Mountain climbers, like the ones who climb Mount Everest, know that many deaths occur after they reached the summit and then begin their descent.
After reaching the summit, some climbers tend to rush to get back to the base. The area between the peak and the base is called the “death zone” and has taken the life of many climbers. The reason the descent is very dangerous is because climbers are usually tired, and many want to descend at the same time, causing them to make mistakes on the slopes. These mistakes often turn deadly.
Eight weeks ago, our community peaked with Covid-19 cases and now we are trying to reopen the economy: businesses and restaurants are open and that helps us feel some sense of normality. However, we don’t want to be like those climbers who try to rush back to the base. We all are getting tired of wearing masks, particularly in this hot weather. And we’re tired of social distancing. But like in Mount Everest’s “death zone,” this is the time to stay focused. We cannot rush.
Yes, we need to reopen the economy, but we do not want to peak again with patients in the hospital and also risk closing businesses again. Masks are very important. They are lifesaving for health care workers; we wear masks all the time and that helps keep the transmission in the hospital very low.
Some restaurants are doing a better job than others about social distancing. Also, a waiter or waitress who doesn’t wear a mask is putting you at risk. If you are seated and they are standing, it’s quite easy for transmission to take place when they talk as droplets can land on your face.
Patients with Covid-19 sometimes have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. We are still seeing many asymptomatic cases daily and they are contagious when they breathe close to you. We are seeing clusters where no one is symptomatic. So, let’s all be responsible and wear a mask when you go to a place where social distance is difficult — like grocery stores and other venues.
We cannot pretend that Covid-19 is gone when we are seeing more and more cases everywhere. Some say ignorance is bliss. That’s not the case with Covid-19. We could be up for a painful lesson soon unless we collectively act smart and careful.
Ricardo Maldonado, M.D. is an Infectious Diseases specialist. He joined the medical staff at EAMC in 2009 and is leading the clinical response to Covid-19 at EAMC.