COVID-19 Narrative (2): Chris Matthew Sciabarra

This is the second in my series of COVID-19 Narratives, by my dear friend Chris Sciabarra, sheltering in place in Brooklyn, New York. Though the series is primarily about what I called the “supply side” of the health care equation during this crisis, I wanted to run some posts that described the “demand side” as well, that is, what it’s like to be a patient during the pandemic. Particularly valuable about Chris’s post is how it illustrates the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for people with serious medical conditions whose previously scheduled medical procedures have now been deemed “elective.” “Elective” in this context doesn’t mean “optional.” It means downgraded to second or third priority out of sheer, dire necessity: hospital beds, equipment, and personnel have to be left vacant or unused to absorb the overwhelming crush of COVID-19 patients we expect to see. And even at the center of the pandemic, we haven’t yet reached the peak of that crush. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (19): This Isn’t John Galt Speaking

The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action. Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist. It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies…

–Ayn Rand, “The Objectivist Ethics”

Imagine a version of Atlas Shrugged in which the Taggart Tunnel disaster involves a causal process driven primarily by Mother Nature, and what goes off the rails is not a train but a health care system. Now imagine that the hero of the piece is not a shadowy figure like John Galt but the functional (not moral) equivalent of Dr. Robert Stadler. Now imagine that a retreat to Galt’s Gulch is a physical impossibility. If, for some readers, this requires a re-conceptualization of how the world works, maybe a lot of other things do, too. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (18): N95 Masks and Ultraviolet Lamps

I confess to complete ignorance as to the science on this, so I’m just throwing the suggestion out there care of my Facebook friend Richard Saint Cyr, MD, who’s done some of the relevant leg work.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could reuse your N95 masks dozens of times, knowing it’s completely sterilized from COVID-19 and all other germs? What if first line responders could come home and sterilize all their gear overnight? Doesn’t that sound like a fantastic way to help this critical shortage of PPE? Of course! Get the Gates Foundation on this! Call Elon Musk! Oh, wait… it already exists… it’s called ultraviolet light! More commonly called UV-C sterilization or Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI, ultraviolet light in the C-band at 254 nanometers destroys DNA and RNA just enough to stop reproduction of all germs. It’s been around for over 140 years, it’s used in many industries, and hospitals across the world already use UV-C to sterilize their rooms of all germs. It can be cheap, easy to do, and quick. It’s already approved by the FDA for medical use! So… why is no one shouting from the rooftops about this? 

I don’t know, but I’m always up for shouting. Read the rest here. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (17): Geriatric Oncology during COVID-19

Here’s a press release from an old friend that I’ve mentioned here a couple of times before, William Dale MD, the Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair in Supportive Care Medicine at the City of Hope in Duarte, California. William specializes in geriatric oncology, the treatment of cancer in older patients, which for obvious reasons presents severe challenges during an event like the COVID-19 pandemic. His pushback against the repulsive ageism that has recently come to the surface of our discourse is an enormous relief to read. Continue reading

COVID-19 Narratives (1): Jennifer McKitrick

This is the the first of what I hope to be many installments in my “COVID-19 Narrative Project.” 

Making Fabric Masks
Jennifer McKitrick

I am a philosophy professor and department chair.  I started staying at home March 13th, 2020, when my university cancelled classes in advance of  transitioning to online instruction two weeks later.  I was trying to figure out how to finish my course on early modern philosophy online.  As department chair, I was dealing with nervous staff and colleagues making the transition to working from home, and administrations wanting documented contingency plans, etc., as the crisis deepened. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (15): What to Do When You’re “Locked Down”

Apologies for deluging you all with posts; I’ll try to keep these to a maximum of two a day. But the situation here in the New York/New Jersey metro area is getting increasingly critical. As I said in my very first post in this series, our situation is closer to Italy’s right now than most people realize. That outcome isn’t inevitable, but it can only be averted if we act. There’s no need to be sitting at home “bored” with the lockdown. There’s more than enough to be done even within its constraints. (If Gazans can do it, so can you.) I can’t publicize every plea for assistance I see, no matter how legitimate; I can only ask concerned readers to be on the lookout for them, and please consider responding to some. Continue reading

Coronavirus Diary (14): “The Eyes of a Masked Stranger”

A message from my sister-in-law Jessica Franklin, MD, after her first full day treating COVID-19 patients at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, a region (meaning New York City and its immediate suburbs) that’s been described as “the epicenter of the global pandemic.” Her message begins in the block quote below the fold.

As a one-time hospital “environmental services worker” (aka “janitor”), I particularly appreciate Jess’s inclusion of that profession in what she says below. If physicians and nurses will have to go without personal protective equipment, what do you think will happen to janitors? I can tell you what happened to us when I was working as a hospital janitor at Overlook Hospital in my 20s. We were told to clean up hazardous waste without any personal protective equipment at all. Because if we didn’t do it, who would? At that wage, what choice would anyone have? Say “no”? Continue reading