Coronavirus: Health experts say best way to save lives is to #StayHome
In this March 11, 2020, photo, Lindsay Garfield works from home in New York. Authorities from New York to California have called on employers to allow those who can to work from home in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. | Bebeto Matthews / AP

This open letter was written by 16 national health care leaders and has appeared in a number of publications. The authors are listed below. People’s World publishes it as a public service.

The coronavirus pandemic seemed so far away just weeks ago.

No one likes to be isolated and sit at home and be bored. You want to be near friends as you work from home. The numbers you’re hearing about the virus seem too big to believe. You’re worried about your neighbors and the impact on local businesses and workers

You feel healthy, and how much worse can it be than the flu, after all?

COVID-19 is spreading, and you won’t know you’re infected until you’ve already infected others. Right now, you have no immunity to prevent you from getting the disease. It’s especially lethal for older people or those with underlying conditions. This will come to communities in waves and will be a marathon, not a sprint, so pay attention to local events. And our hospitals won’t have sufficient resources—people, beds, ventilators or protective gear—if cases keep spreading as fast as they are in Italy.

But there’s something important you can do: #StayHome

STAY AT HOME as much as possible. It may be in your community now or it may be soon. Until you hear otherwise from health care officials, even if you have no symptoms. That means avoiding playdates, sleepovers, bars, restaurants, parties or houses of worship. Avoid all crowds.

What can you do instead?

You can still take walks outside, shop for essentials and enjoy your online community of friends.

Stay connected in other ways. Check-in on your loved ones and friends frequently. Keep informed about what is happening in your neighborhood. Give to people in need in your community: supplies for food pantries, financial donations, personal hygiene items.

Buy online gift certificates to your favorite local stores and restaurants—and use them when this is over.

Be a neat freak. Keep everything as clean as possible. Wash your hands. Early, often, thoroughly. If you’re going to spread anything, spread help, compassion, and humor.

Above all, do not panic. Remember: Like all outbreaks, this too will eventually end. If you’ve been infected and recovered already, you are highly likely to be immune. If so, you can serve your community in public spaces where others can’t.

To state and local leaders

Prioritize the most vulnerable in your community—the elderly, the sick and those living in close quarters. Temporarily close bars and restaurants when there is evidence of rising community transmission.

Work with Congress to provide continued economic support for your constituents most urgently affected by the pandemic’s financial blow. Consider temporary suspension of all commercial air and rail travel.

Ensure the safety and resources needed for your health care workforce. Health care and critical infrastructure workers should have the highest priority for personal protective equipment.

Make rapid expansion of COVID-19 testing a top priority. Open drive-through testing stations and offer at-home care. Make prescription drug supply and other necessities in your community a priority. Provide immediate training for all medical providers to join the effort wherever they can be most useful.

Honor cross-state medical licensing for all health care providers until the pandemic is over.

Prepare large spaces (stadiums, hotels) to become quarantine residences, as needed. Coordinate with the National Guard to provide surge intensive-care-unit capacity for communities in need. Create fever clinics for triage.

Re-evaluate any regulations that impede the above (or below).

To health care workers

We know you are in uncharted waters and are standing on the front lines. All of us depend on your training, your compassion, your commitment, and your untapped capacity.

If you have not yet joined this fight, please reach out to your local hospital and find out how you can enlist. Contact telemedicine platforms and offer your services.

Stop all elective surgical and medical procedures now. Send people home if it’s safest for them to be at home. Reinforce the benefit of staying home and getting tested.

Help the people on the front lines do their jobs. Focused and united, we can avoid the worst possibilities. It’s up to all of us. As a country, we can overcome this together.


This column was written by:

Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services

Dr. Bill Frist, former Senate majority leader 

Dr. Asaf Bitton, executive director, Ariadne Labs, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Lanhee J. Chen, policy director for the Mitt Romney 2012 presidential campaign and David and Diane Steffy Fellow in American Public Policy Studies, Hoover Institution, Stanford University,

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, vice provost for Global Initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy

Dr. Atul Gawande, CEO, Haven; professor, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Dr. Sandra Hernandez, president and CEO of California Health Care Foundation

Dr. Bob Kocher, former special assistant to the president for health care and economics

Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. surgeon general

Michael Osterholm, Regents Professor and director, Center for Infectious Disease and Research & Policy, University of Minnesota

DJ Patil, former U.S. chief data scientist

Dr. Jennifer Peña, former White House physician (Obama administration) and primary physician to Vice President Mike Pence

Dr. Jordan Shlain, internal medicine, former commissioner, Health Services System Board, San Francisco

Dr. Eric Topol, founder and director, Scripps Research Translational Institute

Dr. Leana Wen, visiting professor at George Washington University School of Public Health and former Baltimore health commissioner

Michelle A. Williams, dean of the faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development


Special to People’s World
Special to People’s World

People’s World is a voice for progressive change and socialism in the United States. It provides news and analysis of, by, and for the labor and democratic movements to our readers across the country and around the world. People’s World traces its lineage to the Daily Worker newspaper, founded by communists, socialists, union members, and other activists in Chicago in 1924.