A Chicago doctor's call-to-action has gone viral after a moving speech following Gov. J.B. Pritzker's announcement Friday of a stay-at-home ordinance amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr. Emily Landon is the chief infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine, who moments after Pritzker issued the ordinance to take effect Saturday evening, took to the stand with a 7-minute-long speech that went viral after striking a chord for many individuals.
Read her full remarks below:
"Good Afternoon, everyone. First of all, I want to send my sincere gratitude and support to all the healthcare workers in Illinois and around the world. Despite doing our best to prepare for a respiratory virus pandemic, we now find ourselves facing a brand-new virus with too little information, not enough personal protective equipment, changing protocols every single day and no second chances. University of Chicago Medicine and every other hospital in the state has been and is working very closely with our public health departments. Without these partnerships with each other and with public health and the CDC. We could not have made it this far and we will not get much further and so I express my gratitude to everyone working in public health. All of us in the field of infectious diseases and public health community are united in our efforts and agree with this course of action. I've spoken with many of my colleagues across the city and the state and we all acknowledge that this is the only way forward.
This virus is unforgiving. It spreads before you even know you’ve caught it and it tricks you into believing that it’s nothing more than a little influenza. For many of us, it may be just a little flu so it can be very confusing when schools are closed, restaurants are shuttered and now this virus is taking what’s left of our precious liberty. The real problem is not the 80 percent who will get over this in a week. It’s the 20 percent of patients, the older, those who are immunocompromised, those that have other medical problems who are going to need a bit more support- some oxygen or even a ventilator and life support. We do amazing things like this to save patients in our American hospitals and across the world every single day but we can’t take care of everyone at once. And we can’t keep that low mortality promise if we can’t provide the support patients need.
Our healthcare system doesn’t have any slack. There are no empty wards waiting for patients or nurses waiting in the wings. We barely even have enough masks for the nurses that we have. Looking back to the last time we were left with limited tools and a dangerous infection spreading quickly was the beginning of the 1918 pandemic. Two cities in America made different choices about how to proceed when only a few patients were affected. St. Louis shut itself down and sheltered in place. But Philadelphia went ahead with a huge parade to celebrate soldiers heading off to war. A week later, Philadelphia hospitals were overrun and thousands were dead. Many more than St. Louis. This is a cautionary tale for our time.
Things are already tough at Illinois hospitals, including mine. There is no vaccine or readily available antiviral to help stem the tide. All we have to slow the spread is distance. Social distance. If we let every patient with this infection infect three more people and then each of them infect two or three people, there won’t be a hospital bed when my mother can’t breathe very well or when yours is coughing too much.
So, in my house, we’ve made a lot of sacrifices. We don’t go out anymore. This is the first time I've left my house in days because I'm leading our efforts in emergency planning from home. My son has traded in sports, a science conference, and the fifth-grade bake sale for puzzles, video chats, and e-learning. This isn’t the life any of us expected and certainly there are other who will make much greater sacrifices and there are more than a few disappointments to come but this isn’t forever like the governor said. It will last longer than any of us wants it to but it will still just be a piece of our whole lives and we have to remember that.
How can soccer or book club be so dangerous? Why ask so much of people for just a few hundred cases? Because it’s the only way to save lives. And now is the time. The numbers you see today in the news are the people are the people who got sick a week ago. And there are so many people who got sick today who haven't even noticed that they got sick yet. They picked up the virus and it'll take a week to see that show in our numbers. Waiting for hospitals to be overwhelmed will leave the following week’s patients with nowhere to go. In short, without taking drastic measures, the healthy and optimistic among us will doom the vulnerable.
We need to fight this fire before it grows too high. But these extreme restrictions may seem in the end a little anticlimactic because it’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix on your couch but, if we do this right, nothing happens. Yes. A successful shelter in place means that you will feel like it was all for nothing. And you would be right. Because “nothing” means that nothing happened to your family and that's what we are going for here.
Even starting now we can’t stop the cases from coming fast and furious at least in the next couple of weeks and in the short term but with a real commitment to sheltering in place and a whole lot of patience, we can help protect our critical workers who need to use public transportation in order to safely get to where they need to go. We can give our factories time to ramp up their production of all that PPE so that we have enough masks to last.
We can make more medications and learn more about how we can use them to help save more lives. Even a little time makes a huge difference. It will take more than a week to start seeing the rate of increase slow down and that's a complicated thing to say it will take even longer to see the rate come down and see it slowing and infections going down so please don't give up.
I've lived in Illinois my entire life and I know we will get through this together and find a way back to the life that we used to live. Public health and hospitals have been working hard for a long time and now it’s your turn to do your part. This is a huge sacrifice to make but a sacrifice that can make thousands of differences, maybe even a difference in your family too."