I’m an emergency physician at St. Barnabas Hospital in The Bronx. I have been in the ER every day these last few weeks, either supervising or providing direct care.
I contracted a COVID-19 infection very early in the outbreak, as did two of my daughters, one of whom is a nurse. We are all well, thank God. COVID-19 has been the worst health care disaster of my 30-year career, because of its intensity, duration, and potential for lasting impact. The lasting impact is what worries me the most. And it’s why I now believe we should end the lockdown and rapidly get back to work. From mid-March through mid-April, the ER staff at St. Barnabas huddled in groups of about 20 every morning. We asked ourselves what had happened over the previous shift. We generated a list of actionable tasks for the following 24 hours. At first, we addressed personal protective equipment and the management of patients with mild illness who were seeking COVID-19 tests. Then came the wave of critically ill patients in numbers none of us had ever seen. This lasted for two weeks. The number of patients on ventilators accumulated in the ER and throughout the hospital. We witnessed an unprecedented number of deaths. The tone of the huddles became more somber. We became accustomed to the morbidity; we did our jobs. It is precisely what I have witnessed that now tells me that it’s time to ease the lockdown. Here’s why. First, the wave has crested. At 1 p.m. April 7, the COVID-19 arrivals slowed down. It was a discrete, noticeable event. Stretchers became available by 5 p.m., and the number […]