U-M Medical Historian Says We Are Not Ready For Business As Usual Due To COVID-19

Aug 10, 2020

Credit Nan Lee / The New Yorker

Saying the crisis is still very real and far from over, physician, medical historian, and director of the University of Michigan's Center for the History of Medicine Dr. Howard Markel talks with WEMU's Lisa Barry about a recent article he wrote for the New Yorker, where he says he believes we are not ready for an open society due to our current global health crisis.


Dr. Howard Markel
Credit Writers' Representatives / writersreps.com

Dr. Howard Markel says, in his medical and measured public health opinion, we are not ready for business as usual or school as usual, adding, "The risks are just too high."  He's an advocate for continuing efforts to flatten the curve, a term he helped create.

Markel says to follow "The Three D's" to stop the spread of this easily transmitted respiratory virus.  

  1. Distance - Keep your distance from other people. 
  2. Duration - You limit the time you are near other people. 
  3. Diversity - You lower the diversity or amount of people you meet on any given day.

He says these are the basic premises of social distancing.

Markel acknowledges that it is hard to do this, adding it's hard to do for long periods of time because human beings are social creatures that like being out and about, but he says this is a life-and-death situation for many people.  He suggests it could be years before we have this pandemic handled as we wait for science and medicine to catch up to this novel virus.  He acknowledged doctors and researchers are working around the clock but says, until we have an effective preventative or treatment, "We're kind of stuck."  Markel adds, "This is on track to be one of the...if not the greatest contagious crisis in human history."

Markel shares a personal story about his 83 year-old mother, who already suffered from a neurodegenerative illness, had contracted COVID-19 in late February and passed away the same day.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu