It sounds reasonable at first. If hospitals and clinics are going to be overwhelmed in a flu pandemic, prepare to care for sick family members at home.
But what if there’s no one to care for you at home? That’s the position of the one in four Americans who live alone. Even for those that have others to care for them there are serious barriers:
Almost half of those surveyed said they would run into financial problems or might run out of important drugs if health officials asked them to stay home for a week or more, said Robert Blendon, a Harvard School of Public Health policy expert who will give the results of a survey today in Washington.
Health officials and scientists are debating whether to recommend that people keep children out of school and treat sick relatives at home during an outbreak of lethal influenza. Lack of home care and access to food and medicines might make it difficult or impossible for people to comply with those measures, Blendon said.(John Lauerman, Bloomberg)
Blendon’s survey suggested there were a number of things the majority of people were willing to do in the name of “social distancing,” that is, strategies to slow the spread of disease by reducing contact with other people. Better than ninety percent would avoid air travel for at least a month, avoid public events like concerts, and avoid malls and department stores. Almost as many would cancel non-essential doctor visits and limit use of public transport. Eight of ten would avoid church and family events. At least for a while.
Financial security, medical care and access to needed drugs are all likely to figure large in people’s minds as a pandemic progresses. At least one in four Americans said they would be hurt in some way by staying home for more than a week to 10 days.
About 27 percent said they might lose their job or business because of such measures, and 48 percent said they would lose pay or have financial problems. About 43 percent said they would lose access to drugs, and about one-third said they would be unable to get care for seniors or children in the home.
To the subculture of flu preppers who frequent internet sites like The Flu Wiki or CurEvents none of this is news. They have been talking about these things for a long time. So have we. It shouldn’t be news to the planners at CDC. I hope it isn’t.
What to do? The answer you get from us is always the same: strengthen the public health and social service infrastructure. Now you are getting it from elsewhere, too, as both the nature and magnitude of the problem come into focus:
“This focuses attention on where some of the next steps need to be in terms of preparedness,” said Carter Mecher, chief medical officer of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, Southeast division, in Atlanta, in an interview in Washington. “These are areas where we might engage churches and community-based organizations to assist people. I look at it as an area for investment in preparedness and planning.”
In other words, mobilize the community.