To our fellow Americans:
The Committee to Protect Medicare is an organization of doctors in more than 40 states committed to ensuring Americans have the healthcare they need to live full, productive lives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also speak out on policies that can keep Americans safe. Now is one such time.
COVID-19 is sweeping through communities across the United States and the world. The numbers are staggering. Globally, more than 271,000 people have been infected, with more than 11,200 deaths. In the United States, more than 18,000 people have been reported infected with COVID-19 as of March 20, up from only 75 on March 1. In these 20 short days, the United States went from one death to 233.
Doctors and nurses were called to medicine to serve their fellow humans. In hospitals, emergency departments, ORs and clinics, we put ourselves in harm’s way with known pathogens. We signed up for this. The American people did not.
Because of the alarming spread of COVID-19, the Committee to Protect Medicare is calling on the federal government to implement a national shelter-in-place order. We do not make this call lightly, and do so because of the following reasons:
- As the administration drags its feet on comprehensive testing, life-saving equipment for patients, and masks and gloves for frontline healthcare workers, doctors face the prospect of caring for patients who have a highly contagious virus that is 10 times more lethal than the flu.
- Until we have sufficient and reliable testing data, we must assume that community spread of COVID-19 is occurring nationwide. Public health data show we need to be practicing the highest-possible level of social distancing right now to decrease the spread of COVID-19.
- On the current trajectory, we expect to receive large numbers of patients in a very short period. This can overwhelm, strain and even break our ability to provide care to both COVID-19 patients as well as patients who will continue to need care.
- In addition to straining healthcare resources, the unchecked spread of COVID-19 also threatens to sicken doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. This will take us off the frontlines, where we’re most needed. Flattening the curve is as much about reducing the impact on patients as helping doctors keep up with the influx of patients.
- In communities across the United States —whether they are currently documenting new cases or not — our healthcare system does not have enough capacity to treat all patients with life-threatening symptoms who are expected to need support. Without action, our healthcare system will not have the time to mobilize the necessary providers, facilities, equipment, and protocols to effectively confront COVID-19. As a result, people will die unnecessarily whether they live in big cities or rural communities.
- Inequities in the U.S. healthcare system will only be exacerbated if we do not implement this policy nationwide. People’s ZIP code should not determine whether they are being equally protected from infection, sickness or death.
Every person in the United States has a role to play in confronting this deadly and fast-moving pandemic. Our federal government can take the critical step of ordering Americans to stay in their homes. Because we have few options left, the growing consensus among doctors and healthcare professionals is that the only way to slow COVID-19 and buy us enough time to save lives is to implement a national shelter-in-place order. The president should take action today.