Letter to the Editor | We must fortify ourselves for the hard months ahead

As a resident of Piedmont and a physician practicing in the community, I am writing to implore my fellow Piedmonters to strengthen your resolve in following Covid-19 restrictions and adhering to the shelter-in-place orders.  With the first shipments of the vaccine arriving in California as I write, we are in the home stretch. Now is the time to fortify our community’s response to Covid-19, until vaccination is widely available.

In the past few weeks, my partners and I in our pediatric practice have witnessed a noticeable increase in Covid-19 cases, mirroring the surge seen in the Bay Area, and across California and the country.  While none of our patients have become very ill from Covid (yet), every day we hear of more and more exposures to positive cases amongst our patients. I am very supportive of the shelter-in-place instituted by Governor Newsom, and am proud to live in the Bay Area, which has been a leader by instituting these measures even earlier than the state required. 

Without these new restrictions, there would inevitably be more cases, more hospitalizations, more deaths, even within Piedmont. 

That is not to say that I am happy to have to cancel the few plans we did have to socialize outside with other people, and my teenage daughters are particularly unhappy that this means that during their two week break from school they will basically be stuck inside our house.  But our making these relatively small sacrifices will ultimately help save lives, and will ease the burden on health care providers like myself and my colleagues, by reducing the amount of disease circulating in the community.

It is for those reasons that I am frustrated and disheartened by seeing (on social media) and hearing of so many people in our community flaunting the restrictions and gathering with people outside of their household. 

When I talk to patients in my office and they tell me of plans to travel or socialize indoors with other friends or family, they invariably use the phrase “it’s ok, because we are all being very careful.” But the fact is, there is often someone in the expanded group who is not “being very careful”, either by choice or necessity, for instance by going to work outside the home.  And these are the exact situations where we are seeing more exposures. 

The truth is, no one should be considering themselves “special” or somehow exempt from the restrictions, simply because they are inconvenient or difficult. 

This year, Piedmont residents have come together to protest racial injustice.  As we all are now aware, Covid-19 has impacted people of color and lower socioeconomic classes disproportionately, for many reasons – they do not have the luxury of working from home, ordering groceries from home, living in secure housing, among many other causes.

Friends and families who gather together, without following Covid-19 restrictions, in Piedmont (or Tahoe or elsewhere) may think their actions only affect themselves.

But cases that spread in Piedmont will inevitably contribute to the spread among the surrounding communities, to people who are unable to isolate from family members in crowded households, who will lose their job if they miss too much work, and who don’t have access to high quality health care like most of us in Piedmont.

If we want to continue our commitment to combating racial injustice, we cannot overlook the impact of our choices on the world beyond our city limits.

As a pediatrician, I am painfully aware of the severe negative impacts of the prolonged isolation and disruptions to our lives caused by the Covid-19 restrictions and shelter-in-place orders. My partners and I are all caring for many patients suffering from depression and anxiety, particularly among teenagers. 

I want to go back to “normal life” as much as anyone. In particular, I feel strongly that we should be actively working to get all of our children back into school, and we should be demanding more support for that on the state and federal levels. 

But we will simply keep delaying the return to “normal life” if so many people keep finding reasons why they should be exempt from the rules, thus allowing the infection to continue to spread unabated.

I have heard some people say that it’s hard to take all these restrictions seriously when no one they know has been critically ill or died from Covid-19.  I would like to ask the residents of Piedmont to search within yourselves for empathy – the ability to understand and appreciate the feelings or experience of another, without needing to experience it firsthand for yourselves.  Just because it is not your grandmother, or your brother, or your colleague, who has been hospitalized or died from Covid-19, that does not mean that it is not someone else’s grandmother, brother, or colleague, who was just as dear to them as they would be to you. 

Waiting to take Covid-19 seriously when it affects your own loved one is too late.  

I would hope that a year from now, we can look back at how we pulled together as a community, to do everything we could to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and that the pride and satisfaction of knowing that we looked out for each other and those beyond Piedmont will offset the inconveniences, difficulties and disappointments that we endured. I would thus ask of you all to dig deep, follow the rules, and tell your family and friends that you want them to follow all the rules, because you care about them and our broader community. 

With the initiation of the vaccination efforts, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Let’s all do our part to minimize the darkness until we reach that light.

2 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor | We must fortify ourselves for the hard months ahead

  1. Piedmont is not immune. In the last week we added 9 cases to our city count! Come on people. The end is in sight. Let’s all be able to cross the finish line and say I did my share to help us get here

  2. Sarah you’ve put into words what so many are thinking and feeling. Thank you sharing your perspective based on experience and wisdom.

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