Dear Kehilla Kedosha d’Lakewood,
I write with one intention, to communicate the medical facts of this coronavirus and the implications for the Lakewood community. I will leave it to others to determine which policies make the most sense based on these facts.
COVID-19, the disease caused by this virus, is lethal for a fraction of patients. The most vulnerable group of patients are those over 60. Some young adults have been severely affected as well. A man from our community, previously well, in his 30s has also died of this disease. There has been close to 50 deaths from our community and we still have tens of patients on ventilators in the intensive care units at area hospitals. This has been a historic scourge of illness and death not seen in the US since 1918.
Every patient that has died, every patient that is at the edge of death, every patient that had a flu-like illness became sick because a person next to them spewed virus in the air through a cough or a sneeze, which was subsequently inhaled by their “friend”. There is also the possibility of droplet to surface to the patient, but this is not likely the mode of spread for the majority of infections.
This coronavirus is a real risk, a life-threatening risk, that is being transmitted to close contacts. These close contacts may be infectious in any setting, home, shul, store. People may be infectious whether they are clinically ill, not yet ill, or feeling better.
This disease is called COVID-19 because it was described in December of 2019! We need to approach this virus and this disease with an abundance of humility and caution. Although every day brings new knowledge, there is much more than we do not know, than we currently know.
I was called by a gentleman insisting that he and his family should be able to safely visit his elderly parents because, “We all had it.” To risk his parents’ lives based on the assumption that neither he nor his children are still shedding virus, is reckless.
I have talked to more than a few people who are sitting shiva for a parent or grandparent wracked with guilt that they were likely the source of infection.
Our response to this pandemic needs to be reasoned, rational, and responsible. There is no place for ill-conceived assumptions and brazen disregard for the metziyus. Our lives and the lives of our loved ones are at stake.
Howard Lebowitz, M.D.