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Regular Doctors in the COVID-19 Trenches – My Doctors

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In these days of low-trust, fake news, conspiracy theories, social media rants and high confusion, I decided to turn to two doctors I trust. They are not putting up podcasts and they are not advising the government. They have not put themselves forward as Coronavirus experts. And they are not seeking a Facebook or Twitter following. They are doctors who have treated me and upon whose knowledge and experience I rely. Dr. Rennert has been my family doctor for over three decades and Dr. Lavi has been my haemo-oncologist for a year and a-half. I have been through stressful medical situations and both have proven to be professional and responsive to my needs, and to advise me respectfully, in clear language and factually.

I asked both of them for interviews to help me understand at least some of the issues relevant to us as we deal with COVID-19. I do not take it for granted that they took time from their busy schedules to talk with me as a budding journalist and not as a patient.

It is interesting to get the perspectives of doctors with two very different patient populations — one cancer patients and the other a general family practice. I reflect on the interviews at the end of this post and draw some personal conclusions.

Both doctors agree that the original lockdown in March 2020 successfully interrupted the chain of infections and that we came out of the lockdown too quickly and without an exit strategy that would have ensured we maintain the gains achieved. I remember how, after the first lockdown was declared over, I sighed in relief and felt that we had got through the epidemic without too much damage, that it was behind us here in Israel. I balked at using the face mask and scoffed at the regulations that made me join a line on the sidewalk outside stores I wanted to purchase merchandise from.

But then, by summer, it was clear that all was not well. Had we all just followed the guidelines, both doctors agree, we would not have reached the point at which the second lockdown was necessary. Dr Lavi described what she sees among her own patients:

In this recent second wave, including during the lockdown itself, similar to the rest of the Israeli population, some of my haemotology patients (who are among those vulnerable to complications from the virus) are not completely compliant with the guidelines. Many people take the guidelines lightly and, in accordance with their own personal beliefs, they bend the rules. Therefore, most of the infections are from other family members.

In order not to endanger those who are in a higher risk category, all members of the household need to take the greatest care; if everyone follows the guidelines for social distancing and wearing masks when they are outside home, their chances of getting infected are very low and then they will not bring the virus back to those at risk. As soon as compliance is only partial, there are infections.

I have a few friends who asked me to enquire about this situation: older couples (aged 70 ) whose children cannot work because they do not have childcare want to move in with their parents so the grandparents can look after the kids. The parents and children are compliant with the lockdown and have been good about maintaining social distancing and masking. None have ever been infected. Is it safe for them to live together now? Both Drs Lavi and Rennert weighed in on this in similar fashion. Dr Lavi replied:

As long as there is a lockdown, the answer is simple: it is not a problem as long as everyone complies with the guidelines. When the children return to school or daycare, however, infections are likely to increase and then it will be imperative to take care. In my opinion, at least for the first while when there will still be a high number of infections it is best if children who are in daycare and school avoid being with their grandparents at home. As far as we know today, there is not a higher chance for high-risk people to become infected, but if infected, there is a higher chance that they will experience more serious complications.

I asked Dr. Lavi if there is a difference in treatment offered to cancer patients today as opposed to before the Coronavirus pandemic:

Because the virus is not going to disappear soon, we are not putting off cancer treatments. At the height of the first and second waves, we did not do Stem Cell Transplants (SCT) unless they were urgent and each case is judged on its own merits, but aside from those specific periods of time, we have been conducting transplants. Patients continue to receive their ongoing cancer treatments but for those meds that are not directly related to the cancer........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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