Dec. 22, 2020
To Members of the Baylor College of Medicine Community:
This week I have a special holiday gift for everyone. I will subject you to neither tortured analogies nor strained literary references. As I work to get myself into the holiday spirit – in this environment that is not particularly conducive to celebration - today’s theme is, perhaps ironically, frivolity.
First, our not-even-close-to-frivolous COVID-19 update for the week. The vaccine news continues to roll in, almost all of it good and encouraging. This situation is too complex and evolving to cover in this space, so please look for other communications from me or the Incident Command Center for ongoing vaccine information. Bottom line, our affiliate hospitals were incredibly supportive and collaborative when Baylor had no allocation of vaccine. We now know Baylor will be allocated the Moderna vaccine and will work to distribute it per priorities mandated by Texas health authorities.
Regarding our numbers this week, please refer to the TMC website. Community cases continue to climb at a daily rate equal to July surge levels. Nationally, weekly deaths continue to increase, as they have for the past two months. Test positivity rates, a general gauge of community disease prevalence, continues to climb. We will only recognize the peak to this winter surge when we are on the backside of it. Unfortunately, there is no trend I see that hints we are headed down.
It also feels differently. In July, I heard about people who had COVID-19. Now, I can name 5 people I know well who contracted the disease in the past week. Personally, as careful as I try to be every single day, I experienced an exposure. Thankfully, I remain negative to date, but am self-quarantining until I am certain I am in the clear. This is what a high prevalence environment feels like, and I expect it will get worse. When one person out of one hundred has the disease (a one-percent prevalence), you can roam around the community and not actually come across someone infected. When 10 out of 100 are infected, on a statistical basis, you will almost certainly come in contact with someone actively shedding the virus.
Implications for all of us? Double down on safe practices. Mask and distance. Do not congregate in indoor public places. Assume everyone – everyone – you come into contact with is potentially infectious. If you have symptoms, do not come to work, do not expose yourself to others. Be extraordinarily careful over the holidays, and avoid gathering people together from different households. If you did the detailed work over the past couple of weeks to form a holiday bubble, good for you. Make sure you stick scrupulously to the plan. If you did not, it is too late to start a bubble (unless you want to push out your celebrations into January).
Back to my theme. Frivolity. It may seem a little tone-deaf after reading the preceding paragraphs, but I will argue that a little frivolity at this particular moment is a good and important thing. We have been at this a long time. I do not know anyone who is not experiencing COVID fatigue. Rationally, we know the end is in sight, but we are still caught up in the daily grind. Our providers are bending, but not breaking, under the strain of this prolonged surge. Does life get back to normal in the Summer? The Fall? It will, but relief seems remote. Inevitably, many of us are wearing down.
This is the season of giving. All I ask of you during the holidays is to give a small something to yourself. Do something mindless and frivolous. Something effortless that gives you pleasure. Something that has absolutely nothing to do with SARS-CoV-2. I do not mean to suggest we act selfishly during the holidays (next week I will touch on giving to others), but many of you have given so much to so many over a sustained period of time, it is important to pause and make a deliberate effort to take care of yourselves.
With that recommendation in mind, I will finish by sharing with you my little bit of frivolity. Sincerest apologies to Clement Moore:
A Visit From Dr. Fauci
‘Twas the tenth month of COVID, outside the med school,
The virus was surging, making us look the fool;
Our screeners took temps and filled out our checklists,
In hopes Dr. Fauci would soon pay us a visit.
Our masks were in place over both mouth and nose,
In full PPE from our heads to our toes;
And I in my N95 – quite well fit –
Had just settled down to rest just a bit.
When suddenly I started to get texts non-stop,
I jumped on a Zoom call to see what could be up;
And who should I see in the box, upper right,
Than a crack immunologist, oh what a sight.
Bespectacled, bemused and a tiny bit grouchy,
I knew in a moment this was Dr. Fauci;
At first he was “on mute,” the mic icon all red;
But once that was solved, I recall what he said:
Now Baylor, now UPenn, now Duke and now Vandy,
On Hopkins, on Harvard, on Mayo and Emory.
Learning Health Systems – this is your finest hour,
In our battle with COVID, you hold all the power.
When we had zero testing, no testing at all,
You spooled up research labs to answer the call.
From lab bench to bedside treatments poured out tout suite,
A remarkable feat that was really quite neat.
Need a vaccine? You gave us three, four or five,
That promise did so much to keep hope alive.
New treatments emerged in a chaotic stew,
Phase three clinical trials helped us know what was true.
Young doctors in training, PAs, nurses, et al,
Learned in a pandemic, an order quite tall.
With a passion for learning that must be life-long,
CME helped all doctors discern right from wrong.
And finally, a nod to providers front-line:
This truly has been your moment to shine.
Your safety, your families, and your own burdened hearts,
All took backseat to your blest healing arts.
You battled at onset, you battle on still,
You’ll battle to the end, and please know that it will.
The challenge is not ended, it continues today,
And we owe you a debt that we never can pay.
His eyes were quite moistened, and his voice all aquiver,
He said, “thank you, thank you” for the care you deliver.
And just before clicking on “End Meeting for All,”
Added “Academic Medicine, we’re proud you’ve got this ball.”
I hope you and your family have a safe, joy-filled – and slightly frivolous - holiday.
James T. McDeavitt, M.D.
Senior Vice President and Dean of Clinical Affairs
As always, feel free to share this message via email or social media using the following link: https://bit.ly/3axKZRO
Also, if you are inclined to share your frivolous gift to yourself, email me at SVPClinical@bcm.edu or post to Twitter using #BCMHolidayFrivolity