Yes, physicians really do get asked: “Is the coronavirus even real?”
Updated: Dec 5, 2020
“Do you think they over-exaggerate the coronavirus death count? What if someone really dies of a gunshot wound but they report it as a death from COVID?” – my neighbor to my physician husband
Since the coronavirus pandemic turned our entire world upside down in 2020 with the United States becoming the country with the most confirmed cases, vastly conflicting opinions about the public health crisis have flooded the news, social media, and even daily conversation.
My husband Cameron happens to be an Internal Medicine physician still at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. On his first week, he admitted 4 members of the same family – a mother, father, their nephew and their 25-year-old son. With COVID-19, you just never know what symptoms a patient will get – or how severe. Everyone seemed to be mildly improving over the first few days. But on day 4, the son began to have more difficulty breathing. That same evening, he had to be moved to the Intensive Care Unit, intubated, and placed on a ventilator. His parents had to be informed of his declining status while they were still in their own hospital beds. On day 6, he died alone without any family members by his side. And this was just the start of the many heartbreaking tales my husband has to tell about the coronavirus pandemic.
As you can imagine, my husband is very serious about coronavirus, stay at home orders, and most of all, universal wearing of masks in public. He’s not speaking about his experience caring for COVID-19 patients to shut down indoor dining, he’s doing it because he is actually watching patients die from the disease.
Then there is my neighbor Eric, a super friendly videographer in his 60’s with a lovely family. He spotted me and my husband struggling to bring in our couch from the storage pod one late evening when we first moved into the neighborhood and swooped in to help without hesitation. He has even welcomed us over to his beautiful backyard pool and for beers in his front yard where he holds twice weekly neighborhood meets. Eric also happens to be a Republican, never wears a mask and was quietly supportive of the protests that occurred in Orange County, CA to reopen the state.
Front-line health care workers such as my husband see the worst cases of the virus and are at a huge risk of getting it themselves. Of course, they want to prevent any deaths and contain COVID-19 as much as possible even if that means shutting down the economy and encouraging everyone to wear masks.
But Eric? He doesn’t know anyone that has been diagnosed with COVID-19 yet. He wasn’t able to make any money at all to support his family when the state was shut down for months. He understands that people may get seriously ill, but from his perspective, it hasn’t affected anyone he personally knows and is wondering if the virus is just a conspiracy.
Others just like Eric couldn’t go back to work to earn a livable wage for the longest time, some were furloughed, and some couldn’t apply for unemployment successfully. So, a lot of those workers, even knowing the risks of spreading the disease, just desperately needed the economy to open back up in order to pay rent or even just put food on the table.
Teens and young adults also likely don’t see as much the effects of the public health crisis. My neighbor’s daughter was finishing up her senior year in high school when the pandemic hit. Remember when you were young and felt invincible, like health problems were inconceivable and that you were going to live forever? Well, young people statistically are not being as hit hard with coronavirus symptoms, so naturally, the younger generation is going to be way more carefree and take way more risks such as large gatherings. It’s difficult when TV and movies tell you these are the best days of your life and you are forced to spend them not making great memories.
So, it makes sense that those that are personally affected by the coronavirus pandemic want everyone else to do the altruistic thing – wear masks and stay at home to prevent spread of disease. On the other hand, those that aren’t affected by COVID-19 and are questioning if the virus is real just don’t want to have their lives dictated by and affected by something that seems abstract to them.
If it takes getting personally affected by the coronavirus for someone to take the public health crisis seriously, I would never wish that upon anybody. But I do hope that they do listen to the stories of those affected by the virus and have at least a small change of heart – just like I hope one particular neighbor has.