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It might be useful to dispel a few myths about the ongoing coronavirus (COVID19) global pandemic and most specifically why continuing “social distancing” is vital:

1. We did it! Back to normal!!

Nope nope nope. This was also going to be a long-range plan, no immediate gratification. Which, admittedly, is hard. But we have to be grownups here. This is still going to get worse before it gets better, and social distancing is the absolute key to avoiding a worse case scenario.

2.What’s the big deal? It’s just the flu!

This has been an error in messaging. When health care workers, especially public health officials, compared this to the flu that was a BAD thing, not a good thing. Influenza kills thousands of people every year, despite widespread vaccination (incidentally—EVERYONE get your flu shot EVERY year. Young, old, sick or well. Everyone. It won’t give you a cold, and it’s worth it. Promise) I have many many patients die from flu related complications every single season. And that’s with some community immunity and spread out over a 6-9 month “season”. COVID19 is coming all at once, and there’s basically zero immunity.

3. I live in a rural area, I’m not at risk:

This is just not true. But, rural areas (or anywhere with relatively low population density) stand a better chance than bigger cities of social distancing working, but it still takes effort! It doesn’t just happen by magic. And remember—the smaller your community, the smaller your hospital. Which means, the less ICU beds and ventilators. And if the bigger referral centers (like my hospital in Little Rock) are at capacity.

4.The cure is worse than the disease:

I get it. The effect of this on the economy at large is going to be devastating. But the stock market is not more important than lives. So if this is your adamant policy proposal, then you will also need to propose one close family member over 60 years of age to sacrifice. Please take any statement by federal political leaders with a GIANT grain of salt. (basically, if Dr. Fauci says it, it’s probably correct, otherwise)

5. Cases are increasing exponentially! We’re all doomed! Now, time for some reassurance.

This is actually expected. Because of woefully inadequate testing, we’ve been mostly flying blind for the first two weeks as to even accurately assessing how many cases there truly are. Testing is improving, but we’re still not there yet. I would expect weeks yet before we have a good handle on number of cases, and hopefully by then point-of-care testing will be widespread. That’s a game changer.

Don’t panic. Listen to public health officials (luckily, thus far Governor Hutchison is doing a great job listening to the science). Continue to practice social distancing. It will literally save lives.

Dr. Kevin P. Flinn is an Internal Medicine Specialist in Little Rock. He graduated with honors from University Of Arkansas College Of Medicine in 2007. He is also a graduate of Valley Springs High School.

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