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In May of 1988, I was working as a medical resident in New York City. AIDS was front and center for the hundreds of patients we cared for and for whom we could do so little, and for ourselves, fearing needle sticks as we drew blood dozens of times a day.
I remember vividly standing in my small apartment and reading a letter from Surgeon General C. Everett Koop. It wasn’t an exclusive letter – quite the opposite. Every household in America received one, along with a pamphlet produced by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The letter was controversial. ''Some of the issues involved in this brochure may not be things you are used to discussing openly,” Koop wrote. “I can easily understand that. But now you must discuss them. We all must know about AIDS. Read this brochure and talk about it with those you love.”
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I hope we all receive a letter soon from Dr. Jerome Adams, today’s able surgeon general. Just as Dr. Koop spoke plainly about the risks of the AIDS pandemic, we need plain speaking about the risks of today’s pandemic, COVID-19. Here’s what a letter might say:
Today, we are facing a threat to our health unlike any we have faced before. We are at war with a virus. It is a war we can win. But we need every one of you to help, now. Here are some things you need to know, and do:
This letter should include something every U.S. household needs: a digital thermometer. This will help people with a fever to physically isolate themselves sooner and help calm concerns of those who feel feverish but don’t have an elevated temperature.
Everyone should take their temperature when they feel sick, and twice a day if they’ve been exposed to the virus. We are stronger together even if for a while we are physically distant.
That would be immediately useful mail – thanks for the thermometer – that we would remember vividly more than 30 years from now.
And He taught Adam the names of all things; then He placed them before the angels, and said: "Tell me the names of these if ye are right."They said: "Glory to Thee, of knowledge We have none, save what Thou Hast taught us: In truth it is Thou Who art perfect in knowledge and wisdom." (The Cow 31-32 )