More than 600 doctors signed onto a letter sent to President Trump Tuesday pushing him to end the "national shutdown" aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, calling the widespread state orders keeping businesses closed and kids home from school a "mass casualty incident" with "exponentially growing health consequences."
The letter outlines a variety of consequences that the doctors have observed resulting from the coronavirus shutdowns, including patients missing routine checkups that could detect things like heart problems or cancer, increases in substance and alcohol abuse, and increases in financial instability that could lead to "[p]overty and financial uncertainty," which "is closely linked to poor health."
"We are alarmed at what appears to be the lack of consideration for the future health of our patients," the doctors say in their letter. "The downstream health effects ... are being massively under-estimated and under-reported. This is an order of magnitude error."
The letter continues: "The millions of casualties of a continued shutdown will be hiding in plain sight, but they will be called alcoholism, homelessness, suicide, heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. In youths it will be called financial instability, unemployment, despair, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, poverty, and abuse.
"Because the harm is diffuse, there are those who hold that it does not exist. We, the undersigned, know otherwise."
The letter comes as the battle over when and how to lift coronavirus restrictions continues to rage on cable television, in the courts, in protests and among government officials. Those for lifting the restrictions have warned about the economic consequences of keeping the shutdowns in effect. Those advocating a more cautious approach say that having more people out and about will necessarily end with more people becoming infected, causing what National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci warned in a Senate hearing last week would be preventable "suffering and death."
But these doctors point to others that are suffering, not from the economy or the virus, but simply from not being able to leave home. The doctors' letter lists a handful of patients by their initials and details their experiences.
McDonald said that "hospitals are not only not overwhelmed, they're actually being shut down." He noted that at one hospital in the Los Angeles area where Dr. Simone Gold, the head organizer of the letter, works "the technicians in the ER have been cut by 50 percent."
Gold also said the effects of the shutdown are more serious for the vast majority of people than the potential virus spread if it is quickly lifted.