Is This Our Chernobyl?

Joshua Lerner is a 10-year attending ER doctor.  He posted a long Facebook post which really hit home. It describes what is happening all across the country, including my home state of Virginia and, yes, even my home town of Fredericksburg. There are a lot of promises being made which are simply not being fulfilled. Due to lack of testing, the numbers you read are totally wrong and grossly underestimating the problem. As a skeptic, I wanted to believe “this is simply like a bad flu.” I now know otherwise and need no further convincing. We are witnessing the reality in our own patients as I write this and it is horrifying. You don’t have to be old or have chronic illnesses to get this and find yourself in the ICU fighting for your life. We are watching this firsthand.  Do not minimize this.The essay is below.  You cannot really link to it, so I did a copy and paste:
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In one of the most vivid scenes in the HBO miniseries “Chernobyl” (among many vivid scenes), soldiers dressed in leather smocks ran out into radioactive areas to literally shovel radioactive material out of harm’s way. Horrifically under-protected, they suited up anyway. In another scene, soldiers fashioned genital protection from scrap metal out of desperation while being sent to other hazardous areas.


Please don’t tell me that in the richest country in the world in the 21st century, I’m supposed to work in a fictionalized Soviet-era disaster zone and fashion my own face mask out of cloth because other Americans hoard supplies for personal use and so-called leaders sit around in meetings hearing themselves talk. I ran to a bedside the other day to intubate a crashing, likely COVID, patient. Two respiratory therapists and two nurses were already at the bedside. That’s 5 N95s masks, 5 gowns, 5 face shields and 10 gloves for one patient at one time. I saw probably 15-20 patients that shift, if we are going to start rationing supplies, what percentage should I wear precautions for?


Make no mistake, the CDC is loosening these guidelines because our country is not prepared. Loosening guidelines increases healthcare workers’ risk but the decision is done to allow us to keep working, not to keep us safe. It is done for the public benefit – so I can continue to work no matter the personal cost to me or my family (and my healthcare family). Sending healthcare workers to the front line asking them to cover their face with a bandana is akin to sending a soldier to the front line in a t-shirt and flip flops.


I don’t want talk. I don’t want assurances. I want action. I want boxes of N95s piling up, donated from the people who hoarded them. I want non-clinical administrators in the hospital lining up in the ER asking if they can stock shelves to make sure that when I need to rush into a room, the drawer of PPE equipment I open isn’t empty. I want them showing up in the ER asking “how can I help” instead of offering shallow “plans” conceived by someone who has spent far too long in an ivory tower and not long enough in the trenches. Maybe they should actually step foot in the trenches.
I want billion-dollar companies like 3M halting all production of any product that isn’t PPE to focus on PPE manufacturing. I want a company like Amazon, with its logistics mastery (it can drop a package to your door less than 24 hours after ordering it), halting its 2-day delivery of 12 reams of toilet paper to whoever is willing to pay the most in order to help get the available PPE supply distributed fast and efficiently in a manner that gets the necessary materials to my brothers and sisters in arms who need them.
I want Proctor and Gamble, and the makers of other soaps and detergents, stepping up too. We need detergent to clean scrubs, hospital linens and gowns. We need disinfecting wipes to clean desk and computer surfaces. What about plastics manufacturers? Plastic gowns aren’t some high-tech device, they are long shirts/smocks…made out of plastic. Get on it. Face shields are just clear plastic. Nitrile gloves? Yeah, they are pretty much just gloves…made from something that isn’t apparently Latex. Let’s go. Money talks in this country. Executive millionaires, why don’t you spend a few bucks to buy back some of these masks from the hoarders, and drop them off at the nearest hospital.


I love biotechnology and research but we need to divert viral culture media for COVID testing and research. We need biotechnology manufacturing ready and able to ramp up if and when treatments or vaccines are developed. Our Botox supply isn’t critical, but our antibiotic supply is. We need to be able to make more plastic ET tubes, not more silicon breast implants.


Let’s see all that. Then we can all talk about how we played our part in this fight. Netflix and chill is not enough while my family, friends and colleagues are out there fighting. Our country won two world wars because the entire country mobilized. We out-produced and we out-manufactured while our soldiers out-fought the enemy. We need to do that again because make no mistake, we are at war, healthcare workers are your soldiers, and the war has just begun.”
-Josh Lerner, MD.

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Steven Mussey MD

Steven Mussey, M.D. is a physician in Internal Medicine, practicing in the Fredericksburg area for more than twenty years. He grew up in Springfield, Virginia and earned a degree in Physics from The University of Virginia, Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his medical degree at The George Washington University and was inducted into the medical honor society AOA. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine. He served in the Air Force for four years before entering into private practice. He particularly enjoys geriatric medical care and working with complex patients. For almost a quarter century, he has been practicing with one other Internist. Both doctors enjoy practice in a small, but busy office, and plan on working into their 70s, as long as they can still find their way to the office. Dr. Mussey is also an avid cartoonist and has a weekly cartoon in the local newspaper. He also enjoys cartoon animation and has had several public service cartoons playing regularly on the television cable systems. 

  4 comments for “Is This Our Chernobyl?

  1. arf
    March 26, 2020 at 12:29 am

    This report came from Johns Hopkins, The Economist Intelligence Unit, Global Health Security Index.

    “The Global Health Security (GHS) Index is the first comprehensive assessment and benchmarking of health security and related capabilities across the 195 countries that make up the States Parties to the International Health Regulations (IHR [2005]). The GHS Index is a project of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (JHU) and was developed with The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). These organizations believe that, over time, the GHS Index will spur measurable changes in national health security and improve international capability to address one of the world’s most omnipresent risks: infectious disease outbreaks that can lead to international epidemics and pandemics.”

    This was dated October 2019, before coronavirus became a political football.

    Notice the USA was ranked number one, of 195 nations surveyed, for ability to respond to a biological threat.

    https://www.ghsindex.org/

  2. arf
    March 25, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    No, it’s not our Chernobyl.

    It’s China’s Chernobyl. They caused this.

    We are Sweden, dealing with the effects of the radioactive cloud the Soviets created by their negligence. The arrogant negligence that comes from a murderous dictatorial regime that could not care less what happens to the common people they rule.

    And Sweden pays a price to this day.
    https://www.thelocal.se/20070504/7200
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidnikel/2019/06/08/chernobyl-33-years-on-radiation-still-impacts-scandinavian-farmers/#15b7f530949f
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/06/radioactive-wild-boar-spark-fear-sweden/

    To say this is our Chernobyl is like blaming the Swedes for the radiation they still detect in their wildlife and farmland.

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    • Pat
      March 26, 2020 at 9:01 am

      Precisely.

      • arf
        March 26, 2020 at 12:20 pm

        Thanks.

        Extending the Swedish comparison I suppose.

        Inga Pelosi claims the radioactive cows are the fault of Olaf Trump because there weren’t enough Geiger counters when the radioactive cloud spread from Cernobyl to Sweden.

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