A doctor who oversees an emergency room at a Bronx hospital hard-hit by an onslaught of COVID-19 patients and who himself was infected with the coronavirus says it is time to lift the lockdown so those suffering from other ailments can be treated.
Daniel G. Murphy, a physician who chairs the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. Barnabas Hospital in The Bronx, called the pandemic ‘the worst health-care disaster of my 30-year career, because of its intensity, duration and potential for lasting impact.’
But he believes that ‘a significant degree of natural herd immunity’ has also been developed which can allow the public to resume normal life.
‘The lasting impact is what worries me the most,’ Murphy writes in the New York Post.
Daniel G. Murphy, a physician who chairs the Department of Emergency Medicine at St. Barnabas Hospital in The Bronx, thinks it’s time to reopen the economy
Murphy writes that the number of COVID-19 patients being admitted to his hospital has decreased in recent weeks. An ambulance is seen above outside St. Barnabas in The Bronx on April 15
‘And it’s why I now believe we should end the lockdown and rapidly get back to work.’
Murphy writes that ‘the wave [of coronavirus patients being admitted into hospitals] has crested.’
‘At 1pm on April 7, the COVID-19 arrivals slowed down,’ he writes.
‘It was a discrete, noticeable event.
‘Stretchers became available by 5pm, and the number of arriving COVID-19 patients dropped below the number discharged, transferred or deceased.’
Murphy writes that this drawdown was particularly striking given that his hospital serves a poor community where residents work low-paying ‘essential’ jobs and do not have the option to socially distance themselves from others.
‘Nevertheless, the wave passed over us, peaked and subsided,’ he writes.
‘The way this transpired tells me the ebb and flow had more to do with the natural course of the outbreak than it did with the lockdown.’
Murphy also says that hospitals need to resume treating non-COVID-19 patients.
‘While the inpatient units remain busy with sick COVID-19 patients, our ER has been quiet for more than a week,’ he writes.
An EMT wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) prepares to unload COVID-19 transfer patients at the Montefiore Medical Center Wakefield Campus in The Bronx on April 6
‘We usually average 240 patients a day.
‘For the last week, we averaged fewer than 100. That means our patients in this diverse, low-income community are afraid to come to the ER for non-COVID care.’
The physician noted that the number of 911 ambulance runs in the city has declined from a high of 6,527 on March 30 just almost half that figure – 3,320 – on April 18.
Murphy writes that the longer people are forced to remain at home, the more those suffering from non-COVID 19 conditions are at risk of dying without receiving treatment in a hospital.
‘A large share of those staying home surely have emergency medical and surgical conditions not related to the novel coronavirus,’ he writes.
‘The growing numbers dying at home during this crisis must include fatal myocardial infarctions, asthma exacerbations, bacterial infections and strokes.’
He writes: ‘Everyone seems to be avoiding the health system – an important and unfortunate consequence of the stay-at-home strategy.’
Murphy also claims that the public has been inundated with ‘inordinate fear’ of the virus which has been ‘overamplified.’
‘The public needs to understand that the vast majority of infected people do quite well,’ he writes.
Murphy also claims that more people are infected with COVID-19 than is thought and that a ‘natural herd immunity’ has likely taken hold.
‘Many New Yorkers already have the COVID-19 infection, whether they are aware of it or not,’ he writes.
‘As of today, over 43 per cent of those tested are positive in The Bronx.’
Murphy thinks that the virus is simply taking its natural course and that the lockdown is only partially effective in slowing the spread.
‘Distancing works, but I am skeptical that it is playing as predominant a role as many think,’ he writes.
Murphy also does not go along with the conventional wisdom that a resumption of economic activity depends on the introduction of mass testing.
‘Testing is important work, but it should happen in parallel to the immediate resuscitation of the economy and getting people back to work,’ he said.
Murphy believes testing should be done to ‘better establish the numbers among those with mild illnesses and no symptoms.’
He said the actual number of those infected with coronavirus ‘will be high.’
‘At present, the testing is imperfect,’ he said.
‘We can’t wait months. We must protect the vulnerable and mitigate without destroying the economy.
‘Standing up to this virus can’t be the job of essential workers only.
‘We’ve been strong, but we’re tired, and we need the rest of you to help us.
‘By getting back to work.’
More than 12,000 people have died from the virus in New York City, with another 4,300 dying in other parts of the Empire State, which is a far larger number than any other state in the country.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that he will extend lockdown orders in many parts of the state beyond his original May 15 deadline.
Cuomo did not specifically say that New York City would be among the areas that will have to stay closed for longer but implied it by saying the worst hit areas will be those that remain closed the longest.
It came as new results from antibody testing revealed that 24.7 percent of New York City residents tested positive.
If accurate, it means that more than 2 million of the city’s 8.4 million population have become infected, and that the death rate – when calculated using the 11,460 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, is 0.5 per cent.
More than 7,500 people have now been tested for the antibodies across the state. They were selected at grocery stores and were tested using a finger-prick blood test developed by the New York State Department of Health.
‘May 15 is when New York Pause regulations expire. I will extend them in many parts of the state but in some parts… you can make the case that we should unpause by May 15,’ he said.
On Sunday, there were 337 new coronavirus deaths which brings the state’s total since the pandemic began to more than 17,300.
There were 3,951 new cases Sunday bringing the state’s total to 291, 996 infections – almost a third of the 1 million infections in the country.