LETTER TO THE EDITOR

We have to do this right

Posted 6/4/20

To the Editor, Mr. Jim Morgan's letter of 5/28/20 supports immediate reopening of our economy and attributes the shutdown to fear-mongering by "e;those in power"e; and by the "e;mainstream media"e; in response to "e;hysteria of this latest virus du jour."e; Mr.

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LETTER TO THE EDITOR

We have to do this right

Posted

To the Editor,

Mr. Jim Morgan's letter of 5/28/20 supports immediate reopening of our economy and attributes the shutdown to fear-mongering by "those in power" and by the "mainstream media" in response to "hysteria of this latest virus du jour."

Mr. Morgan, I am not in the media and I don't claim to be a coronavirus expert, but as an Army-trained internist practicing for nearly 40 years, I am compelled to correct medical misinformation. In my practice settings - military (including Desert Storm), private practice in Warwick, and now treating veterans who have or are at risk for Covid-19 - I have treated many infectious diseases, and can vouch that Covid is not simply a "virus du jour."

You mention that it attacks the elderly "like any other flu" but that 98% of the infected recover. That death rate is still far higher than the usual 0.1-0.2% flu fatality rate. More importantly, despite initial symptoms similar to influenza, in at least 15% of cases this virus is a wolf in sheep's clothing - it may progress to pneumonia, respiratory failure, and a hyperimmune response leading to multiple-organ damage and either death or a prolonged recovery with disability. And in a recent study, over 40% of ICU victims were under 55. We simply don't see this with influenza.

Infection rates and fatality rates are notoriously difficult to measure and compare for Covid, since testing has varied widely. The Stanford University study you cite does not state anything unequivocally - in fact, reviewers found the study poorly done and results likely invalid. Clinical experience and contact tracing demonstrate that Covid is much more contagious than flu - as shown in the cluster of cases after the February Biogen conference in Boston, and at nursing homes since.

Masking and social distancing are effective and mainly inconveniences, but many still rebel and label these restrictions of liberty - we forget that medical and public health officials have to make difficult decisions when public safety is at stake. No leader I've seen enjoys mandating shutdowns or lockdowns - they certainly don't make voters happy - but history has proven their need in pandemics. Most experts believe that our response in Rhode Island has limited the damage, and I'd hope a cautious reopening will continue this.

Like you, I'd hope not to experience this again - but that means we have to do this right, based not on emotion and election worries, but rather on good data, good medical advice and wise leaders.

Paul F. McKenney MD, FACP

Warwick Sent from my iPad

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