Dear Colleagues, 

Wednesday afternoon, the City of Austin and Austin/Travis County hosted a press conference featuring doctors and nurses who are concerned about the resurgence of COVID-19 in our community. 

I participated along with critical care nurse, Frances Simpson, RN, and Drs. Kirsten Nieto, Chris Ziebell, Mike Pignone, Ann Buchannan, Ross Tobleman, Pete Zamora, and Mark Escott. 

Our purpose was twofold: (1) to inform the public of the current surge of COVID-19 in our community and the dangers it poses to them and to our health care system; and (2) to appeal to the public to follow our advice and once again adhere to the masking, distancing, and hygiene practices that we’ve proven can flatten the curve. 

Dr. Escott opened the conference showing graphs of the hockey-stick upsurge in all indicator trend lines since the relaxation of stay home/work safe orders. 

I followed his introduction with the following message to our community. 

"It’s important to understand what exponential spread of a virus means. We all know how things go viral on the Internet. You see a funny cat video and share it with 10 people. They each share it with 10 more. That’s 100 people now, who share it with 10 each, reaching 1000. The 1000 spread it to 10,000, then 100,000, then one million. In just six of cycles of transmission, one person affects one million people. 

Real viruses, like the new Coronavirus, work in exactly the same way. When one person has been infected, he or she will spread it to several other people. They in turn infect many more, and on it goes. 

We face another problem with the Coronavirus. It’s sneaky. It spreads very easily. You can have it for days or even a couple of weeks without knowing it and, all the while, you are unintentionally infecting family, friends, and coworkers. 

It’s unpredictable because it affects people in different ways. Some barely feel sick at all, while others get so sick they end up gasping for air, and have to go on a ventilator with a plastic tube in your windpipe for days or even weeks. And many die - more than 120,000 so far in America, and worldwide the number is approaching half a million. 

In one way though, the virus is not sneaky. It cares not whether its victims are Asian, Black, Hispanic, or White. It is equally eager to invade the lungs of a Christian, a Hindu, a Jew, or a Muslim. It won’t consider your gender. And it will infect you whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. 

During the lockdown, we did something incredible. We proved that we can control the virus and flatten the curve simply by changing our behavior. For a couple of months, there was amazing cooperation among all of us to accomplish that goal.

Then we got tired, and a bit stir-crazy, and we lowered our guard. As a result, the virus has surged, and it’s taking lives as it multiplies. 

But there is a middle ground between complete lockdown and uncontrolled viral spread. 

It simply involves doing the things we know we should do: Distancing ourselves. Wearing masks. Washing our hands. Minimizing social excursions. And absolutely staying home if sick. 

What happens over the next several days and weeks is completely up to us. How we behave – and how we cooperate with each other - will make a difference. The thousands of doctor’s, nurses, and other health care workers in the Austin area will be here to help you if you get sick, but we will only be successful if we have enough people, enough resources, enough hospital beds, and enough medicines to do it. 

Good ideas can spread like a virus as well. It’s time now for this idea to go viral: Controlling COVID depends on each one of us, on how we cooperate, and on the actions we take." 

The messages that followed from every doctor and nurse on our panel was clear and consistent. Do the right thing. Don’t wait to be ordered. Take care of yourself and others. 

I was proud to be among the doctors and nurses coming together to speak to our community as the leaders they can trust to tell them the truth. 

Feel free to share this with 10 friends and encourage them to share with 10 more, you get the idea.

The press conference was recorded for viewing here.