Unsolicited Medical Advice

I was on a continuing medical education call with Dr. Michael Osterholm a week ago (sponsored by the MN Academy of Family Physicians).  He basically confirmed that, yes, all heck will break loose with Omicron infections in the next couple weeks in Minnesota.  COVID wastewater studies at the U of MN were already showing a logarithmic increase (ten times!!!) in viral load.  Levels of viral shedding into the toilet presage the number of active, symptomatic COVID infections one week later.
So, it’s a week later and I just came from the co-op.  The store closed at 7 pm tonight instead of the usual 9 pm.  Staffing issues.  Meanwhile, Twin Cities health care systems began circulating internal memos detailing “here’s how you can work while you are infected with COVID-19.”
Our hospitals can’t take much more.  The best summary I’ve seen so far comes from Ed Yong in THE ATLANTIC.  Yong paints an accurately bleak picture.
What can YOU do for your local hospitals?
1) If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated.  Dr. Osterholm says you’re not fully vaccinated until you’ve had three Moderna/Pfizer shots or two J&J shots.  Expect more shots in the future.
If you decline vaccination for any reason other than known anaphylaxis to one of the vaccine components, ask yourself, “Am I OK with killing a child who needs an emergency appendectomy but can’t get it because I’m occupying the last remaining hospital bed?”
If you decline vaccination for any reason other than known anaphylaxis to one of the vaccine components, you have blood on your hands.
2) Remember that any test positivity or case number statistics are inaccurate, underestimating the true situation by A LOT.  Why?  Because of delays in test processing as well as the number of people who are taking home tests (if they can find the test kits).  Now is NOT the time to have a big family reunion.
3) Assume that any new symptoms = COVID.  Your “cold” is probably Omicron.  If you can’t find a test, simply assume it’s COVID and act appropriately.
4) Mask up with a KN95 or N95.  Dr. Osterholm said fabric masks are a fashion choice and of no other utility.  Omicron will happily pass through your magical rainbow unicorn mask.
5) Think of the Greater Good.  You might say gee, I’m vaccinated with all three shots.  Can’t I go about my regular life and hang out with friends and eat out?  Even if I get Omicron, I’m unlikely to get all that sick.
Here’s the trouble: Omicron is SO CONTAGIOUS that many many many people are getting sick and, even if every person is vaccinated, people will need hospitalization just because of sheer numbers.
If you do your part, wear your KN95 when grocery shopping, get take-out instead of eating-in, you could prevent a death.  Seriously.  Why?  Because you won’t get Omicron from the table next door at your favorite restaurant and then give it to your babysitter who will take it to his grandma who will share it with her paramour and her paramour will keel over dead in multi-organ system failure because he waited in the ER for hours while staff hoped that an ICU bed would open up somewhere.
6) Realize that even FULLY VACCINATED people can contract COVID given the opportunity.  Don’t tempt fate.  Wear masks (see #4) when you’re hanging out with your fully vaccinated buddies.  Don’t eat in groups with folks outside your household.
7) Anticipate supply chain issues.  Order up a three month supply of any medications you take regularly.  Procure extra diabetic supplies if you are diabetic.  Assume that you won’t be able to get what you need within 24-48 hours and make sure you have enough tucked away.
8) Know that the “Standard of Care” is currently impossible for health care providers to meet.  A friend of mine is a Hennepin County judge.  She recently noticed an uptick in medical malpractice cases.  No health care system wants to admit that they are providing sub-standard care but EVERY SINGLE SYSTEM is currently providing sub-standard care.  From the clinic that only has three medical assistants trying to room patients for eight providers, to the ER where you will wait five hours to be seen and then “board” in an ER room because there is no hospital bed for you, to the regional hospital that is accepting patients beyond their comfortable scope of practice because there simply are no other beds in the state.
9) Do tele health visits whenever possible if you need to see a doctor.  Only go to the ER if you’re having a medical emergency.  And do what you can to avoid emergencies.  It’s a particularly bad time to suddenly start ski jumping.
10) Donate blood if you can.  This is another easy opportunity to prevent death!
11)Recognize our US healthcare system for what it is: ABUSIVE and BROKEN.  Our healthcare providers are going to have a collective case of PTSD.  Stop talking about provider “resilience,” such a slap in the face to the frontline workers who have been literally risking their lives for two years for other people’s health.  Do what you can to support a single-payer, national healthcare system, even if you just read about it.
That’s it from me.  Thanks for reading.
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