For those who don’t know what COVID-19 is, it is a respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus, and it spreads from person to person by inhaling the virus particles or by touching contaminated surfaces. The disease has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”). COVID-19 is overwhelming our health care system. COVID-19 is 10 times more lethal than the flu. Some reports state that the COVID-19 mortality rate is between 1% and 3%, while the mortality rate for the flu is 0.1%. On March 20, the death toll in the United States was 225, and remember, this was only reported cases, the actual count was probably a lot more. By May 7, the coronavirus had killed more than 75,000 Americans. As of May 27, more than 100,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported. The CDC reported that the flu killed approximately 34,000 Americans during the 2018–19 flu season. In 2019, car crashes killed almost 39,000 Americans.

We also know that this COVID-19 pandemic is different from the flu virus because the virus has killed 100 Italian doctors. That doesn’t happen during a bad flu season. The virus has killed 30 employees of the New York City Police Department. The virus has killed over 12,000 U.S. nursing home and long-term care residents. That just doesn’t happen during a bad flu season.

Between 1-5% percent of Americans may have actually already been infected with the virus. But that’s far short of the 50-70% required to achieve herd immunity.  Herd immunity is what happens when enough people in a given area are protected against a disease—from vaccinations or because they’ve had an illness before—that it actually protects other people as well. The seasonal flu, by contrast, infected 12% of the American population last year because we have a flu vaccine and some people have immunity from previous infections.

I am not surprised at the misinformation out there regarding COVID-19, as this is a very new disease with little information on its behavior, treatment, etc. However, from what we have learned and experienced as a country over the last few months, I was shocked and infuriated when I learned that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp reopened Georgia for business, after only declaring a shelter-in-place order for 2 weeks. On top of that, the shelter-in-place order was instituted late because he claims that he did not realize that people that have COVID-19 that don’t exhibit any symptoms can still spread disease. Where has he been for the past few months? Under a rock? The premature re-opening of Georgia businesses provides no incentive for the mortgage companies, rental companies, utility companies, etc., to work with those who are unable to pay their bills and are worried to return to the workforce for potential exposure to COVID-19. Those that filed for unemployment will no longer be able to collect unemployment.

Also, the myths are troubling, and as a result, many people are not taking the COVID-19 Pandemic seriously. Some myths that are circulating include:

  1. Black people can’t get COVID-19. I think this myth initially took root based on early testing results showing many elderly white Americans were getting sick. Also, early reports came out of China and Europe, so folks were thinking, “Oh, black people have not been affected.” Unfortunately, black people are succumbing to COVID-19 at higher rates than the general population, alerting health officials of the health disparities that have been so pervasive throughout minority communities for many, many years.
  2. 5G causes COVID-19. I think they are 2 separate issues. Folks may have linked the 2 issues because in Wuhan, China, a 5G tower was erected in November of last year, around the same time of the first cases of COVID-19 were reported. Although there may be some validity to the thought that radiation from 5G has some type of impact on human health, one has nothing to do with the other.
  3. COVID-19 was created in a lab in Wuhan, China. The scientific community says there is no current evidence for this claim. Regardless of where this virus came from, either from a lab or an animal, we cannot ignore the fact that it is here and it’s affecting EVERYONE worldwide. COVID-19 does not discriminate and we must do what we can to protect ourselves.

With this new disease comes new issues. There is no cure, no real treatment such as Tamiflu for the flu, no vaccines, and no real understanding of what is actually working with various therapies. So, at this point, the most we can do is follow the advice of the experts. Take care of yourself, shelter in place, physical distance 6 feet apart, wash your hands for 20 seconds, wear masks or face-coverings, etc. And always remember, you can always bring an economy back, but you cannot bring back a life.

Stay healthy,

Dr. Nicolle

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