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Covid-19: Good News, Bad News

Before I get into this, I’m still shaking my head in disbelief at my recent brush with accidental carbon monoxide poisoning as I sat in my car glued to the NPR program ironically called “Fresh Air.”

Really, it wasn’t even a close call, just me blurting out loud to myself “Did you really just close the garage door behind you with the motor running? You’re an idiot!”

Apparently, reluctance to leave one’s car occurs not infrequently among NPR listeners. Involved in one compelling program or another, depending on the weather, they may be found half frozen or suffering heat stroke. On the plus side, they never die of boredom.

I thought I’d share the program that held me captive because a lot of you are home today, working or otherwise, and you’ll have time to listen as the incomparable Terry Gross interviews Dan Diamond, the very articulate healthcare reporter from Politico.com. The topic is Trump’s astonishing untruthfulness and utter mismanagement of the Covid-19 crisis, his scientific ignorance, and his support by a team of equally incompetent lackeys whose only goal was and is to gain presidential favor.

It’s unlikely we’ll ever be able to tally the number of utterly unnecessary deaths brought about by Trump’s selfishness and incompetence. Even the most refractory Trump supporter will sit and listen to this interview in horror as she learns of the deliberate release of false information by Trump appointees (who have no expertise in the field) supporting random policy choices whose sole goal was not to protect Americans, but rather to shield the president from anything that might impair his re-election.

So far, the administration’s response to the greatest crisis since 9/11–and possibly the greatest threat to American lives in US history–has been first to call it a hoax and then not dangerous, to propose keeping that cruise ship offshore (in order to keep the numbers of infected people low), and finally and amazingly, to blame President Obama.

Let’s start with the bad news
So in addition to that, here’s the bad news about this coronavirus called Covid-19:

You are likely to get Covid-19. Your symptoms may range from none or a mild respiratory infection that you’ll pass off as a bad cold to a really uncomfortable flu-like illness with fever, muscle aches, and fatigue. Serious illness, including death, is more likely to occur in the frail elderly, especially those who have chronic illnesses. The death rate is now about 2.5%, or ten times that of the standard seasonal flu. South Korea, which is doing the best job in the world of testing for the virus and following up on contacts, has a death  rate of 0.77%.
The virus will spread quickly through the US because most carriers have no symptoms. We could, as South Korea is doing,   screen for at-risk people and then test that group, imposing self-quarantine on those who test positive and also on their contacts. In the US, tests promised by Washington have failed to materialize. In South Korea, testing is automated and can be performed at a rate of 12,000 tests per day via multiple drive-through centers. It’s also completely free. US tests are performed manually at a rate of about 1,000 a day. Read this piece for more on what South Korea is doing to keep its numbers down.
Social distancing is one very effective way we can slow this pandemic. Already, and very sensibly, many schools,  theaters, sporting events, and virtually any location where crowds gather has been closed or cancelled. Illinois has ordered restaurants and bars closed for sit-down service. With social distancing, you reduce the chances of getting the virus yourself, but also of spreading it unwittingly if you’re infected but have no symptoms. This frees up hospitals to treat those in urgent need. Here’s a link to a perfectly-named series of guidelines on self-quarantining/social distancing.
Use common sense. Over the weekend, the Webster Avenue Irish-themed bars were like mosh pits. I shook my head in disbelief, but then I remembered, “All 20-somethings believe they’ll live forever.” The warning not to congregate could have been in Urdu and have had the same effect. Minimize or eliminate social contact and use the gym, grocery, and public transportation in off-hours.
In addition to the frail elderly and those with chronic illnesses, people of any age who have asthma are especially vulnerable to complications from the virus. Use telecommunications to stay in touch with family members and friends.
Take this virus seriously, even if you’re not old. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made several important points Sunday:

“Younger people are not immune or safe from getting seriously ill…There are going to be people who are young who are going to wind up getting seriously ill…Even (if) you don’t get seriously ill, you could bring (the virus) to a person who would bring it to a person that would bring it to your grandfather, your grandmother, or your elderly relative.” Click here for the whole story. (Spoiler alert: Dr Fauci want you out and about.)

And now some (guardedly) good news
Despite its gross inequality of access, the US does have a very good health care system. However, it could, like Italy’s very good health system, easily become overwhelmed if the number of Covid-19 patients requiring urgent care outpaces the number of hospital beds (including ICU  beds) and the physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other dedicated staff who care for them. Click here for more.
During times of crisis, Americans have a history of getting off to a slow start but then working together in ways that have surprised the rest of the world. We were slow to perceive the evils of the Nazis but by the time WW2 was over the country was totally united, the post- war years were among the best in our history, and the war became known as “The Good War.” Although we may be disappointed about cancelled concerts and sporting events,  weddings and dinner parties, just like the endless rationing that occurred during WW2 we see that this is all for the common good and we  cooperate.
We also reach out to those in need. Check on your less able neighbors and offer support. Could you grocery shop for them or make a medication run? Also remember that even in the best of times the US has an enormous food insecurity problem. Many people rely on the support of food pantries, which are bravely staying open during this tumultuous time. Lakeview Pantry is an excellent example. Click here to donate or get food or social services. Also, here’s a story about West Side delivery/grab-and-go for seniors and low-income residents.
The US has a lot of businesses involved in health care. What with 17.8% of our entire GNP (more than one trillion dollars) spent on health care, we have a lot (a lot!) of companies that can develop  vaccines, antiviral drugs, and build hospitals.
Americans generally prefer privacy and self-isolation, so self-quarantining/social distancing is a fairly easy proposition. Anyone who has travelled knows that in many other countries the concept of respecting personal space simply does n’t exist. We Americans sit at opposite ends of buses, movie theaters, bars, and restaurants in the best of times. We stand apart in conversations. Most of our shopping areas are larger than airplane hangars with wide aisles and high ceilings and we often find ourselves alone, peering in the distance to find assistance at a Costco or Best Buy. You’ll grin and bear this minor requirement.

In addition to practicing social distancing, the most complete guide to protecting yourself and preparing for the virus is this excellent summary from the New York Times.

I’ll add just a couple more fundamentals:
Open your windows and let in some fresh air every day. Viruses thrive in enclosed environments.
Get outside and into the sun. Viruses don’t like fresh air and sun and you need a nice daily walk anyway. Take your dog, head to one of Chicago’s many parks, or meet up with a friend to walk. Just keep about six feet away from other humans. Click here for a fascinating piece on how outdoor treatment during the 1918 flu pandemic saved lives. One of the theories about viral susceptibility during specific seasons has to do with our vitamin D levels. In spring and summer we’re outside more and in the sun. As a result, our vitamin D levels rise (and then the flu season ends).
Keep a good sleep schedule. Sleep is immune-protective.
Eat nutrient-dense foods. Now’s not the time to gorge on Little Debbies and Fritos, even if it does feel like the end of the world.

Would you have ever thought your netflix subscription could come in so handy? Or your kindle?

Stay well,
David Edelberg, MD

PS: Take your hand sanitizer and vote!

Leave a Comment


  1. Lauren Sugerman says:

    always appreciate your insights, guidance and realistic optimism. and your humor is the icing on the cake. thanks doc E

  2. Carol Ring says:

    I wrote this on March 15, 2020:

    Indiana was the 20th U.S. state to have one of its residents test positive for coronavirus or COVID-19. “The state health department has been preparing for weeks to ensure that we have the resources and systems in place to limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Indiana,” our State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said.

    If Indiana has been preparing for weeks we should be able to know the exact number of people infected in this state. Officials must have a true picture of the scale of the growing outbreak if it is to be contained.

    What exactly is the exact number of infected people in this state?Nobody knows. Indiana currently has 12 confirmed cases in seven counties. Currently only 73 Hoosiers have been tested. The estimated population of Indiana in 2020 is 6.75 million people.

    Governor Holcomb has stated, “While we only have 12 cases, we understand there may be more out and about.”

    Dr. Kristina Box now says that Indiana just received more testing capacity and can now test ‘well over 100 people’. She said testing capacity should increase in the next few weeks as more private labs come online, though they have a three- to fine-day turnaround. [The complete testing process from when a patient gets a diagnostic test until they get the results back, is called ‘turnaround time’.]

    During a Statehouse interview, Dr. Kristina Box said she agreed with the Ohio health commissioner, who said up to 1% of Ohioans likely already have the virus, based on data of confirmed and presumed cases and knowledge of how the virus spread in other countries.

    Box said: “We’d probably be close to that” in Indiana. If 1% of Indiana’s population is already infected that means 67,500 Hoosiers have COVID-19.

  3. Jay Fahn says:

    Dr. Edelberg
    Thanks! I too was outraged listening to Terry Gross’s interview with Dan Diamond and do not understand why it has not received more traction. At a minimum Secretary Azar should face intense questioning in public hearings.
    Also, as you may know, Gary Larson is back with a daily release of Far Side cartoons. ( thefarside.com)
    These are very therapeutic and a wonderful boost every morning!
    Please know how much I enjoy and appreciate your weekly commentary.
    Jay Fahn

  4. Pam Fritzsche says:

    Awesome article! Great information. You and Dan Rather both have the ability to soothe and calm the nation…unlike the buffoon in the White House. Thank you.

  5. Kim Ohms says:

    Thank You Dr E. Appreciate your words and notes!

  6. Nanette Savignac says:

    Love you! Thank you for prescriptions sent to Florida!!! Staying here. Be safe!

  7. Sherry says:

    It’s too bad you can’t write a health tip without politicizing this issue. Did you want to talk about Trudeaus handling of the virus for Canada? They are still accepting flights from China and Europe. UK is screening nobody at all. But I knew you were biased when you called Italy’s health care system “good”. I have relatives there and it is not good and never has been.

    When dealing with a “novel” virus there are many unknowns, making the “right” course of action difficult to determine. And of course what’s the “right” action is always debatable. Many would say tanking our economy for an illness that by your own admission may have no symptoms or mild symptoms for the vast majority of people is dangerous for people living paycheck to paycheck. The decision to quarantine will hit the poor and elderly the hardest but that’s a factor largely ignored.

    I’m disappointed in you as a person and physician that in a time of national crisis, you determined it’s a good time to air your dislike of the president and apparently every single person who works with him. The fact the you consider any reporter from Politico as a good source is also very telling.

    You’re a good doctor and you’re better than this article. Please use more sense than senile Joe Biden in your next article.

    • Susan Hall says:

      I’m not voting for Joe Biden. I’m voting for Bernie Sanders. But you let your political bias slip when you called Joe “senile Joe Biden”.

      Dr. Edelberg is one of the few doctors that I trust to provide accurate & timely information.

    • Aelxa says:

      When the World Health Organization calls this a World Pandemic….then you are a fool to act as if it is the yearly flu outbreak.

      This is what Trump has and still continues to do, tweeting lies left and right.

      If you are so blinded by this TV Reality Star, then you need to visit a mental health professional. You have been brain-washed by repeated viewing of a fake “Reality Show” and need help to relearn how to use logic instead of being emotionally driven by your admiration for a TVStar.

      Dr E is a medical professional, he is concerned with the lies about a medical disaster,that are being told to Americans by a man who constantly lies, and is totally unable to ever tell the truth.

      I worked in medicine over 30 years and still do research…and I can tell you Trump has not told Americans anything but lies about this Pandemic.

      You need to get help, to recover from Trump Delusion Disease.

    • Holli says:

      When people’s actions directly cause the death of other persons it is generally called murder, of course there are different degrees categorised by the legal system. This is then not political but a legal question and when that stems from a health crisis then it is something to address along with recommendations so that more people do not perish from the lies.

      Having lived in Italy for more than 20 years I definitely would call their health system good. Don’t know your relatives and where they are but I can say that there are some places better than others, just like in the USA.

  8. Marion says:

    “During times of crisis, Americans have a history of getting off to a slow start but then working together in ways that have surprised the rest of the world.” Can we ditch the anti-Trump drivel and do what you claim we do well in America: put aside whatever wrong-doing has or has not occurred and focus on the problem at hand, collectively. Whether or not some government official, news outlet, foreign country, or even doctor is at fault for committing some transgression or violation is not of primary importance right now, but working together and circumventing division is. Thanks for stating both sides—good and bad—of what’s unique about the United States and how we historically attack problems that affect the common good.

  9. clay whitesell says:

    I’m very disappointed to see your blatant politicization of a health care crisis. Shame on you – we need to pull together as a nation in times like this – don’t you get it?

    • Aelxa says:

      You need to tell Trump that, as he continues to downplay the seriousness of this pandemic, while focusing only on helping the rich and big corporations.

      The majority of Americans may lose most of what they own, while Trump and the Republicans refuse to pass any aid to ordinary American citizens.

      Instead Trump just paid $2.8 Billion to by oil to top off the Strategic Oil Reserve Tanks, giving his friends a huge payday.

      All while Congress is unable to pass a $1.7 Billion bill to help the bottom 80% of Americans.

      Wake up and see reality, not “Reality TV”.

  10. Pat says:

    Thank you, as always!

  11. V. Sander says:

    Ah ha! NPR, thats where the seeds of Trump Derangement Syndrome originate:((((  As usual your political rantings are laced with untruths.  Personally, Trump is not my kind of guy, but believe he and his team of experts are doing a fine job.  In addition, prefer my medical advice to be administered without political bias.

    • Roy Strauss says:

      Yeah, stick up for the guy who shook hands with business leaders in a press briefing right after his own expert said to take all precautions.

      The guy who called this a democratic hoax, and whose slow response will result in TENS of THOUSANDS of extra unnecessary deaths once this thing really gets going.Then gave himself a 10 on his own response.

      TDR happens to those who are not susceptible to the incessant Fox New gaslighting.

  12. Nitza Rosario says:

    I too have been subject to NPR “enGROSSment (nyuk, nyuk).”. Now I have the local NPR station app on my phone and that allows me to leave my car parked in the street, as I do not have a garage, and continue listening or listen to the entirety of the show later in the day.

  13. clay says:

    Your political views do not advance medical awareness of the disease but only serve to divide. We need to pull together as Americans now more than ever. Thanks

  14. Dennis Newport says:

    Unfortunately, our President initially has been part of the problem, and so I’m glad you stated that. People have in some cases been misled and been given bad information or none at all from the top in the early weeks. We can take care of that in November. Thx.

  15. Roy Strauss says:

    Yes, that was extremely informative NPR piece. I sat in my car listening to it too.

    The Trump administration’s initial delayed response is criminal negligence, as is the ongoing shortage of tests (done for political purposes and private industry gain).

    Thank you Dr. Edelman.

  16. Albert Ettinger says:

    Good article and you should be more careful in garages.

  17. Judith says:

    Dear Dr. E,
    After reading your Trump bashing diatribe about his and his team’s incompetence, I figured maybe you sat in that car too long. I have always appreciated your medical expertise, your candidness, and your delightful sense of humor. But your timing just plain stinks.

    Our world has morphed into an entirely different planet from three weeks ago. We seniors with chronic illnesses are hanging by our fingernails, very scared of the unknown. We are trying hard to siphon out the scientific facts from a hyped up media that is relishing in the uproar it has created.

    I rely on you for your good common sense. Instead, you immediately set the tone of a hopeless state of affairs due entirely to an Administration that is ignorant, untruthful, selfish, and greedy, none of which you supported with facts.

    Much of your readership is in a seriously vulnerable state. It is sad that you and others would use it to your political persuasive advantage. It felt as though you emptied out all of your bitterness and hatred on the readership who looks to you for good, solid direction, not hopelessness due to our country’s leadership.

  18. Steven Kenmore says:

    Doc, I love you but you got to keep the politics and your feelings for Trump out of this. We are Americans first. All of us. This is an American health problem that will be solved by Americans. This virus has no discretion and we shouldn’t either. Moreover, the Epidemic prevention model that is emerging today will benefit the Flu epidemics and deaths we see each and every year from the common flu? From the CDC 36,000,000 – 51,000,000 flu illnesses, 17,000,000 – 24,000,000
    flu medical visits, 370,000 – 670,000 flu hospitalizations,22,000 – 55,000
    flu deaths. THAT is something to write about. Why haven’t we done more to prevent the tens of thousands of Flu deaths we see every year? We just let is slide, don’t we? Well, next year we won’t anymore! This should be good news for you and all healthcare providers. Is Trump perfect, heck no but he’s our President and he has surrounded himself with some very smart and capable people. Today’s press conference was outstanding. Watch it and you will see a much different President than even last week. Stay positive. We are Americans first. Look to the future. Slinging mud at a President is not your style.

  19. Lyles Andrea says:

    Thank you Dr. Edelberg. Your writing is always full of verifiable information and some of us will chose to put blinders on rather than learn the truth about the current administration. This was very informative. Keep up the good work!

  20. Mario Tortoriello says:

    Your clever sense of humor is the antidote to Covid-19. Thanks for always making me laugh. Now off to be horrified by Fresh Air!

  21. Somara C Zwick says:

    Oh Dr Edelberg,
    I so appreciate your newsletter. Here in Vermont Terry Gross’s Fresh Air program is required listening, but as we have no garage at our home, we are not in danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. Social distancing I think is a inborn VT trait; we ex-Chicagoans have taken note of their techniques. Take care – best, Somara

  22. Aelxa says:

    Yes, Trump has completely ignored this Pandemic, an is acting as if Americans will be getting the Flu, a disease that kills thousands of Americans each year.

    But even worse, Trump just decided to top off the Strategic Oil Reserve to the tune of $2.8 Billion. Trump is filling the pockets of his friends, at the expense of the rest of us.

    This at a time when Congress is trying yo pass an aid bill for everyday American s that will cost $1.7 Billion.

    This President is no president at all, he is a greedy and ignorant person with NO social conscious. And making Pence the Pandemic Czar is a complete joke, the man does not believe in science and is hoping for Armageddon to occur real soon.

  23. Aelxa says:

    I recommend that each person google “COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 and Lancet” to be able to read every report written, and study done by the physicians working in hospitals in Wuhan, China. These papers and studies are completely open access, and cost nothing to read.

    One fact they brought out was that of those diagnosed with COVID-19 who died….98% had high blood pressure. The others had diabetes, and/or heart disease.

    If a patient had multiple medical conditions their chance of dying was 49%.

    So reading this information is very important to get the correct information, as Trump and Pence are keeping Americans in the dark as to the realities of this Pandemic.

    I also recommend going to the New Yorker magazine and reading an excellent article that shows the 3% deathrate in China is completely false.

    When the hospitals were full in Wuhan with no beds or medications available, people went home and died at home.

    “Viral Pneumonia” was put on the death certificates, because it is illegal in China to leave the hospital once the physician diagnoses you with COVID-19, the entire family could be arrested for taking the loved one home to die in a bed. In the hospital they were just lining them up on the floors with no treatment.

    We will never know what the true COVID-19 deathrate is in China. But if they ever publish the numbers of Pneumonia deaths, an estimate may someday be made.

    Meanwhile we can look to Italy for better numbers, like the cases of infected people doubled every three days, and soon there will be no beds for the seriously ill in America, after years of closing hospitals and downsizing hospital beds in favor of “Outpatient Care”.

    Only those seriously ill who get admitted early in the Pandemic will have a good chance of survival, before all the ventilators and ECMO machines are in full use 24/7.

  24. Debra Graves says:

    Dr edelburg, you have always been my favorite doctor in my life! Thank you for your wit, sense of humor and of course brilliance. My blood pressure just went down from your article! Thank you

  25. Cynthia Groetzinger says:

    NPR and more specifically WBEZ 91.5 have apps where you can listen to the programs you want without being trapped in your car. Glad you caught the mistake in plenty of time.

  26. Alison says:

    Treason! He should be arrested for at least treason and maybe manslaughter! Anyone else would’ve been! He swore an oath! This is so unbelievably out of some weird sci fi flick. That he can do or say ANYTHING and it’s fine.

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DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

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