Coronavirus: If we all do our best, we’ll save lives
Flattening the curve on the local coronavirus epidemic is not that complicated. If we all give the best effort we can, as individuals and businesses, we will save lives.
Dr. Peter Rutherford, the CEO of Confluence Health, called me last Saturday to share his frustration about the lack of physical distancing he was seeing around the Wenatchee Valley and his fear that with coronavirus quietly being passed around our community, we were setting ourselves up for a major outbreak, an overwhelmed medical system, and significant loss of life.
After all, there are only so many intensive care unit beds and there is a limited supply of ventilators and personal protective equipment. The physicians and nurses who care for these patients put themselves in harm’s way and it angered him that parking lots of some local stores were full of cars and that social distancing didn’t seem to be happening.
Peter, who I have known most of my life, wanted my help and advice about how to get the community to take the threat to public health seriously.
Social distancing is crucial to “flattening the curve” of coronavirus cases in order to allow our limited medical facilities and staff to handle the load.
Since the health and safety of the community is of paramount importance, I made the conscious choice to write a scathing post on my personal Facebook page that started with “What’s wrong with the people of the Wenatchee Valley?” and went on to suggest that business and individuals were not doing enough and that for the sake of our medical providers, things needed to change.
The righteously indignant tone of my post was a dramatic departure from my standard approach. This was not a circumstance for reasoned commentary, which would have been ignored, but one that I felt required a more strident tone.
Thankfully, people started paying attention. More than 1,000 comments were posted, ranging from “we need to do better as a community” to equally indignant people who felt my post was unproductive and unhelpful and who the hell was I to be saying these things.
“This is a community issue,” Dr. Rutherford told me. The next few weeks will be critical in terms of prevent a serious outbreak. It became clear to me that individual and businesses needed to step up their focus on this issue.
I’m a believer that news organizations ought to be doing more than pointing out problems — we should be catalysts for change and spend as much energy as possible on encouraging people to make a difference.
Our civic leaders are stepping up and becoming more forceful advocates for staying safe. We have business organizations like the Wenatchee Valley Chamber and Wenatchee Downtown Association keeping businesses connected and supported. The Chelan-Douglas Health District is keeping us updated on the local situation.
Just as important, we need the grass roots as well as the grass tops. Organizations like Our Valley Our Future has been building networks of contacts in the Latino community to make sure everyone is hearing the message.
A grass roots effort to do the right thing which is critical if we want to work together to flatten the curve, which is far preferable to heavy handed regulation.
I wrote a subsequent Facebook post asking people to share the businesses that are doing a good job of trying to keep customers safe, and that led to an amazing outpouring of dozens of kudos to small and large businesses who are making a strong effort to encourage social distancing and slow the virus. It was inspiring to read the positive things that are happening.
If we give this our best effort and we look out for one another, we will save lives and be a stronger valley. I have no doubt we are up to this challenge. It’s already happening.