I first posted this on my personal Facebook feed. I expected a lot of negative feedback. But, the opposite happened, for the most part.
I am not fazed. And, this bothers a lot of people.
It seems the new measure of a person is his or her capacity for righteous indignation, pandering for “social justice,” and public virtue-signaling. Keeping up with the Joneses is no longer a material pursuit. It’s an emotional attention-getting pursuit. And, hoo-boy… has this “crisis” provided that opportunity in spades.
I’ve had some friends extremely upset at me for not being as “worried” as they are. I’ve had to “un-friend” some on social media for being rather nasty. One long-time (~20 years) friend and colleague gleefully admonished me for having my practice still open and that I’d be “shut down soon.” He had missed the fact that my state had already shut us down except for emergency patients. But he was apparently happily anticipating the impending shutdown of my business. That’s not cool at all.
I’ve been chastised for being “cavalier” in my posts about this Coronavirus. I’ve been excoriated for not demonstrating the proper amount of fear and dread. I’ve endured the derision and contempt of colleagues even for being open to see emergency patients. Many dentists, incidentally, have run for the hills, ignoring their training and expertise in infectious disease control. They’ve closed their offices and are referring emergency patients to the ER. Or, they’re not even answering the phones at all.
But, I’m the bad guy. According to some… a really bad guy. For seeing emergency patients. My own colleagues are PISSED that any dentist would see patients. Some have accused the dentists who are open, of “stealing” or “scooping up” their patients. You know… the ones who they’ve left in a lurch, refusing to see them.
Perhaps my position and lack of alarm is due to perspective. So, here’s my perspective:
Consider that I came into Dentistry at the time when
HIV / AIDS was the big news. At the time, an HIV infection was 100% fatal. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. Also consider that dentists were REQUIRED BY LAW to see HIV / AIDS patients. We could not refuse to see them because of their HIV / AIDS status. “Universal Precautions” were implemented, and the conventional wisdom was to treat ALL patients as if they were HIV+. Believe it or not, initially some patients were OFFENDED that we would don gloves, masks, and eye protection. “What’s the matter? You think I have AIDS?” We would explain, “No. We don’t know who does. We are wearing these items for YOUR protection.”
Also consider that dentists and dental auxiliaries knew that if we fucked up and stuck ourselves with an HIV-contaminated instrument, we were quite possibly as good as dead. It was a death sentence… from just ONE “slip-up.” Regardless, BY LAW, we had to see and treat HIV+ patients. The fact that one mistake could kill us with 100% certainty was irrelevant. We had to be very careful. By the way, it was considered “discriminatory” if we double-gloved for known HIV+ patients. Think about THAT.
Now? A respiratory virus is pandemic (worldwide). In the U.S. the mortality rate is currently at 2% (Source: CDC) and likely to decrease as the number of cases increases with full recoveries. Most of the Corona deaths had comorbidities. By way of comparison, HIV was 100% fatal. In the 1980s, AIDS was the LEADING cause of death in young adults. By 1989 (I graduated dental school in 1988), it was the 2nd leading cause of death for men 25-44 years of age, surpassing heart disease, cancer, suicide, and homicide (source: CDC). And, we were legally mandated to see and treat these patients.
Over the years (almost 32 years in practice now), Dentistry and the world have faced a litany of epidemics and pandemics… some of them with very nasty bugs. On a daily basis, dentists have to practice with the assumption that patients may be infectious with a cornucopia of pathogens such as HIV, Hep C, Hep B, Tuberculosis, MRSA, Herpes, HPV, and other flu viruses. Every single day. We have become EXPERTS in sterile protocol and infection control. For over 30 years, we’ve been wildly successful, with virtually ZERO cases of transmission of any of those diseases.
In 1990, I served aboard a combat ship in the Persian Gulf (Desert Shield / Desert Storm). We had Iranian Silkworm anti-ship missile silos targeting us. We were on station for almost 4 months. The Navy made sure we all had our last will and testaments filled out. Serious, deadly business. A few years ago, my daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. We went through 2-1/2 years of chemo treatment. It was fucking hell, and it still affects us to this day.
I’ve faced down accidental death twice. Once, I ran out of air while scuba diving at 80 feet (stupid). Another time, I was in my car (with my wife) and got unexpectedly and suddenly trapped in traffic on a railroad track. “All we need now is a train to come, eh?” Right then, the crossing alarm bells started ringing and the gates came down around us. Traffic wasn’t moving. But, the train was – at full speed. The train’s horn was blaring. I’ll just say some “unconventional driving” got us out of there in the nick of time. Literally.
Perspective? Yeah, I’ve got it. Fazed? Nope.
Now, I’m expected to shut down my practice to ALL patients except “emergencies.” My practice cannot survive on emergencies. Other so-called “non-essential” businesses shut down completely! Why? Hysteria. That’s why.
Yes, Coronavirus is serious. The reaction has been grossly disproportionate. I’ve faced far more serious transmissible diseases without the heinous shutdowns. Because of THIS bug, we have to literally sacrifice our dental practices, and many other small businesses, many of which may not survive the lengthy shutdown? But, we HAD to see the patients with the 100% deadly virus back in the 80s and 90s.
I’m seeing patients almost daily now who cannot contact their dentists or can’t find another office that’s open to see emergencies. Two days ago, I had a patient who called her dentist (part of a local large group practice) and was told to go to the ER (where they can do NOTHING for her). Yesterday, another patient said she called several dental offices, and none even answered the phone. My office was the first and only one that answered the phone. Sad. Pathetic. But, hey… ya’ll stay closed, OK? 😉
Today, I saw an older patient from Austria. He said that the atmosphere here in the U.S. reminds him of Europe in 1944 – 1945, leading up to the end of WW2. That’s some deep shit.
So, you’ll have to pardon me (or not) for failing to join the Chicken Little Club or jockeying to be the most “virtuous” or “woke” person on social media. I don’t care if I piss anyone off. I revel in facts and logic. And, I am always consistent in their application. So far, the majority of people condemning me have resorted to EMOTIONAL arguments, with one even trying to invoke my daughter’s illness as leverage in a debate. Pathetic. It’s not the first time some asshole has done that, by the way.
I will be “careful” and mindful of Corona… just like I am with other diseases every single day. For YEARS, I’ve carried hand sanitizer in the car for use after using gas pumps and grocery carts. For as long as I can remember, after drying my hands in public bathrooms, I’ve used the paper towel as a barrier to open the door when leaving. For many, many years I’ve been doing that. Just now, others are catching on to the concept of hygiene. That may be the faint silver lining in all this. But, at what cost to our economy and livelihoods?
Peace out, my brothas and sistas.