Study after study, report after report, about the
coronavirus epidemic shows that there are
two effective means toward “flattening the
curve” of infection: expanded testing and “social
Whether or not we like it, this is the way forward
for New York City. This will be the way we can help
spare thousands from suffering and tragedy in intensive
care wards across the five boroughs.
It seems ironic that, in an era where we talk
about the importance of social networking, our way
out of this public health emergency is to distance
ourselves from each other. It seems like madness to
some that entire cities in France and Italy are completely
shut down, families isolated in their homes,
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while riding out this biological storm.
But this is where we are.
We don’t yet have a vaccine to prevent coronavirus
infection. We know that it easily spreads from
person to person, and that people infected with the
virus — even if they’re not symptomatic — can still
carry this illness to someone who may wind up sick,
Social distancing is the best measure we can take
at this moment to stop the rapid spread of coronavirus
and keep people vulnerable to this illness away
from infection. Thank goodness we live in an era of
history where we can work, interact with friends or
relatives, and order food at the touch of our fingertips,
without ever leaving home.
After it was widely reported this past weekend
that there were plenty of people crowding into bars
and restaurants all over the city, looking for a good
time away from all the bad news, the mayor signed
an executive order effectively putting an end to that,
a measure we applaud.
There is simply too much risk in interacting in
that matter. It matters not if the partygoers become
infected and never show symptoms. But these revelers
can carry their hidden illness unwillingly to
someone they care about — and potentially make
them seriously ill.
We are all in uncharted territory here; it’s an
incredibly difficult time for us all. Better days are
ahead; we will eventually overcome this outbreak if
we stand together.
Those better days will come more quickly if we
sacrifice ourselves now, distance ourselves from
each other, and help keep all New Yorkers safe.
Let’s not wait for a city ordinance to make that
BY PAUL SCHINDLER
I am in self-quarantine for COVID-19.
Is that because I know I’ve had an exposure to
the coronavirus? No, not for certain. And that uncertainty
speaks to how crippling the current state
of this pandemic is for the way we carry on our
A co-worker of mine has experienced five days of
high fevers, chills, a cough and periods of labored
breathing. He’s been exhausted but has been so uncomfortable
at times that he’s been unable to sleep.
Thankfully, he’s feeling better today and it looks
like he’s on the mend.
But here’s something that’s a damning indictment
on our healthcare system and our government’s
response: He has been unable to get tested
His doctor told him he “definitely could” have
the coronavirus, but said he can’t be tested at this
time. Still, the doctor referred him to an urgent
care center, which in turn told him to call the New
York state coronavirus hotline. There, he was told
that our local public health resources lack the capacity
to give him a test given the symptoms he described.
That answer was not surprising since the city
health department last night tweeted, “Testing
should only be used for people who need to be hospitalized
for severe illnesses like pneumonia.”
By now, we’ve all seen the reporting on the failure
of the federal government to have emergency
health crisis preparedness in place — what with the
president’s dismantling of that unit in the White
House National Security Council — and on the
ham-handed rollout of testing and the continued
red tape hobbling our ability to expand its capacity.
Many other nations — some considerably less
affluent than our own — are doing far better on this
The nation’s testing failure — as no less than Dr.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of
Allergy and Infectious Diseases, termed it to Congress
last week — puts the primary burden for limiting
the virus’ explosion onto each of us.
In a New York Times op-ed over the weekend,
Charlie Warzel wrote compellingly about the
whys and hows of that. He pointed out that even
though millions of workers were doing their jobs
remotely from home to avoid infection, many were
spending their evenings in restaurants and bars.
Perhaps young and/or healthy, they may have also
felt invincible. But as Sanjat Kanjilal, of the Harvard
Pilgrim Health Care Institute’ Department
of Population Medicine, has pointed out, epidemiological
“modeling suggests that the impact of distancing
among low-risk people is more important to
decrease transmission than its impact for high-risk
people who move around less.”
In other words, it’s not just sick people, old
people, and others whose health makes them particularly
vulnerable to the coronavirus that need
to avoid social contact in large groups. Everybody
has to. Because even if you’re healthy and feel fine,
you might be carrying the virus and spread it in
large groups or might contract it and spread it elsewhere.
That was the logic behind New York City and
other localities closing restaurants, bars and other
But it’s not enough for us to abide by the rules
government is setting. We need to apply them in our
So for the time being, don’t bring the party home.
Exercise prudence in your social interactions.
Check in on vulnerable people in your lives. And
should you become ill, be responsible about reporting
that to those you’ve recently spent time with.
These guidelines provide the best route to flattening
the curve on infections across the nation.
Public health is a community effort.