I recently saw a discussion on a medical forum that suggested that the only way to stop the spread of COVID-19 is for everyone who is exposed to the virus to stay home for 12-14 days.

Mind you, this is not to say that those who are symptomatic should stay home, but that anyone exposed at all should stay home.

So here’s my question. If we really believe that, what should we do about physicians and nurses? I mean, I work in the emergency department. Odds are that every…single…day I will be exposed to someone with COVID-19.   For every patient I see, I wear eye protection and an N-95 respirator with a surgical mask over it.  But the patients are still in the department.

Furthermore, not all of the COVID positive patients will have symptoms that would prompt us to isolate them.  And aerosol spread is believed to be a means of transmission, which would certainly be possible in the asymptomatic patient.  But even if we thought they were positive, most emergency departments have only one or two negative pressure rooms to put them in while they are being seen.

As such, physicians, nurses, techs and all the rest are likely exposed every day.  Both to known positive cases and to unknown positives.

And yet, should we all spend two weeks at home for every shift?  Work one, 12-14 off?  Obviously, that’s impossible since hospitals don’t have nearly enough staff to respond to the pandemic in this manner.

Finally, if we don’t do this in relatively high exposure risk environments like the emergency department, is it necessary for everyone in the public who has no symptoms?  I’m not saying I know the answer. But I do think we need to be realistic.

While a surplus of caution might suggest that such a type of isolation might help reduce the spread, it may ultimately be impossible, not to mention financially (and logistically) devastating.

I don’t know the answer.  But these are questions we have to ask as we learn to respond to a virus that isn’t going away for the foreseeable future.


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