Posted on: March 25, 2020 at 3:11 pm
Last updated: October 15, 2020 at 3:07 pm

Since the first reported case in Wuhan, China, in late 2019, the novel coronavirus has spread across the world at an unprecedented rate. There have now been cases reported on every continent except Antarctica [1].

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As the number of severe cases continues to rise, healthcare systems in countries all over the world are under massive strain. Hospitals in countries like Italy, that have been hit the hardest, are experiencing shortages of medical supplies and hospital beds, which has made it impossible for doctors and nurses to provide patients with the necessary care, and driven up the mortality rate [2].

According to the CDC, the people who are the most at-risk for developing a severe or fatal case of the coronavirus are older adults (adults over the age of 65), people with chronic lung disease, asthma, or serious heart conditions, people with underlying medical conditions such as renal failure or liver disease, and people with compromised immune systems [3].

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Currently, experts estimate that the mortality rate of the coronavirus is 3.4 percent [4]. To many, this seems relatively low, and it may appear as though a young, healthy person has nothing to be concerned about. 

This, however, is not true, for one main reason: A healthy person could contract the virus and may not feel any symptoms at all, but that person could give it to another, then another, then another, until some who is deemed to be “at-risk” ends up in the hospital on a ventilator.

Read: 20 Coronavirus Myths Busted

Mary Lloyd: Protect the Four Percent

Mary Lloyd is a multiplatform producer and journalist living in Australia with her husband and three children. Last year, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After having surgery to remove the cancer, she is now seven weeks into a four-month chemotherapy treatment to prevent her cancer from coming back.

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Mary is in that four percent.

She recently wrote a piece for ABC News, in which she describes how it feels to have public figures, commentators, and even friends, label her death as “inconsequential”.

“There’s a callous confidence that comes with knowing you’re part of the 96 per cent who will survive an infection — instead of being among the potential “four-percenters” who might not,” she wrote [5].

She goes on to describe how chemotherapy has impacted her immune system, and that just one week prior she had picked up a viral throat infection from one of her kids that landed her in the emergency department.

She is not the only one who is concerned about the rhetoric surrounding vulnerable populations. Lloyd speaks about a retired broadcaster, Patricia Barraclough, a self-described “older” person, who voiced her discomfort when seeing posts stating that “only” the elderly and those with underlying health conditions will die from the virus.

After posting on Twitter, many others began replying, saying that they, too, felt expendable and exposed by the comments they were hearing.

“When people spread blithe messages about the fatality rate or flippantly comment about easily shaking the disease off, there is a risk others will take a similar careless approach,” explained Lloyd. “This is where it becomes truly terrifying for potential four-percenters: If so many people contract the virus that the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, we cannot be sure we will receive the care we need.” [5]

She cites the situation in Italy, where the healthcare system is so overwhelmed that doctors and medical staff are forced to decide which patients receive the care they need, and which don’t. They have to look at the patients’ underlying medical conditions and decide who has the best chance of survival. The others are, by necessity, left to die [2].

“I’m expecting to fully recover from my underlying health condition,” said Lloyd, “but if I contract coronavirus at the height of this outbreak, can I be sure in a contest between myself and another patient I will hold the winning ticket?” [5]

Read: Terrifying footage from a hospital in Italy shows a health system overwhelmed by COVID-19 crisis

The Importance of Social Isolation

While scientists and medical researchers around the world are working to find a cure or treatment, to date, there are no medications, drugs, or vaccines that can prevent or treat the coronavirus [6]. However, there has been some progress.

Related: Italian coronavirus patient, 79, recovers after taking Ebola drug

For this reason, social isolation is our only tool to prevent the spread of the virus. It is crucially important that we keep the number of infected people to a level that is manageable by our healthcare systems, or else our doctors will be forced to make decisions like those in Italy.

Mary Lloyd has one plea for everyone who falls in the “96 percent”:

“So on behalf of all the potential four-percenters out there, I beg that people be vigilant and take the virus seriously, not because we are all potential fatalities, but because among us there are people whose best chance of surviving the outbreak is if its spread is slowed so our health system can adequately treat everyone in need.” [5]

Keep Reading: ‘Stay Away from Other People’ Says Coronavirus Patient from Hospital Bed on Social Distancing

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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