For local public health agencies and healthcare providers only:
For general questions about COVID-19:
March 14, 2022: Oral COVID-19 medication
December 21, 2021: Pfizer Vaccine Shelf-Life Extension
December 20, 2021: Increase in vaccine reimbursement for Health First Colorado Medicaid members
December 15, 2021: Virtual Grand Rounds: The latest on Omicron and Crisis Standards of Care
While it is true that many in the community are acting as if the COVID-19 pandemic is “over”, the unfortunate truth is that this virus is far from being “over” with us. More people are dying or being hospitalized each day now than back when the economy was shut down and mask mandates were first put in place. And while many of us may share some of the sentiments and frustrations expressed by Governor Polis in his interview with Colorado Public Radio last week, there are a number of practical, ethical and legal restrictions and concerns under which physicians provide care that do not give us the luxury of viewing this pandemic as if it was over. Although the Governor has since retracted some of his comments, we believe it is important that you know why the Colorado Medical Society continues to view this pandemic as a serious health concern for all, and know that our members, and the many other health care professionals in Colorado, will continue to do their best to provide the care you need when it is needed.
Practically, we have known since at least 1918 that influenza and a number of other infectious diseases are spread by droplets or aerosols, yet we have not requested or demanded that folks wear masks at all times, as the Governor suggested we would like to do. I would assume he was using hyperbole, but such comments feed into an already dangerous feeling that some in the community have toward those in health care and public health. This has led to serious threats and the continuing harassment of many health care and public health professionals.
Ethically, physicians have taken an oath to help protect and care for the health of our patients and the community. This includes doing all we can to care for even those who may have made lifestyle decisions or choices that have led to, or contributed to, their illness or injuries. Unfortunately, those choices usually impact other individuals or the entire community. These may be direct impacts, such as injury or death from drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or the inability to find a hospital bed when needed because of the large number of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. There are also more indirect impacts such as increased insurance premiums for all of us because of the cost of care for those who may not care well for themselves. We also know that individuals who are unvaccinated for COVID-19 increase not only their own personal risk of disease, but put others at risk, since even the vaccinated may have breakthrough infections, and the likelihood of new, dangerous variants rises significantly in the unvaccinated.
Legally, we are often required by law and circumstance to care for individuals, based on the current status of their illness or physical condition. This is true no matter how we might personally feel about the choices that were made which led to their situation. Though others may live as if this pandemic is over, we cannot.
Throughout this pandemic, members of the Colorado Medical Society and many other health care professionals have continually put their lives on the line to care for its victims. Despite many staff shortages now, they still do so. All of us want this to be over. Until it is, please be assured that we will do our best to be there when you need us.
Mark B. Johnson, MD, MPH
President, Colorado Medical Society