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There are myths of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — that need to be addressed. THIS IS NOT ANOTHER FLU.

Some data suggest that the mortality rate of COVID-19 is 10 to 30 times higher than the seasonal flu. There are no drug treatments. There are no current vaccines, and a vaccine is not expected for another 12-18 months at best.

Yes, most people will have a mild illness with COVID-19, roughly 80%, but the most vulnerable in our population will pay the price if nothing is done. Persons aged 60 and above and those with preexisting lung or heart disease, diabetes, and multiple other medical problems are the people at the highest risk.

Do we want to risk our parents and grandparents so that we can go on with regular life? Or go out for a social function? Or are our parents and grandparents worth the inconvenience that we are experiencing now?

My answer is we sacrifice and defend our loved ones.

We have a chance to get ahead and limit the impact of COVID-19. The true danger of COVID-19 does not necessarily lie in the mortality rate, but in the rate of infection and spread. The 15% to 20% of patients who have severe illness related to COVID-19 will require aggressive ICU treatment.

And herein lies the problem. The medical system does not have the capacity to handle an influx of COVID-19 patients all at the same time. Our only defense, our only treatment, our only hope, is to spread out the rate of infection and illness. If the rate of infection can be slowed to the point where medical resources are adequate, many people can receive the support and treatment needed to survive severe cases of COVID-19. If the system is overwhelmed, as in Italy, the mortality rate will rise, with a disproportionate number of deaths in the elderly population.

The spread of COVID-19 is contained and slowed by limiting social interaction. We have all heard that the major sporting leagues have shuttered their doors. Locally, this means school closures, keeping kids and families at home, limiting trips to the store, working from home if possible, eating and cooking at home, avoiding large gatherings, and canceling local events with greater than 10 people, the latter being a presidential recommendation.

The medical community applauds the social isolation measures currently in place. We fully understand that this battle will be won on the backs of our small business owners; parents who stay home from work to take care of children; people whose retirement accounts are decimated; the families of medical providers who work long hours and sacrifice much; and our children whose education is disrupted. This is just to name a few.

We thank you in advance for your sacrifice to give us a fighting chance against COVID-19.

Kevin Harada, M.D.
Internal Medicine
Chief of Staff
Northern Montana Health Care

Readers, we’d like to hear your thoughts. Send letters to the editor to (406) 262-7778
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