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Sorry if this comes across as too personal, but I’m offering it as a general statement on behalf my generation and also (perhaps) to help you “young’ns” understand how some of us might be feeling when we strongly encourage people in Newton to engage in more intense personal hygiene and greater social distancing.

As you get older, your mind often remains at a younger perceived age. The decades go by, but you don’t think of yourself as old. Yes, you start having colonoscopies at age 50 or so. And then, at your annual physical, your MD starts to use a calculator (based on age, blood pressure, weight, etc) to tell you the likelihood of having heart disease in the subsequent ten years. But what does it really mean if your probability of that is 8 or 10%? It’s pretty abstract and easily forgotten.

But then comes COVID-19, and you see a chart from the WHO that indicates that the probability of dying if you are infected by the virus at age 70 is 8%, and at age 80 is 15%. From a single episode. That’s a lot different from some statistical probability of heart disease over the next decade. And it is a lot higher than if you are under 50, where the probability is 1% and less.

The spread of the virus, though, doesn’t recognize age, and so we need everyone’s help to protect everyone. Because of my professional background, I’m now receiving reports from friends and colleagues in Italy, where the healthcare system has become overwhelmed by cases, and the medical staff in hospitals describe the situation as comparable to a war zone. For example, Lombardy is the most developed region in Italy and has a extraordinary good healthcare. The hospitals are running at 200% capacity. Doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists are exhausted and simply not able to treat people and are watching them die.

The goal here now is mitigation, to try to slow the spread of the disease so it does not drown our healthcare system. Please help do your part even if you are not personally at great risk: Your older neighbors are. Thanks.

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