It is now May. After almost two months of quarantine in New York and Connecticut we all wait with bated breath to see if restrictions will finally be lifted as executed orders expire on May 15th and 20th, respectively. Previous April expiration dates have already come and gone and these new deadlines are likely to be extended as well. While nothing official has been declared on Connecticut’s next step, New York, on the other hand, has already laid out their extension on their webpage, ny.gov, with the governor’s “phased plan” to reopen.
This “phased plan” has four main steps and is too lengthy to go into full detail in one post, so I’ll keep it to the first step: “Do no harm”. This step includes the current quarantine protocol of economic shutdown, social isolation (distancing), and now wearing makeshift masks in public places. The original purpose of this plan was to slow the rate of infection, not stop it, so that the hospital system did not become overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
This great “NY Pause” seems to be a rational decision in light of an unprecedented time when all governments were negligently under-prepared to deal with a pandemic, but to title it “Do no harm” is a grave misrepresentation of the consequences of this shutdown. While the initial shutdown is likely to have resulted in an overall reduction of harm by protecting the hospital system, this positive effect quickly reverses if continued in such a severe manner for too long. The shutdown reduces the spread of the infection which is, initially, a good thing as vulnerable populations can be identified and the hospitals can change gears and prepare. The bad part: all the harms caused by stopping life as we know it. While data on these harms is currently very limited and many of the “do no harm” effects will not be realized until later, it is still possible to create a tentative list of harms that have and continue to occur, one likely to expand in length and severity the longer this goes on.
This includes things like decreasing access to healthcare and increasing death from non-COVID-19 related conditions; increasing poverty and debt; increasing crime as criminals are released from jail and police are diverted to enforce new mandates; poor or absent education for youth as remote education proves a poor substitute for real education; increasing panic, fear, depression, anxiety and the resulting violence and suicide; disruption of food supply causing rationing and starvation around the world; increasing domestic violence; and isolation, separation and other violations of our fundamental human nature and rights.
What is really needed is an informed consent for the “do no harm” mandates. Inform people of the benefits and risks of what is being mandated and then give them the choice to stay isolated or to go out into life. After all, how one lives their life is truly their choice.
This is general information only and not intended to diagnose or treat your specific health or medical conditions. If you have a specific health or medical condition consult with your healthcare professional. You can also contact Dr. Pintauro directly.