Bracing for the Storm

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TPM Reader RS is a physician in California …

At my hospital, it feels like the proverbial calm before the storm – we have not seen many COVID-19 cases yet, but the numbers are increasing and we are watching the news from Seattle and NYC with grim anticipation. All our effort is focused on preparation right now – sorting out testing challenges, developing diagnostic algorithms, building staffing models, and trying to calm the fears and anxieties of patients, families, staff, and colleagues.

We are doing all of this with the understanding that we must come up with a plan to care for the patients – and ourselves – without federal help. City and state leadership are doing what they can, but I think all of us have come to accept that the Trump administration will not intervene. None of us think that Trump will use his power to compel PPE or ventilator production, call for a nationwide shelter-in-place order, or do anything about the disgraceful lack of testing. Why? Because we didn’t vote for Trump. It’s as simple as that. Seattle, New York, and California aren’t Trump strongholds, so whatever happens here – even preventable deaths – is not his concern.

Trump’s plan going forward is clear. He will call for a return to “normal activity” by the end of the month, claiming he has evidence that the epidemic is slowing and the economic consequences are too great. Overwhelmed hospitals and increasing deaths in big cities will be written off as evidence that their (Democratic) mayors and governors are incompetent. If and when the epidemic spreads to Trump country, he and his minions will blame areas which suffered earlier (which, again, are conveniently all blue states) for not doing enough to stop the spread, with some way found to blame immigrants as well. And of course, all of the health care system problems that this epidemic is exposing will be ascribed to Obamacare.

It is a difficult time for health care professionals at all levels. We are doing our best and will always do so, because this is what we trained for. But the job is being made immeasurably more difficult because we know that we need the federal government’s help, and it will not be coming.

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