In medicine, there is the concept of triage. Essentially, it is prioritization, the assignment of degrees of injury or illnesses that necessitates hard decisions. When resources are limited, and when the number of patients is staggering, medical teams often need to focus on who is in most dire straits. Beyond that, however even more morose, it is prioritizing patients that medical professionals believe can be saved and those who are more likely to die.
It is not a healthy subject to think long and hard about if you’re not on the front lines of fighting the virus. It is something doctors have learned to do in war zones and during great hardships.
If things do not go smoothly, and if hospitals don’t have the correct amount of resources, personal protective devices, hospital beds and ventilators, then once we reach the peak number of cases, that is where events could lead.
One of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) most recent and most controversial acts as of Friday, April 3, was to sign an executive order saying they would take necessary equipment like ventilators from hospitals upstate which have seen relatively few cases and transport them to the hospitals in the most need.
That is in itself a sort of triage, a step to prioritize who needs such medical items the most. To say some hospitals, such as Stony Brook University Hospital, which was cited by Cuomo as a coronavirus hot spot, need more resources is to say they will be the ones who will be keeping even more people from dying from the virus.
People are helping these hospital workers in any way they can. We have seen local businesses and business groups band together to offer food for hospital and EMS workers. We have seen local residents create masks and other personal protective equipment from cloth they had at home. Libraries have come together to 3D print necessary PPE in the form of face shields. We have seen so much good come from our North Shore and Suffolk County community.
But on the smaller end, with the people who are simply staying at home, we have to recognize just how much good that has done.
Cuomo recently stated they are hopeful we may be reaching the plateau in the number of cases New York is seeing. It won’t be the end of the issues. We will likely have to remain isolated for several more weeks, but the amount of good social distancing has done is evident. People simply staying at home, getting the exercise when they can and not shaking hands has likely prevented an even greater overload of New York’s medical systems.
Many people are feeling burdened with a sense they are doing nothing. They are out of work, and they have nothing on their plate. It’s a malaise that settles deep, and we should all be thinking of the people who did not have money at the start of this pandemic, and now have even less since being out of a job.
New York will have to grapple with that. We Long Islanders should not feel like we have simply wasted time in languishing at home. This is society in action, with many thousands of people making sacrifices for the whole. It’s a sort of triage of the self and of society, finding what is more important and focusing on that. We should focus on the people who mean most to us, our friends and family. We should focus on the people who are in the most need and attempt to reach them and offer whatever kind of support. And at the same time, we should focus on ourselves, rest and take some time to think. When this whole thing comes around, all that time we spent in our homes will not have been wasted. It will mean a society that has learned to care for others in a time of crisis.