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Message from our Medical Advisory Board Chair and Board of Director, Rick Q. Ngo, M.D, F.A.C.S. regarding COVID-19

Hi All-

I hope you and yours are safe and sound. Truly surreal and unprecedented times.

My posts on Facebook typically consist of my kids’ sporting endeavors, important family occasions, concerts/festivals, social/sporting events, non-profit/charity projects, and the very rare political opinion (that often backfires).

As a physician, I have the privilege and platform to take care of and serve others. It’s a God-given honor I hope to never take for granted. Yet, I rarely post on medical issues for a variety of reasons- so much info is already out there, privacy issues, it’s better suited for LinkedIn,…

Well, the following post comes from me not only as a physician, but also as a child of God, husband, dad, son, brother, friend, neighbor, and last but not least- fellow human. This post is certainly not a political one. It certainly is a medical one. It most certainly is a humanitarian one.

The following serves to convey MY understanding of the COVID-19 situation at the moment (so much is changing by the day/hour/second). It comes from following/reading several respected sources, talking to many colleagues,…

The format I will use will be to address several of the important points/questions folks are most commonly making/asking.

THE SEASONAL FLU KILLS MORE PEOPLE EVERY YEAR THAN COVID-19 HAS, SO WHY THE HYPE?
Simply, because we are nowhere near the end of this pandemic. And we have no idea when the end will be. The frequently referenced seasonal flu number is an entire year’s total. COVID-19 has the potential to kill more people in the next 24 months than any outbreak since the Spanish Flu of 1918-1920.

IT’S BASICALLY THE SAME AS THE SEASONAL FLU, SO WHY THE HYPE?
Yes, the symptoms are similar to the flu, but it’s contagiousness could be similar/but may be worse and COVID-19 has an estimated mortality rate 20-30X higher than the seasonal flu. And it may be even higher as the data from Europe is currently suggesting. Also, we have a vaccine available for the seasonal flu while none will be available for COVID-19 for at least one year. Because there is not a vaccine for it right now and it has about the same/possible worse contagiousness level as the flu, it is expected that we will soon have more people infected with COVID-19 than the seasonal flu. A lot more.

COVID-19 ONLY KILLS 2-3% OF THE PEOPLE IT INFECTS WHILE EBOLA KILLED 80-90% OF THE PEOPLE IT INFECTED. SO WHY THE HYPE?
It’s a numerator/denominator thing. 2-3% of potentially tens-hundreds of millions is a lot. By anyone’s measure.

I’M YOUNG AND HEALTHY. I HEARD IT’S MAINLY DANGEROUS FOR THE ELDERLY.
You will likely be ok but you might transmit it to your elderly relatives who might not be. You will likely be ok but you might transmit it to your friend who’s about to visit their grandparents. Also, the early data from Europe and the West Coast is that young healthy adults are also needing mechanical ventilation and some are dying too, so the conclusion based on the Chinese data that suggested young patients are relatively safe should be written in pencil, not pen.

IF I GET SICK WITH COVID-19 , I’LL JUST AVOID EVERYONE. I PROMISE.
This is the scariest part of it all. Many people won’t know they have been infected with COVID-19 because approx. 80% of those infected have mild to no symptoms but are still infectious. And there is a mass shortage of tests and lack of consistent policy on who should be and shouldn’t be tested.

I UNDERSTAND THE NEED FOR GOOD HYGIENE, BUT THIS SOCIAL DISTANCING THING AND CANCELLING EVERYTHING IS RIDICULOUS.
Outbreaks are controlled when each infected person passes the virus on to fewer than one other person on average. Currently in Europe and the USA, people infected with COVID-19 are passing it, on average, to 2.5 other people. We can change that number by practicing good hygiene and being diligent with social distancing. China was able to control their outbreak with extreme measures, with a total lockdown of 11 million people basically confined to their homes, and 500 million people with very significant restrictions.

WILL COVID-19 GO AWAY WHEN THE WEATHER STARTS TO WARM UP?
There is no indication at this time that this is true but that would be wonderful. Unfortunately, many of our neighbors in the Southern Hemisphere are having COVID-19 outbreaks of their own despite their late summer season.

WHAT IS THE APPROPRIATE SOCIAL DISTANCING?
This is a really tough one. My wife Nicole La Ngo and I were just discussing this topic this morning. Where do we draw the line? Well, as a physician, I strongly believe in erring on the cautious side. I am strongly advocating:

-EXTREME SOCIAL DISTANCING- several weeks ago, many corporations/businesses advised their employees to only travel if it was ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. As the CEOs and heads of our households, I would advise folks to only travel ANYWHERE (grocery stores, restaurants, banks, other public places,…) only if it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. Each household will have to decide where to draw the line for themselves.

Public health experts use the 3 “C” model for situations such as this- CASE, CLUSTER, and COMMUNITY. Well, COVID-19 is definitely in our communities. For the sake of humanity, I implore and urge you to err on the cautious side. This will give us the best chance of getting this situation under better control, and most importantly, saving lives and preventing/minimizing a 4th “C”- CATASTROPHE.

Thanks for reading and please share this with others as you wish.

STAY CONNECTED, BE INSPIRED AND SUPPORT OTHERS.

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