Two weeks to flatten the curve has turned into two months of oppressive lockdown policies which are themselves killing Americans.
Americans, more or less, entered into an unspoken contract with government — and each other — in the middle of March in a pledge to stay home, avoid others and close up shop to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
We’re a little more than a week away from the start of June, and some people are still being forced to stay in their homes because of a government decree, or because they feel obligated to do so by pressure from peers, or because of the fear being pushed on them by a media which has exacerbated the crisis.
Governments told us that stay-at-home orders were necessary to stop the spread of the disease and to buy the country’s health care industry precious time to prepare for a sea of patients that, in some areas, never came.
Americans did their part, but stalwart governments refuse to lessen or do away with draconian lockdown measures.
And the mental health toll that these lockdowns are having on some Americans is starting to reveal itself.
In the San Francisco Bay area, it appears suicides and suicide attempts are increasing at an alarming rate.
In fact, the trauma department chief at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, which is located just north and east of the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, told KGO-TV this week that during the lockdown, doctors at the facility have seen seen more deaths by suicide than from the coronavirus.
“Personally I think it’s time,” deBoisblanc told KGO-TV. “I think, originally, this [the shelter-in-place order] was put in place to flatten the curve and to make sure hospitals have the resources to take care of COVID patients. We have the current resources to do that and our other community health is suffering.”
“We’ve never seen numbers like this, in such a short period of time,” the doctor added. “I mean we’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”
A trauma nurse with 33 years of service at the facility echoed his comments.
“What I have seen recently, I have never seen before,” Kacey Hansen said. “I have never seen so much intentional injury.”
The answer, at least from deBoisblanc’s employer, is increased mental health awareness and resources.
The administrators at the John Muir Medical Center added a nice disclaimer in response to the statements of their staff members that the facility remains “supportive of the Shelter-in-Place order.”
Out of an apparent abundance of caution, the facility wants us to know that deBoisblanc and Hansen are only speaking for themselves.
But the pair of health care workers can only speak to what they are seeing, and that is that lockdown orders — at least in the area that these professionals serve — are doing more harm than good.
Yet Politico touted the Bay Area’s response to the crisis before March had even ended in a story titled: “Bend it like the Bay Area. Doctors see flatter curve after 2 weeks of social isolation.”
“Six Bay Area counties were first in the country to adopt aggressive tactics with an enforceable March 16 order requiring residents to stay at home. Gov. Gavin Newsom quickly followed with a statewide order three days later restricting the state’s 40 million residents from all but essential activities,” Politico reported on March 30.
“After 14 days — the outermost period at which symptoms are believed to emerge post-infection — doctors at area hospitals are now reporting fewer cases than they expected to see at this point, and officials credit the lockdown with stemming the tide of patients they feared would flood into emergency rooms.”
But as we enter Memorial Day weekend, the Bay Area curve, like the curve in the rest of the country, has been bent — and yet the world remains a closed place for so many people seeking help as they suffer with mental illness.
Officials in Contra Costa County, where the John Muir Medical Center is located, say the answer is to let struggling people know that the crisis phone lines are open, and that in-person, masked and sterile mental health visits are also an option.
Neither of those choices seem particularly inviting, but those are the options available.
“Lockdowns don’t work if there is already a lot of virus in the area, in the community, in the state, the country,” Siegel told the program.
“Suicide, drug abuse, alcoholism,” Siegel added, “there are going to be more deaths of despair than from the virus itself.”
With the weeks having turned into months, and the quarantine body count escalating, it’s time to listen to other voices in the room about our best options going forward.
In fact, 600 doctors signed a letter this week urging President Donald Trump to do what he can to end the shutdowns.
“The millions of casualties of a continued shutdown will be hiding in plain sight, but they will be called alcoholism, homelessness, suicide, heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. In youths it will be called financial instability, unemployment, despair, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, poverty, and abuse,” the letter said.
“Because the harm is diffuse, there are those who hold that it does not exist. We, the undersigned, know otherwise,” the doctors concluded, according to Fox News.
Of course, the letter was not widely covered by the same national media which is pushing fear onto already overburdened Americans, and some governors exercising strict control over the movements of citizens have done little in the way of signaling there is any end in sight to the shutdowns.
For reasons based either in fear, overzealousness or politics, the lockdowns must apparently go on. The answer for those in crisis is to pick up the phone as the world collapses around them.
As the administrators at Walnut Creek’s John Muir Medical Center reminded us, “We are all in this together!”
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