Quarantine: A Warning
May 25, 2020
We’ve been in quarantine since Spring Break. We’ve been doing online classes for weeks. We have to wear a mask to go to the grocery store. And many, many people are fed up with these restrictions on daily life. People are ironically rallying to petition the government to lift the quarantine. Protesters in Minnesota have been very publicly calling for a return to normalcy, demanding that they be given their rights back. Yet the simple truth is that we need to stay in quarantine.
I come at this issue from an interesting perspective. My father is an infectious disease specialist at Baylor in downtown Dallas. Every day I hear story after story of how gruesome the virus is. His stories are representative of those from every doctor on the front lines during this crisis. Doctors around the country see the effects of coronavirus first-hand and subsequently know that we have to stay in quarantine. We have to flatten the curve (i.e. spread out when infections occur so that hospitals are not overrun). Hence, the quarantine.
Despite the common public sentiment that young people with no pre-existing health conditions are fine, doctors and health workers know that we simply don’t know enough about COVID-19 to definitively say that young people are safe. Doctors are so afraid of transmitting the virus that they are going to extreme lengths to keep their young families safe. One doctor at Baylor University Medical Center has to sleep in his guest room and does not see his children. Another doctor has a unique routine when he gets home: working in the COVID-19 ward, he does not want to infect his wife and children. As a result, when he gets home, he cleans himself in the driveway using a rag and hot, soapy water to kill the virus on him. He puts his scrubs from that day at work in a bucket of hot, soapy water which he then stirs to ensure that whatever virus is still alive on the clothing is killed. These measures are the new reality in the lives of healthcare workers.
Their sacrifices are worthless if we lift the quarantine. Lifting the quarantine right now would be incredibly imprudent. Many argue that we should lift it because the daily increase in deaths is declining slightly and we should thus lessen the protective measures we are taking. This argument, however, is incredibly flawed. Imagine a skydiver: he jumps out of the plane and needs to slow his descent. Naturally, he deploys his parachute. About halfway down, he realizes that he is going slower. But he would never decide to detach his parachute. Lifting the quarantine is the equivalent of detaching the parachute. We’ve already deployed the parachute by staying in quarantine. This lets us slow down, reflected by the decline in daily death increases. If we want to keep the parachute on, so we can return to life as we know it, we need to keep the quarantine in place. If the skydiver detaches his parachute, he dies. Similarly, if we lift the quarantine, there will be grave consequences for many people.
I implore everyone reading this to be responsible. Please stay home. When you do leave the house for groceries or other necessities, please wear a mask and practice social distancing. This will all be worth it. Lives will be saved if you can stick to the quarantine. And please don’t call COVID-19 a hoax. Hoaxes don’t overrun hospitals. COVID-19, however, will do just that if we prematurely lift the quarantine. Stay safe.