On the Front Line of The Battle with COVID-19 (with Dr. Shinkai Hakimi)

The date is March 23, 2020. At the time of recording this episode, and in the last week, our world and the way we have known it has turned upside down. Today, we‘re talking about Coronavirus, or COVID-19, with with our dear fried and colleague Dr. Shinkai Hakimi, who is a pulmonary critical care doctor in Monterey Bay, CA.

She has special interest in public health, has worked extensively towards healthcare for refugees, and is one of the most knowledgeable physicians we know. She is on the front lines and knows first-hand the trajectory of the disease here and in other countries and how it is evolving.

At the time of writing this, in the US, we have about 42,700 identified cases with 541 deaths. Compare this number to last week when there were 4,400 cases and 75 deaths, and a week before that, it was 566 cases with 22 deaths.

This looks as ominous as what happened in China, when the numbers of infected cases went from 549 in January to more than 80,000 cases by the beginning of March. In Italy, the onslaught started with 155 cases at the end of February, with a few deaths to more than 59,000 cases today with up to 5,476 deaths and its rising at an exponential rate.

This is not necessarily the case in all countries. In Singapore and in South Korea, the pattern was very different, and it’s attributed to early measures such as screening for people with fever or flu-like symptoms, banning large gatherings, directing people to work from home, and encouraging social distancing, and after six weeks, they were able to curb the spread of this virus.

There is evidence that our response — how quickly and extensively we institute public health measures — could mean the difference between minimal additions to uncontrollable spread of this disease.

We are already late both at the community and national levels. The U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous classified warnings in January and February this year about the global danger posed by the Coronavirus, yet we didn’t start taking this virus seriously until mid February.

But even then, it was only talk and some mediocre local measures, but no major movement to mobilize tools and equipment for patients and health care workers, and no decisive preventive measures at the community level. But what is missed in all of this is what will possibly happen to our first line of defense: the healthcare community.

We hope you enjoy the conversation.

We would love four action items from all of you:

  • Follow the public health recommendations from CDC and WHO, which strongly suggest social distancing, and universal hygiene measures like hand washing.
  • Don’t go to the emergency room or urgent clinics for menial procedures or visits as they are already overwhelmed.
  • Please contact your local and national policy makers to get them to support what ever measure needed to get personal protection equipment for healthcare providers.
  • Please share this information with your loved ones.