Hagu

May 31, 2020

 

You are right, you probably aren’t going to die. You are one of the 90 percent in the world who the novel coronavirus can’t kill. But this stealthy virus sometimes hitches a ride on innocent little children and apparently healthy people like you until it finds vulnerable hosts like your elderly grandpa or the sweet, kind, little 80-year old lady in the house next door.

 

The vulnerable are typically overwhelmed by critical illness seven to 14 days after infection and may survive three or four weeks on a mechanical ventilator before they die. Approximately 10 percent of people infected with Covid-19 will become severely sick enough to require a tremendous amount of expert hospital care. Approximately 1 person out every one hundred infected Covid-19 patients will die.

 

So, in the best-case scenario, only 1 percent of the weakest, the oldest, the most indigent among us will perish. In another age, they would have been disposable people, maybe left on a rock somewhere to end their days.

 

You have suffered and sacrificed these past three long months for others. You stayed home, you relinquished your business and you struggled financially to help others more vulnerable than you survive.

 

You cared about the man’amko, those too old to work anymore. You cared about the frontline medical responders who were being overwhelmed and were sometimes dying from the disease. You cared about the police officers, the housekeeping staff, the doctors, the nurses, and the people who had to carry the dead bodies away.

 

A heroic selflessness has characterized the initial response to this existential threat to humanity. Rather than throwing each other under the bus, people the world over have made a remarkable effort to care about each other.

 

Because of the goodness, kindness and righteousness of many caring people, we all might yet be spared the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. For the sake of Abraham, I believe that God would find more than 10 righteous people in this world now threatened by coronavirus.

 

If our species survives this Covid-19 pandemic, we as a world may have accomplished more than to just emerge from another plague. We have hopefully evolved as a people willing to help others, even those too weak to help themselves.

 

This is our D-Day. This is our Omaha beach. We could have been selfish. We could have thrown the old people under the bus. Some very prominent politicians did suggest that very thing.

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Most people in the world willfully chose the harder way probably because we would not have been able to live with ourselves if we had just let the weak and old people die. We have survived bravely while showing ultimate honor to our fathers and our mothers. They would have done the same for us. In many cases, they already have, many times over.

 

This novel coronavirus has brought Guam to its knees, stranded our country’s mightiest aircraft carrier on our shores, and forced the world’s churches to shutter their doors.

 

According to world pandemic experts, Guam and the United States did not act fast enough to avoid a shutdown. By the time that American politicians took this disease seriously, the virus was seriously killing people. Now that America has widespread virus transmission, medical testing and aggressive contact tracing are necessary to determine the extent and duration of societal lockdown.

 

Locally, the lockdown did what it needed to do: starve the virus and allow Guam’s medical community to strengthen itself in order to save lives. With more than 21 days of low to no evidence of new Covid-19 viral infections; increasing numbers of sick Covid-19 patients recovering even from critical disease; and the maintenance of hospital intensive care surge capacity, the island seems safely able to resume some semblance of normal life.

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 We all want to hug our moms again. The kids are scared. Some of them even want to go back to school. “When will things return to normal?” they ask. The answer is when we reach population-level or “herd” immunity.

 

Herd immunity means that a group contains enough individuals who are immune to a certain disease that, if an infected person entered the group, the disease would not spread easily. In this case, the herd as a whole has “immunity” against the disease even if not all individuals are immune.

 

In this time of transition, many world leaders are succumbing to the temptation to curse the virus and skip the difficult steps of pandemic containment. Personal hygiene and face masks, prudent social distancing, strategic testing and aggressive contact tracing have become the effective although imperfect tools to contain Covid-19. But too many political leaders are foolishly rejecting the science and have developed no formal plan for surveillance and testing to look for early signs of disease recurrence. This failure to plan is assuredly a plan to fail to contain the resurgence of a disease that has already devastated Wuhan, Italy, and New York.

 

On our island, where America’s Day begins, the government of Guam must be brave, must be strong and must be right-hearted. As the tip of the spear, our leaders must rise to the moment, cultivate respect for the science of God’s handiwork, and manifest uncommon good sense.

 

By respecting the temple of our bodies and protecting our good health, let us all evolve and adapt successfully to this biologic threat. Collectively, under the warm beauty of our tropical blue skies, let us make Guam be where coronavirus goes to die.

 

Dr. Vincent Akimoto practices Family Medicine at the American Medical Clinic. Send feedback to akimotovince@yahoo.com

 

 

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