A Chicago epidemiologist’s recent speech painting a grim picture of the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic and imploring Americans to continue practicing social distancing has been shared widely online in recent days, coming at a critical time in the nation’s effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, a sometimes-fatal infectious disease.
“We now find ourselves facing a brand-new virus with too little information, not enough personal protective equipment, changing protocols every single day and no second chances,” said Dr. Emily Landon, the chief infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine.
Landon delivered her remarks Friday following an announcement from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) that he was issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order to try to curb the spread of coronavirus. To date, there have been more than 1,800 confirmed coronavirus cases in Illinois with 19 deaths. Several states and public health officials have expressed concern that a surge of newly reported cases could collapse state health systems.
In New York, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., the rate of new patients is already overwhelming understaffed and severely under-resourced hospitals.
“We can’t take care of everyone at once. And we can’t keep that low-mortality promise if we can’t provide the support that our patients need,” Landon said Friday, adding, “our health care system doesn’t have any slack.”
Landon said social distancing ― or self-imposed isolation ― is the most effective tool Americans have to try to curb the spread of the disease, in lieu of adequate testing and medical supplies.
In recent days, President Donald Trump and several of his conservative allies have called on states to ease up on their social distancing measures in an effort to spur the economy, arguing that the costs of a faltering economy outweigh the benefits of tamping down the pandemic.
Landon said that if Americans are successful at quarantining themselves in accordance with medical guidance, they will, fortunately, feel as though nothing has changed by the time it is over.
“A successful shelter-in-place means that you’re going to feel like it was all for nothing,” Landon said. “And you’d be right because ‘nothing’ means that nothing happened to your family.”