Now I'm not saying that we should run out and immediately open up our State! I believe there's a lot of validity and truth to this persons words. How long is too long? I don't know? Unfortunately, the longer we wait, the consequences and devastation may be much higher than this pandemic!
READ ON- Stiles is an MD. He sent this to Governor Kate of Oregon.
Dear Governor Brown:
I will be 76 years old next month. I take medication for high blood pressure and a heart condition. I therefore fall into the “high risk” category as far as the Covid-19 virus is concerned. I also am a retired plastic and reconstructive surgeon as well as a retired US Army officer. I am a veteran of both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. In my career as a surgeon and in the army, I’ve seen death up close many, many times.
I have followed the Covid-19 situation closely through the Oregon Health Authorities’ daily updates. It is obvious that the victims of Covid-19 in Oregon have almost universally been elderly and with “underlying medical conditions”. As of April 17 the death toll stands at 70 in a state with a population of 4.2 million people. The ages of the fatalities listed for April 17 are 88, 95, 86, 65, 91 and 76. The youngest fatality in Oregon was 41 years old with the next youngest being 59. Most of the additional fatalities have been over 70 with many in their 80s and 90s. Of those, a significant percentage have been clustered in nursing homes where one presumes that they were either in assisted living or being treated for such conditions as dementia. Many of the extreme elderly are listed as dying “at home”. Not in a hospital and, one presumes, not on a ventilator and, hopefully, surrounded by loving family.
As sad as this pandemic has been world and nationwide, Oregon certainly seems to have been spared the worst of it. We must view situations like New York City, Detroit and New Orleans as being much different from our state. In NYC the population density is 28,000 people per square mile. There are 2.2 million subway riders daily. Obviously this is the perfect incubation setting for a massive outbreak.
What we now must face are the horrific consequences of the self-imposed continued lockdown of the state and its economy. Hundreds of thousands of previously employed Oregonians are now totally without incomes. The state and federal governments are doing what they can to provide financial assistance to these individuals but this cannot go on indefinitely. Each day that the lockdown goes on will result in the permanent loss of many small businesses which employ so many of our citizens.
The near and long term consequences of continuing this program are easy to predict. I don’t need any highly complicated, expensive and totally wrong “modelling” to be able to predict what lies ahead. Our hospitals and health care systems have effectively been shut down in anticipation of the overwhelming number of COvid-19 cases that never materialized.
Thousands of much needed surgeries and other life-saving procedures are now on hold as being “nonessential”. This includes mastectomies for breast cancer. I can only wonder at the anxiety of a patient in this position or the individual with symptoms of cancer or other deadly diseases who cannot obtain necessary evaluation and testing. The numerous deaths that will result from these delays in diagnosis and treatment will be your responsibility if the state is not “opened” and opened quickly.
Numerous dental and medical practices, especially those critical small primary care practices in our rural areas and the small local rural hospitals are on the verge of bankruptcy. If they fail, healthcare for the entire state suffers permanently. What happens to our health care system if it is destroyed??
Then there are the entirely predictable effects of long term poverty on our population. Prior to the pandemic it was well known that close to half of the population was living paycheck to paycheck with many not having even $500 in savings. Many of these individuals are single moms who require that schools be open so that they can work. Adding these hundreds of thousands to the welfare rolls of the state will surely bankrupt the state. Then what? With all the small businesses gone and the hopes and dreams of all those owners shattered after lifetimes of sacrifice and effort, who will employ these people? What will state government do without most of its prior tax revenues gone?
We will undoubtedly see a marked increase in suicide, drug addiction, alcoholism and crime if a severe Depression occurs. This economic condition threatens to be far worse that the Great Depression of the 1930s. As anyone who has studied history knows, it took World War Two to end that decade of misery. The lives lost to poor health care, poverty and lost education will be far greater than the Covid-19 virus could ever cause.
What will the State of Oregon do without the tax revenues lost to the continued shutdown? The few “wealthy” individuals left, if any, and big corporations will not be able to provide adequate funds for basic state functions.
The time has come to act! Don’t “burn down the village to save it”. Lift the self-imposed economic suicide sanctions ASAP. We cannot wait until the very last case has been reported or until (12-18 months from now) a vaccine is available. My military training and history show that leadership requires making very difficult decisions. Sometimes the choice requires picking the least bad option among many awful ones. This is such a time.
The permanent damage to the State of Oregon and its citizens will be far greater than necessary if this period of business shutdown is allowed to go on much longer. It should be possible to protect the most vulnerable while allowing the rest of the population to return to a state of normalcy.
I respectfully urge you to take all steps as expeditiously as possible to get the state “open” again.Stiles T. Jewett, Jr., MD, FACS COL USAR (Ret) Cc; The Oregonian/OregonLive