Mandating Masks at Schools When the Infectivity Rate Goes Up: A Responsible Action

I am a 61 year-old ER physician who has worked at a pediatric ER in Dallas-Fort Worth for 30 years.  At my job I take calls from other ERs across North Texas who have critically ill or injured children that need admission to a pediatric ICU.  For 30 years I have always accepted those transfers.  But multiple times I’ve recently had to turn them down because our ICU is “full” (no more beds).  We then help send those critically ill children to West Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma or wherever a pediatric ICU bed can be found.  

How would  you like to be the parent of one of those children sent hundreds of miles from home? 

And if you are a school superintendent or school board member, how does this real-life story from the frontline make you feel about supporting school policies that allow unvaccinated, mask-less people around the children you are responsible to care for?

Bed shortages this severe did not happen before Covid-19.  The pandemic is real (come visit the ER to see for yourself), vaccines work (nearly all hospitalized are unvaccinated) and masks have been proven to reduce the risk of infection for over 100 years (since the 1917 pandemic).  They work, and that's why you expect your surgeon to wear a mask during surgery to prevent the germs in their mouth and nose from getting into your surgically-exposed body.    

Mandating masks makes sense when the infectivity rate goes up.   

Are you and your school districts going to be part of the solution, or part of the problem?  



Vaccine Mandates, Hyperbole and Hypothesis

Today my hospital’s leadership mandated Covid-19 vaccination.  Get vaccinated, or get terminated.  I get it, and I love it!

It is an ethical decision for us to get vaccinated-- to protect the children we serve, and also to do our part to give the virus fewer victims to infect (because as more people get infected, higher goes the risk for the virus to mutate into a more dangerous or even resistant variant).

For your friends and acquaintances who are hesitant about vaccine safety, there’s a lot of clear information in the message my hospital delivered today: Cook Children's Health Care System Mandates Covid-19 vaccination

Regarding the potential for long term side effects from Covid-19 mRNA vaccines, I like this article from another children's hospital, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia:   Covid-19 vaccine safety


My two-cents worth regarding the speed with which these Covid-19 vaccines were developed and approved for use:

The pandemic gave research scientists an unprecedented number of people around the world who eagerly volunteered to be trial patients to test the vaccine; the worldwide prevalence of the infection also created an environment where a large percentage of these trial patients quickly got exposed to Covid-19.  Within a remarkably short period of time, a significant number of trial patients who got the placebo instead of the vaccine got infected.  These conditions greatly shortened the time it took for research studies around the world to reach the statistical degree of confidence needed to affirm vaccine efficacy and safety--the same level of confidence as previous vaccine studies that took a decade or more to develop and test!  Its not hard to imagine vaccine trials taking longer to draw statistical conclusions for diseases that are much less prevalent than Covid-19.  In addition, the mRNA technology allows new vaccines to be developed and scaled up in an exponentially shorter time than the previous methods of vaccine development.  Prior to Covid-19, this technology had fortunately already been used for more than a decade in the development and testing of other vaccines, so it did not have to be built from scratch when the novel coronavirus sprang loose.

And, please, can people just stop being so gullible to all those bizarre vaccine myths?  When seeking the truth about the vaccines I personally have high confidence in the conclusions of research scientists who are paid to make hypotheses and then design studies to prove or disprove those hypotheses.  If they do so in an unethical manner, they lose their jobs.  Plus, I can look at the data myself if I want further proof.  I have actually looked at some Covid-19 research data, and IMO it is solid.  On the other hand, I am always highly skeptical of any information provided by TV and social media pundits who are paid to get high ratings.  Rather than designing studies to prove hypotheses, they design rhetoric to create hyperbole.  Hyperbole is exciting.  But hyperbole is opaque and dangerous.   Proving hypotheses is boring.  But the conclusions are transparent and tangible. 

Getting the COVID-19 shot is A-OK!

Getting your Covid-19 vaccine shot is “A-OK”—an Act Of Kindness.  And it is a broad, intentional act of kindness rather than a  narrow, random  one! 

I am an ER physician.  Here I am today being kind to my wife, my 96 year-old mother and anyone else who would be vulnerable to COVID-19 if I unintentionally infected them:

Covid shot #1 121920

I  hope others share my feelings of excitement and confidence in the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.  My own confidence stems from “insider” information from my son's fiancé, a biostatistician working on COVID-19 research studies, and my own observations as  I followed vaccine research progress this year.  I saw no shortcuts taken--just brilliant  scientific research within an environment of reduced bureaucratic red tape-- and a little bit of educated luck sprinkled in.  A truly astounding achievement!.

#A-OK  #WeAreCookChildrens

Because of the pandemic, because of the election, I pray

The 2020 presidential election was held only three days ago.    Since then:

  • The number of daily new cases of COVID-19 in the United States has been exponentially increasing, now nearing 120,000 new cases each day
    • because of the pandemic 
  • The number of people dying each day from COVID-19 is increasing 
    • because of the pandemic 
  • The presidential race remains extremely close
  •  An unprecedented number of people mailed their ballots rather than risking exposure to COVID-19 by going to a polling place
    • because of the pandemic 
  • So most of the votes currently being counted are the mailed ballots
    • because of the pandemic
  •  Local elections officials have a shortage of poll workers
    • because of the pandemic 
  • So it is taking a really long time to tally the votes  
    • because of the pandemic 
  • And election results in 5 closely contested states remain too close to call
    • because of the pandemic 
  • After Trump began fanning conspiracy theories about voter fraud this past summer by denouncing mailed-in ballots and asking his followers to vote in person, he is now proclaiming victory and declaring voter fraud with no evidence of broad-based or systemic fraud
  • After Biden encouraged voters to vote early or mail ballots to reduce risk of exposure to COVID-19, he is now winning the majority of mailed-in votes still being counted and is gaining on Trump in all the contested states
  • Biden has asked Americans to be patient while legally casted votes get counted
  • In the past 12 hours Biden took the lead in 4 of the 5 closely contested states after the lead apparently flipped in 2 of them 
  •  Americans in general, and the news media in particular, have understandably been mesmerized by the presidential election and lost focus on COVID-19 even as new cases are reaching critical levels 

So this is what today, November 6th, 2020, is like:

  • A chaotic election, the result of which will have a profound impact on how America addresses the pandemic
  • A pandemic with exponentially rising rates of new daily infections which will have a profound negative impact on the economy for decades to come

How well we respond to the pandemic has direct correlation to how negatively the economy is affected.  For decades.  


I pray for America and our elected leaders.

WEAR a MASK and Don't Pee on Me!

When one is exposed to coronavirus floating around in the air while wearing a mask, naturally there will be fewer germs that get through the mask to one's nose and mouth than if one is not wearing one.   This is critically important, because emerging data suggests that being inoculated by a fewer number of germs at the onset of infection results in milder disease and more asymptomatic disease.  This is good news.  It may turn out that wearing masks to decrease the initial inoculum of germs is a more effective way to manage this pandemic than by locking down society.  

But this works only if we can effectively change people's attitude and behavior to always wear masks in public, and to NOT bow down to uninformed political statements or "patriotic" feelings about personal freedom.  Otherwise we end up risking more government-enforced shutdowns.

Stop at red lights,

don't take a loaded gun on a plane,

don't pee on someone sleeping on a public park bench

and WEAR a MASK!!!   

It's just what American citizens have to do during this pandemic.  It is not within your right to put my life at risk by running a red light, shooting a gun on a plane or infecting me with coronavirus.   And don't pee on me either.  That's gross.  You have NO right to threaten me or wetten me like that!