A Special Message from Dr. Ozzie
The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of us, even if not with an active infection. This disease strikes at the heart of American values of freedom and self-determination. Uncertainty about what the future holds creates fear, discomfort and life imbalance. With digital media, the world has become much smaller and more connected. In fact, people are ingesting the 24/7 social media and news of local and worldwide spread.
As an epidemiologist and Family Doctor, I am concerned with prevention and control, especially of new diseases impacting large number of people. The history of pandemics outlines how time after time, isolating the sick from the healthy will reduce the spread. However this time it is different, we know that many will never manifest COVID-19 while carrying it. In the absence of vaccination, we should think of reducing viral circulation in the environment and among the susceptible group.
Tag, You’re It
Today’s lack of screening and diagnostic tests may delay case finding, treatment and isolation, thereby increasing the chance for further community spread. The high infectious rate of this virus (an infected person will infect an average of 2-3 people and average time to double the number of cases is a short 3 days) make the case for very fast moving pandemic impacting millions of people worldwide.
Slowing the Immediate Spread
The epidemic curve in the US is steep and it looks like it will continue for some time. These measures are the best bets for mitigation in the short term:
- The federal government is to deny immediate entry or provide isolation for 14 days for potentially infected individuals from other hard hit countries through all ports of entry.
- State or local governements to take the lead to decrease case importation by whatever means necessary including screening, testing and isolating potentially infected people.
Expand To Regional COVID-19 Leadership Teams
- How about another layer of command to support our state governments? I suggest we divide the country into 4 or 5 health regions: West Coast AK & HI (CA, OR, WA, NV, AZ, AK, HI), Upper MW (IL, MN, MI, WI, IA, IN), rest of MW & TX (15 states), North East (11 states), South East (11 states and DC). Each region will have a Chief Public Health Officer to coordinate interstate efforts to control the disease.
- Each region will immediately develop and implement a coordinated regional plan that produces the goals articulated by CDC/ NIH Czar. All Chiefs will report to a National Health Czar (from the CDC or NIH).
- The plan must have milestones for achieving the goal of control/ prevention of COVID-19.
- This structure will remain in place and will be brought to action in case of other epidemics. The group will be disbanded after achieving the goals of this mission of COVID-19 Control.
The Time for Action is NOW
Therefore, I am pleading with the Federal, State, Local governments and Public Health authorities to expand access for testing to everyone at doctors’ offices, local health departments and drive through sites. We need more hospital beds and critical care equipment to care for the very sick or at high risk for severe disease. Now is the time to set up military field hospitals at strategic locations. Leadership and a well constructed plan of attack is our best defense today.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Osman Ahmed is a physician, epidemiologist, public & population health expert.