Dear Friends and Colleagues,


Like me, you have probably found that talking with patients about COVID19 has been particularly challenging. There is so much we don’t know, and what we do believe to be true seems to change every day. Combine this with wide variation in recommendations from one authoritative source to another and it’s enough to make a wise doctor’s head spin.


Sifting through it all, however, there are some basic ideas that we can communicate to our patients. This list is based on input from a variety of sources, and is far from complete. And some of it will probably be wrong tomorrow.


  1. We’ve never dealt with a pandemic like this before, so all leaders, physicians, researchers, and health care workers are learning as we go.
  2. There is no vaccine yet, so there is no way to become immune other than by (perhaps) catching the illness and recovering.
  3. Most people who contract COVID19 will have mild illness not requiring hospitalization.
  4. People can become infected and unknowingly transmit the disease before they feel any symptoms.
  5. A significant number of people, however, will be sick enough to require hospitalization, and some will die.
  6. The most important goal is to avoid a large number of people needing hospitalization at the same time (a “surge”), raising the possibility that health care resources will not be adequate to care for everyone. At this point, we expect this surge to occur in Central Texas in early to mid May.
  7. We must all do our part to slow the spread of COVID19 so that the surge is manageable. This includes meticulous hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, not touching our faces after touching potentially contaminated surfaces, and wearing face covers in public places. Each one of these activities alone may only decrease transmission of the virus a little bit. Taken together, however, and if we all do it, it makes a huge difference.
  8. The virus is going to be around for a while (weeks or months), so these efforts will need to continue for a while (weeks or months).
  9. Testing for the disease has an important role, but there are many caveats related to testing, including the type of test, the timing of the test, the reliability of the test, and the severe limitation on the quantity of test kits available. All of these issues related to testing are improving.
  10. There are thousands of people in Central Texas alone working solely on the COVID19 pandemic. At the local level, this includes local government, a fully integrated city/county crisis response system, hospital leaders and staff, physicians, nurses, first responders, other medical technicians and specialists, social service professionals, business leaders, logistics experts, volunteers, and many, many others. Enormous efforts are underway to manage the effect COVID19 is having on our health care system and our economy.
  11. Should you need hospitalization, it is important to write down vital health information ahead of time. Take the time now to write down your health history, contact information for family members, and include any legal documents such as power of attorney and medical directives. Bring this with you if you need to go to the hospital. A convenient form is included here.
  12. This pandemic will pass, and life will return to normal. Some things may change. But rest assured, Austin will still be weird, and a great place to live.

Keep showing up, and stay safe out there!


John Abikhaled, MD

TCMS President