If you are concerned that the measures taken to curb the COVID-19 pandemic are excessive and alarmist, here is my pitch to those with a business mind to better understand the urgency of the situation.

Our hospitals are managed like businesses and are not designed to have a ton of extra equipment and staff for operations. We run near capacity under normal conditions. This makes sense from a business perspective.

It is not economical to have a lot of equipment sitting around depreciating, or the responsibility of paying additional staff who are not needed to provide care or service. Enter the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19.

Facts about COVID-19:

1. This virus is at least 10 times more deadly than the flu and possibly twice as contagious as the flu. Death rate for those over 60 or with other major health problems like heart/lung disease or cancer is around 6%. [1]

2. Around 20% of people with detected illness need to be hospitalized and they can require advanced care for many weeks. Patients can be left with permanent lung damage. [2]

3. It is estimated that around 33% of the US will become infected, although no one knows for sure and some estimates are much higher. For the Milwaukee metro area (1.6 million people), this means more than 500,000 people may see the infection and 115,000 people may need to be hospitalized. We simply do not have enough hospital beds or ventilators to care for this many people if this virus spreads rapidly. That means in addition to not being able to care for patients with COVID-19, patients with other unrelated conditions may not be able to access the advanced care they need to survive. [3]

4. Social distancing is one of the most effective ways that we know of to slow down the spread of this disease. There is no vaccine or medication to stop it. [4]

Although we do not have a lot of “detected” cases here in Wisconsin currently [5], we know how it spreads since the virus has made its way through other parts of the world. It is hard to know exactly how many cases are here and where we are in the growth curve as our testing rate is significantly lower than other countries [6].

Make no mistake, this virus is here in the Milwaukee area and will continue to spread if we do not take drastic measures to stop it.

As a cancer doctor, I am worried that my patients will face undue challenges either from COVID-19 itself or the depletion of critical health resources to manage their unrelated needs due to COVID-19.

Do your part to give us a fighting chance to slow this pandemic down and care of people who need life-saving care. If not, people you know, probably those that are most vulnerable, will likely suffer.