A member of our group wrote this open letter to Governor Cuomo that has received hundreds of likes and comments on our Facebook group. With her permission, we are sharing it publicly so it can be shared far and wide. Her courage as a healthcare provider, mother, and community member to speak out is commendable. The effects of the COVID-19 response has been detrimental to so many and Governor Cuomo's continuous disregard of the science and facts needs to STOP for the sake of our children and communities.
Thank you Julie!
"Dear Mr. Cuomo,
This is not my first letter to you, and probably will not be the last. I am well aware that you likely will not read this, and I will receive yet another generic automated response, but I implore you to give me a few moments of your time.
I am a physician assistant. I practice in upstate New York. As a disclaimer I have to add that these are my personal opinions and ideas and do not reflect those of my employer. I am also a single mother to four elementary aged children. For five months I have watched your response to Covid, I have observed your fanatical obsession with mask wearing, and your blatant disregard of the horrific impact that your extreme “safety regulations” have had on all other facets of human life. Initially I agreed with some of your measures to “flatten the curve” and “slow the spread”. This is a novel virus, and quite frankly, even the experts did not truly know how it would behave. To overwhelm the healthcare system, to have a patient die as a result, is inexcusable and unacceptable. However, as time slowly marches on, we have learned a great deal about this virus, and yet you have not evolved as the virus has. The healthcare system has not collapsed. This statement does not discount the severity of this disease, it is simply a fact. Every year, all over the country, ICU beds can be at critical capacity. At my local hospital this occurs 2-3x a year on average, and has long before Covid existed. Hospitals have overflow plans, contingency plans, emergency plans in place for this very reason, and they have been implemented every single year. Yet, this is not widely realized, it is not reported on, and therefore does not illicit public panic like Covid has. The initial response was to flatten the curve, and that we did. Could you please explain when this morphed into “finding a cure”?
Mr. Cuomo, have you considered the devastating impact that your Covid response has had on so many other facets of life? People are neglecting routine health care and preventative health secondary to fear of contracting Covid. Cancer treatments have been pushed back, “elective surgical procedures” were cancelled and delayed for months, elective procedures that can and do save lives. Health care has shifted into a virtual world with patient interaction largely proceeding via Skype and Zoom. Mr. Cuomo, in the health care, we rely on both subjective and objective data to diagnose and treat a patient. We rely on physical exams to determine vitals and assess pain. These factors cannot be obtained via telehealth, have you considered this? How many people are sick or dying as a result of virtually ignoring everything but Covid? Suicide rates and drug overdoses are on the rise, domestic violence as well. Are these deaths tragic? Do they matter? Nursing home residents have been unable to physically see their loved ones for months. They have been isolated in their rooms, activities cancelled, group meals cancelled, human interaction cancelled. All in the name of “safety”. At what point does quality of life outweigh quantity? Perhaps some elderly residents would sacrifice their “safety” if it meant they could hug their children again. Should they be given a choice?
It is widely accepted that obesity, diabetes, and renal disease result in higher rates of negative outcome with Covid coinfection. This should not be a surprise, as these conditions are known to shorten life expectancy and have poorer outcomes with any disease process. It is also widely accepted that many of these cases can be prevented, or at least lessened by lifestyle modifications and medical compliance. Exercise, eat healthy, take medications as prescribed are the mantra of so many healthcare professionals. Mr. Cuomo, in the name of “safety” you shut down gyms, but deemed alcohol and fast food “essential”. Five months of isolation, restriction, and limited recreation have resulted in many Americans slipping further into unhealthy lifestyles, lifestyles that lead to higher rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These are conditions that increase the risk of negative outcomes with Covid. Do you see anything alarming about this?
You continue to insist that all of your mandates and restrictions are based on “science and fact”. Yet you have never really disclosed the criteria and science that you are utilizing. Cloth mask are mandated and you continue to incessantly harp on how essential they are in “stopping the spread”, yet you allow many exceptions. Children in daycare do not need to wear masks, masks are not needed when sitting at a table in a restaurant, children playing organized sports do not generally require masks, masks are not needed when seated at a bar if also eating food. I wonder what scientific data you are using to formulate these regulations. Covid is a risk when walking through a restaurant, but not while seated. Covid is a risk while seated at a bar drinking, but it is not if one is also consuming food. Children cannot resume full time in person school as this is not safe, however daycares, summer camps, and organized sports are not a risk. In the interest of transparency, could you possibly provide the data that is utilized to support these decisions?
In this regard, universally, all scientific data, and the vast majority of “experts” unanimously agree that school is safe. The social, psychologic, and educational benefit of children attending in person school far exceeds any risk. It has been shown repeatedly that children are not major carriers of infection, nor are they major spreaders of infection. Children simply do not get as sick, nor do they have any significant risk of death from Covid-19. Seasonal flu kills more children yearly than Covid. These are facts, these are based on science and data. For many underprivileged children, school is their safety net, their sole source of support and guidance. Children with special needs and education plans are underserved by distance learning and need to be in school. This continued push for virtual, or even hybrid learning, is terrifying and detrimental, and I ask you again, have you considered this data? Are the far reaching, negative impacts of continued school closures less worrisome to you than the relatively low risk of a Covid surge?
Mr. Cuomo, you consistently attack other states for not imposing such strict regulations and mandates, while using your leadership in New York as a measure of success. However, data clearly shows New York State has the highest death count by far in the country. Can you explain this? New York adopted an early universal mask mandate and has continued to be considered the most restrictive state in the country, yet our death count to date hovers around 33,000. Florida and Texas death counts to date are far less, at approximately 5,000 and 6,000 respectively. This is data Mr. Cuomo, are your decisions based on this data?
I am a lifelong resident of New York State and have been proud to call it my home. I am a mother and a healthcare provider. I am a firm believer in science. Mr. Cuomo, your decisions and mandates defy science, and in many cases, they defy even logic. You continue to stubbornly ignore the casualties in all other facets of life in your “fight against Covid”. You refuse to provide guidance, plan, or even transparency with the “data and science” you use to make such decisions. You enforce travel quarantines on states that have fewer positive cases than New York State, and provide no explanation as to why. You introduced the 4 Phase Plan for reopening, yet despite having met all the criteria detailed, businesses remain shuttered with no discussion on what comes next. Five months ago, you asked us to “Flatten the Curve”, and we obliged. Now what are you asking of us?
This “New Normal” is not sustainable and quite frankly, it is unacceptable. A vaccine is not a guarantee, a cure is not realistic. As countless experts have stated, we need to find a way to live with this virus, a way to mitigate risk and protect those populations who need it, while allowing the rest of the population to resume a real normal. Attempting to control all aspects of disease transmission with obsessive cleaning, isolation, plastic shields, and downright ridiculous policies is impossible and the causalities of attempting this need to be considered. All life matters, Mr. Cuomo.