While I am no health expert, like many of you, I have been reading and listening to a never-ending stream of information on COVID-19. At times its feels like drinking water from a fire hose.
As I have shared in the past, I feel that life in general, and a trusted relationship in particular, comes down to practicing several key principles. Two of those principles are effective communication and managing expectations. I wanted to share my thoughts on the latter, and as it relates to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Before I continue however, I need to make the disclaimer that I am not a health-care professional – I just play one on social media.
Let me start with my conclusions on “expectation setting”:
This will go on much longer than we all want, and originally hoped
Things will get worse before they get better
We will eventually get through this
While we deal with high levels of uncertainty in many areas, we need to remember that we are all emotional human beings, that need to be listened to, supported and loved
As a society, this experience will have many long-lasting effects on our relationships, health care system, economy and how we live our lives going forward
My wife, Courtney, and I have been talking about this all the time with our boys (Drew – 18, and Jack – 16) as we now have regular family dinners; one good thing that has come from this difficult experience. We remind them that while we are inconvenienced right now in our daily lives, we are still so fortunate, unlike many others that are struggling with so much right now.
During my board call yesterday for Capital Group’s RIA Advisory Board, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH. Dr. Jha is a physician, health policy researcher, and advocate for global health care reform. He serves as the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, K.T. Li Professor of International Health & Health Policy at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a practicing internal medicine physician at the VA Boston Healthcare System. Unlike me, he actually is a health-care professional.
A few things he shared on the call, and to provide us all with some perspective around our collective expectations:
In order to flatten the curve, we will by definition, extend it.
In order to not inundate our hospital systems, health care providers, PPE availability, and reduce the death toll from the coronavirus, we need to flatten the curve. We are doing this better than ever now by sheltering-in-place, practicing social distancing, and frankly, just making smarter decisions. While this will be effective, we are also pushing out the curve and extending it longer into the future – a necessity.
This will last longer than we want it to, and the summer may make things better, but will not end it. It will likely be back this fall, and we need to use the summer to better prepare. Dr. Jha commented that this will be around for the next 12-18 months.
We need to be honest about how difficult this will be.
There are essentially two ways to stop this – we develop herd immunity, or we create a vaccine that can provide immunity to the disease.
On the first, while there are various estimates on the ranges, it appears we need 50-60% of people to have the virus before we develop herd immunity. That number is staggering and would mean that in the US alone we need over 150 million people to have the virus (we just passed 1 million yesterday in the entire world).
Creating effective vaccines is really hard! It takes a long time, and over 70% of them will fail. There are two vaccines currently in Phase I clinical trials, and 10-20 additional vaccines behind those that are already in the pipeline. It is a sprint to get one that will work. Once we have one that works, it will be a marathon to develop it in on massive scale for delivery to billions of people. Current estimate on when this will occur is not until the second half of 2021. Again, it will take time.
Dr. Jha reminded us on the call that since 1999 we have been spending ~$1billion a year to develop a cure to HIV, and there still isn’t one.
Meanwhile, while we know that the current countless testing methods are not perfect, any/all that work should be used. We need to develop standardization in the testing process, as well as results that are timely. In addition, we are, and will continue, to use various therapies to help reduce the mortality rate.
This will change the way we live, work and interact
I think we all realize that even when we do have a cure for this virus, there will still be ongoing impacts on all of us, and in many ways.
The return a newer “new-normal” will be staged. No lifeguard is going to blow the whistle, and all of us will jump back in the pool together. It will take time, and we will be impatient when it starts.