Prevention is my job. It’s the thing I’ve dedicated my life to. Prophylaxis in its various forms is so important (e.g., vaccines, condoms, exercise, diet, etc). It’s why we enjoy longer lifespans than our ancestors. I think the hardest part of my job is what I call the “nothing problem.” When things go well, something is prevented from happening. So, nothing. Literally nothing happens. Prevention is hard to sell to people. It’s easy to take for granted that you were able to go about life as normal because nothing out of the ordinary happened.
The problem with what is happening now is a lot of people look at the number of deaths at this moment and think it’s not a big deal. “(Insert other condition) causes more deaths every year, so what’s all the fuss about?” You’ve probably seen a lot of numbers in the last week or two. There’s one pair of numbers I want to call your attention to. In the span of seven days, we as a country went from ~ 500 deaths to ~ 3,000 deaths. That number is growing quickly and it will continue to do so for weeks. You’re hearing a lot about social distancing and staying home as much as you can. The reason is because that number is accelerating. It’s going to keep growing and growing until one day you will wake up and see that COVID-19 is the cause of death for more people than (insert condition) for the year. I am trying to prevent that. WE’RE trying to prevent that.
Prevention is the only way for us to treat COVID-19, for now. But that will change. Science is moving fast and that’s really good news. Things seem dire, and they are. But, we’re better equipped to deal with a pandemic now than ever before. Science is on it. The first cases of COVID-19 appeared in November 2019. It is now May 2020. In that time, we have managed to:
- Identify and isolate the virus
- Develop a test
- Identify the most common symptoms
- Map the genetic sequence of the virus
- Identify the proteins the virus binds to
We are currently working on treatments and a vaccine. This is GREAT news. No, we won’t have a vaccine tomorrow or a treatment next week. However, we are working on it. Remember this: up until six months ago this virus was completely unknown in humans and we have never been so quick to deal with a completely new virus. That’s incredible. That’s something that you should take comfort in. I know I do.
Prevention. Prevention is the name of the game for us right now. Seeing empty streets should be a comfort to people. I know that sounds strange, but empty streets mean people are looking out for each other by staying home. Talk to your friends and family about prevention and why social distancing and staying home are important. Talk to them about prevention as if their lives depend upon it, because they very well might.