A Bronx doctor who has treated the novel coronavirus for weeks and has even contracted the virus himself called for an end to nationwide lockdown measures in op-ed published by The New York Post on Monday.
Daniel G. Murphy, MD, the chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, argued that the brunt of the virus has already passed in his area, once a COVID hotspot, and that is likely not due to lockdown measures. Instead, he argued, the virus has naturally run its course.
Backing this argument, Dr. Murphy noted that his hospital serves low income people who have “essential” jobs where social distancing is generally not possible. He also highlighted that the virus is widespread in the Bronx — about 43% of those tested have the virus — and thus, the neighborhood is on its way to herd immunity.
The negative effects of the COVID response, like cutting off non-coronavirus essential care and building fear of visting the hospital for lifesaving treatment, lest patients also contract the coronavirus, is causing needless destruction, the doctor outlined.
“The lasting impact” of COVID “is what worries me the most,” wrote Dr. Murphy. “And it’s why I now believe we should end the lockdown and rapidly get back to work.”
Weeks ago, the doctor said his staff saw a “wave of critically ill patients in numbers none of us had ever seen.” That lasted for two weeks, he said.
But the wave of the criticality ill Dr. Murphy witnessed is the reason he feels lockdown must end.
The “wave has crested,” he wrote. “At 1 p.m. April 7, the COVID-19 arrivals slowed down. It was a discrete, noticeable event. Stretchers became available by 5 p.m., and the number of arriving COVID-19 patients dropped below the number discharged, transferred or deceased.”
“[T]he community I serve is poor,” the doctor said. “Some are homeless. Most work in ‘essential,’ low-paying jobs, where distancing isn’t easy. Nevertheless, the wave passed over us, peaked and subsided.”
“The way this transpired tells me the ebb and flow had more to do with the natural course of the outbreak than it did with the lockdown,” he emphasized.
“I worry about non-coronavirus care,” Dr. Murphy said. “While the inpatient units remain busy with sick COVID-19 patients, our ER has been quiet for more than a week.”
The significant drop in 911 ambulance runs, which is currently “significantly below the average,” suggests “a large share of those staying home surely have emergency medical and surgical conditions not related to the novel coronavirus. The growing numbers dying at home during this crisis must include fatal myocardial infarctions, asthma exacerbations, bacterial infections and strokes.”
Pediatric volume in the ER “has practically disappeared,” he noted. “Visits to primary-care pediatricians are also down, with vaccine schedules falling behind. Everyone seems to be avoiding the health system — an important and unfortunate consequence of the stay-at-home strategy.”
“[I]nordinate fear misguides the public response,” Dr. Murphy explained. “While COVID-19 is serious, fear of it is being over-amplified. The public needs to understand that the vast majority of infected people do quite well.”
“COVID-19 is more prevalent than we think,” he wrote. “Many New Yorkers already have the COVID-19 infection, whether they are aware of it or not. As of today, over 43 percent of those tested are positive in The Bronx. We are developing a significant degree of natural herd immunity. Distancing works, but I am skeptical that it is playing as predominant a role as many think.”
“We can’t wait months. We must protect the vulnerable and mitigate without destroying the economy,” Dr. Murphy closed. “Standing up to this virus can’t be the job of essential workers only. We’ve been strong, but we’re tired, and we need the rest of you to help us. By getting back to work.”
Read the full op-ed, here.
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