persons and then mitigation by enacting and enforcing lockdown measures and mask-wearing to limit community spread are all effective. "The degree of success of each of these are heavily dependent on the will to do so and adhere to them by policymakers and the public as relevant," he explains.
"In the United States, we have had huge failures on all of these measures," he points out. "Travel restrictions or bans were initiated late, testing was not only faulty but inadequate especially earlier on and lockdowns and mask-wearing have been heavily politicized and this has limited interest in promoting these not to mention adherence to them."
Our Healthcare System Wasn't Prepared
Additionally, hospitals and health systems were under-resourced, underprepared and overwhelmed. "The statistic of 84,500 infections among healthcare workers with 469 deaths is just upsetting as they are largely preventable and present a huge negative impact on our healthcare workforce heroically responding to the countrywide epidemic," Dr. Ogbuagu adds.
"Unfortunately but instructively the parts of the US that have struggled the most with public health measures to manage COVID outbreaks are disproportionately experiencing a resurgence of COVID cases," he points out.
Political Leaders Played a Devastating Role
Politics also worsened our outcome, according to Dr. Ogbuagu. "The irresponsible behaviors and actions of some of our political leaders in the highest offices have not only modeled but actively promoted wrong behavior (antithetical to CDC recommendations)," he continues.
We Are Still in the First Wave of the Pandemic—and Things Are Worsening
Because of these reasons, while other countries have effectively reduced coronavirus infections, we are still in the first wave, "and transmission is going on actively with over 50% of US states having rising cases with some breaking records (in the worst sense) and the cost is LIVES!" he points out. "The ultimate result is that the US population which makes up 4.25% now accounts for 25% of global infections and deaths." Given that Dr. Ogbuagu was speaking weeks ago, those numbers are even higher today.
YOU Need to Stop the Spread Now
If there is any hope of "getting back to normal" or even just a new normal, everyone needs to do their part—and stop making the big mistake of ignoring all the protective measures. "We need to reinforce public health measures to stop community transmission including reversing reopening efforts," explains Dr. Ogbuagu. "If we can ensure that people don't congregate as much especially in indoor setting, improve mask wearing among the general population, and protect the vulnerable such as strict measures in nursing homes for example, we can begin to realize gains in combating the rise in new cases." As for yourself: No matter where you're going, or how you get there, wear your face mask, social distance, wash your hands frequently, monitor your health, avoid crowds, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.