Facing prevailing human stupidity and the terrifying prospect of a still-growing wave of COVID-19 cases, stalwart but exhausted doctors, nurses and other health workers around the world are urging people to “flatten the curve” – for their and our sakes – in a StayHomeSaveLives campaign on social media, posing with urgent signs reading, “I stayed at work for you. You stay at home for us!” God knows they have enough to do without having to stand there and remind us of our social contract and our collective humanity, but here we are. If you’re already too stressed to want the details, stop reading and just listen to them. If you want to understand better what they’re going through, two harrowing reports – from a doctor in Italy and one in New York – capture the nightmare. In Italy, “The war has literally exploded…and the departments fill up…The results of the swabs now come one after the other: positive, positive, positive….Radiology reports always the same: bilateral interstitial pneumonia, bilateral interstitial pneumonia, bilateral interstitial pneumonia…And every ventilator becomes like gold.”
In New York, a pediatric critical care specialist for whom “panic is not in my vocabulary” declares, “The sky is falling.” She describes “a global public health crisis moving at a speed and scale never witnessed by living generations,” where “the cracks in our medical and financial systems are being splayed open like a gashing wound,” “patients are lining up outside our emergency rooms,” and there is not enough testing, equipment, technology, research, anything. “I say this not to panic anyone but to mobilize you,” she writes. “Cowering in the dark places of our minds doesn’t help. Rather than private panic, we need public-spirited action. Those of us walking into the rooms of Covid-19-positive patients every day need you and your minds, your networks, your creative solutions, and your voices to be fighting for us. We might be the exhausted masked face trying to resuscitate you when you show up on the doorstep of our hospital. And when you do, I promise not to panic. I’ll use every ounce of my expertise to keep you alive. Please, do the same for us.” We thank them all.