Peak Infection and Why It Matters to Us
In my previous post I referenced the 4 major indicators we’d be looking at as we weighed the decision to reopen. Number one is how close we are to the peak of the infection curve. In this post I’ll elaborate a bit on why this matters so much to us.
Where are all the Masks?
The title of a recent piece in the New York Times, the question surrounds the current lack of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) available to medical professionals. Nurses, doctors, medical assistants, EMT’s and others doing truly critical front-line work are having to re-use disposable equipment, or go without entirely. They are working directly, in close quarters, with people known to be infected. No wonder so many are falling ill. When they are ill, it puts further strain on the system because they cannot work.
It’s not just the healthcare professionals themselves – it’s also everyone they treat and work with. Not having the proper PPE contributes to the virus’ spread in the close quarters of a hospital ward.
I know these shortages are real – I’ve tried securing face masks for our own staff and can’t get them. The hospital-grade disposable gloves we normally use are temporarily unavailable. If we are going to go into homes and business safely, we need this stuff too.
You may have also read about less-scrupulous companies taking advantage of the shortage and selling this critical equipment at a huge markup, charging nearly 8 times pre-crisis prices, and selling out immediately. Another sign that the supply chain has been strained to its breaking point.
This all begs the question: exactly how important is it that we continue to operate in the middle of this crisis, drawing down critical supplies?
The only way we’ll know for sure whether there are enough supplies for our local healthcare professionals is if we can get past the peak of the curve without running out. Or, maybe Maine Med and others will start to report that they have truckloads and not to worry. Something tells me that won’t happen.
Slow the Spread
This company’s #1 goal through this crisis is to “Contribute to the community effort to slow the spread of the virus.” Equally important is ensuring the health and safety of our staff and clients.
Until we reach peak, we don’t know how bad this is going to get for our community. The fact is, distancing works. So in the meantime, I’m not willing to put our staff out there and unwittingly contribute to a problem we have yet to see the worst of.
Let’s be clear: I know that we can serve our customers without undue risk to either them or our staff. In fact, I’m excited about the progress we’ve made already in designing new protocols and training for safety and sanitation. Now, however, is not the time to jump in. There are still too many unknowns.
Once we have some assurance that the worst is behind us, we’ll have better information about the risks we all face. We can then make more informed decisions. There’s also a psychological component at play. If we have a collective sense that we’ve seen the worst, we’ll be more prepared to settle in for a “new normal.”
That’s true for our company, individual employees and individual clients.
How We’ll Measure Peak
Our focus is on the Maine CDC and the Governor’s office for guidance. A recent Portland Press Herald report pointed to a University of Washington study that predicts peak in Maine around April 24th. The article indicates that the Maine CDC uses the Washington work, as well as Johns Hopkins University and Imperial College of London. The CDC itself is being cagey about dates. I understand that stance. If I were in Dr. Shah’s position, or the Governor’s, I wouldn’t be giving dates either.
So, we’ve set our sights on peak being around the 24th or April, knowing that this date will, in all likelihood, change.
Yesterday, one client asked me “If you are waiting for peak, why did you only close until the 15th?” That’s a very good question. My answer is that I am also weighing the economic reality faced by my staff and the business itself. While we are financially strong, our resources are finite. This business is my family’s primary source of income. This does not mean that reopening comes before safety – it does not. But economics are a factor. They have to be, it’s a critical part of my job.
Given that reality, and the fact that two days brings as many changes as two years in normal times, I’ve decided that two weeks is the longest closure period I’m willing to commit to at once.
We also pose less of a risk of contributing to the spread, than say, a school or a restaurant. So we may be able to reopen before some other businesses and institutions. I have a responsibility to leave that possibility on the table and keep myself and my team focused on reopening.
Until then, we’ll be watching but not sitting around and waiting. There’s lots of work to do.