Florida has enjoyed an unexpected avoidance of the surge of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, which, given our patient population and demographics, was aptly predicted to be similar to that of Italy where emergency departments and intensive care units were overwhelmed and ventilators rationed.
Emergency medicine physicians in Florida expeditiously requested aggressive preparedness and arduous social distancing.
Emergency medicine leaders have done as much as feasibly possible, with President Donald Trump, Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Emergency Operations Center, the Florida Hospital Association and countless other entities and health systems across the state to activate pandemic response task forces and collaborate for the good of the citizens of Florida.
While social distancing has had some well appreciated unfortunate potential consequences on the economy and mental health, these measures have spared us a catastrophic outbreak experienced by other countries and areas within the United States to date.
Dr. Lorna Breen, a treasured friend and colleague at the height of her career, committed suicide at the age of 49 after being exposed to an overwhelming number of patients afflicted with COVID-19 in New York City.
Lorna has been active on a state and national level having served on the Board of Directors of the New York Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and providing numerous “best practice” clinical recommendations on a national level as part of the ACEP Emergency Medicine Practice Committee.
She was a seasoned medical director in the process of obtaining an MBA on a trajectory to transition from physician leader to health care executive. She was a strong woman and physician who had overcome countless challenges in her career.
Lorna selflessly worked under conditions where she was exposed to the sickest of patients with a contagious, life-threatening disease which she unsurprisingly contracted although COVID-19 was not the ultimate cause of her death.
Despite having no previous history of mental illness, the tragic images of patients with end-stage COVID-19 took her beyond a reasonable capacity to cope.
There have recently been many disparaging remarks in the media and quotes from government officials regarding preventive measures enacted in Florida.
We should not revert to these selfish commentaries for the purpose of “being right” when there is so much “doing right” that we must accomplish.
Now is not the time for legislators, health systems including health care workers, or the public to analyze any faults of actions taken by decision-makers to date who were well-intentioned. Now is the time for everyone to be grateful we have been spared tragedy that so personally touched many of those we know and love. Now is the time to come together across our communities to safely and intelligently reengage with one another and reopen our economy as we work to contribute to our collective recovery.
Much has been destroyed during the COVID-19 pandemic, more has been broken. Now is the time for us all to cease criticizing and get to work.
Now is the time to embrace what we have learned during disastrous circumstances that were threatened in Florida and actualized in other states and parts of the world.
There is so much healing required and Florida will work most quickly and effectively if we all agree to be supportive of one another and move forward optimistically together.
Dr. Kristin McCabe-Kline is an EMS Medical Director and Emergency Medicine Board Certified Physician of Emergency Medicine Professionals (EMPros) in Volusia/Flagler counties serving as the current President of the Florida College of Emergency Medicine Physicians.