Over the last two months, the COVID-19 pandemic has gone from something we see on TV in a faraway country to something that has dramatically changed our daily lives.
We’ve been ordered to shelter in place, stay six feet apart, and take other measures that were once unthinkable.
And in our hospitals across Central Florida, the number of COVID-19 patients is steadily growing. Many are so critically ill that they need to be put on ventilators.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently said this time will be “our Pearl Harbor moment ... our 9/11 moment.”
That may sound extreme. But as physicians, we can tell you: this situation is extreme. We’ve never seen anything like this in our careers. Medical students are being graduated early; retired doctors and nurses are returning to work to help.
It’s an “all-hands-on-deck” situation. And that includes the community too. Simply put, we are concerned that residents here in Lake County are not treating the situation with the seriousness it deserves. Lake County already has more than 100 cases of COVID-19 to date, ranging in age from 17-86.
That wide range drives home the point that this disease can strike anyone, of any age. You don’t have to be elderly or have other health issues to be vulnerable.
Sadly, we have also begun to see fatalities here in Lake County. We expect the numbers of cases and deaths to rise in the days and weeks ahead as we near the “surge” stage of the pandemic.
As we see from reports in New York City and elsewhere, a surge of COVID-19 patients can overwhelm our health-care system. It gets to the point that there simply aren’t enough beds, enough ventilators, enough masks, even enough doctors and nurses, to meet the need.
It may seem like that can’t happen here in Central Florida – but it can. Our internal models tell us the surge will arrive sometime between mid-April through the first half of May.
With the time we have left before the surge arrives, we must pull our entire community together in the fight against COVID-19. We in health care are doing everything we can to prepare, from creating temporary additional space, to shifting beds to provide more critical care, to being resourceful in managing our personal protective equipment (PPE), even adding doctors to meet patient needs.
But we can’t do this without you. Please, stay home whenever possible. Maintain social distancing. And keep washing your hands, avoid touching your face, and use disinfectant to wipe down surfaces. You can also wear a homemade mask, which may help decrease your risk and protect others, but it is not a substitute for social distancing and hand hygiene. You can learn more from the CDC here.
These next days and weeks are critical. Let’s work together to keep ourselves and our neighbors here in Lake County healthy and safe.