Our excitement with getting back to normal can’t cover up how strange the journey back there will be

I’m writing weekly for Medium about my experiences as an emergency medicine doctor during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can read my previous posts on vaccine inequities, the variants, and more, here.

The summer is starting to look spectacular. The White House recently announced the U.S. will have enough vaccines by the end of May to inoculate every American adult. By the Fourth of July, we should be able to start celebrating our independence from Covid-19.

It’s about time. We’ve all had our fill of Zoom meetings, classes, and weddings. …

You won’t remember the pandemic. There are some things you should know.

You’ve lived half your life inside this pandemic. But you will have no memory of any of this. How I envy you.

It’ll be a long time before you’ll know what a virus is or how much this past year upended our lives. This letter is for when you’re old enough to understand.

Just a few days ago, you got together with friends you haven’t seen since the pandemic started. You were bursting with joy, a huge smile on your face, as you all ran around screaming and chasing after each other.

Watching you that day reminded me of how…

A doctor’s tips

Whenever someone learns I’m an emergency room physician, they reflexively ask ‘What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?’ I get it — television shows like the eponymous ‘E.R.’ depict my job as full of lust, gore, and foreign objects in unexpected places.

I can humor you with stories all day long, but I’m not sure I want to. No one has ever asked me what I think is the most important question about my job: ‘What should I know about the ER if myself or my loved one is ever a patient? Any insider tips?’

There’s only one thing that…

Writing every week wasn’t something that came easy to me. This is how I did it.

I don’t consider myself a writer. As an emergency room doctor, I’m more at ease treating heart attacks than putting words on a page.

Yet I’ve published a new piece nearly every week for the past six months. When I first started writing on Medium, my intention was to translate the challenge of working in an ER during the pandemic into words and help people understand the real impact of Covid in the U.S. and across the world.

At the outset, the task seemed daunting, especially for a non-writer. My friends suggested I was biting off more than I could…

If you’re fully vaccinated, there’s no indication you need a booster yet. But many could urgently use that dose — here’s why.

Last week, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer held a closed-door meeting with senior U.S. health officials to pitch them on Covid-19 booster shots.

Just a few days prior, Pfizer announced they would ask the FDA to expand the emergency authorization for their current two-dose vaccine to include a third, a booster shot.

We can only speculate on the confidential data presented in that meeting, but the Department of Health and Human Services who convened it issued a statement reflecting what many scientists believe: “At this time, fully vaccinated Americans do not need a booster shot”. …

I read thousands of articles in the past year. These six are the most important for posterity.

When the pandemic started I spent hours reading every day, alternating between research pre-prints, opinion pieces and long-form articles.

As a frontline physician and frequent guest on radio shows and cable news, I wanted to be up to date on every aspect of Covid-19. With how much was published on the pandemic every day, just trying to keep up was a massive, time-intensive, and exhausting endeavour.

I have no idea how many pieces I’ve read in the past year, but it’s surely in the thousands. As the Covid tidal wave recedes here in the U.S., …

The pandemic shrank our social circles. It’s time to expand them.

“I’ll tell you one thing, I’m sick of this damn Covid thing.” Carl and I had never met before, but on this we immediately found common ground.

Carl came out to our family’s cabin in New Hampshire to make some long-overdue repairs. We chatted about the weather and the astronomical price of lumber before talking about the pandemic.

In many ways, Carl and I were completely different: I lived in an apartment in New York City; he lived in the countryside on 10 acres with his dog. I spent most of the pandemic in the hospital treating patients; he spent…

Academic medical centers in the U.S. didn’t do enough to combat Ebola in West Africa — that cost us when Covid hit.

I only vaguely remember the frenzied activity as they rushed me from the ambulance to the isolation ward. But I vividly recall the nurse trying to start an intravenous line in my left arm. I watched as she missed three times, hitting a nerve on her last attempt.

Later I learned the nurse had worked in the intensive care unit for over 20 years. And she was part of the team that hours before my arrival ran a drill simulating care for a mock Ebola patient. By any measure, she was the most qualified person to start my IV. …

It’s been a long time since I saw a Covid patient in the ER, and I couldn’t be happier

I’m an emergency room doctor in New York City, and I haven’t seen a Covid-19 patient in weeks. It feels great having my old job back.

In March 2020, Covid flooded our ERs. At first, it was just a dribble — one or two Covid patients per day. But within a week, the virus had taken over every body in every bed. Every shift in the emergency room brought an endless stream of patients, one after another, all struggling to breathe and in desperate need of oxygen.

The swiftness of Covid’s arrival in our emergency rooms took us by surprise…

Around the world, many don’t have access to a vaccine. That’s scandalous.

My heart sank when I heard Romeo “Romy” Agtarap died of Covid-19. He had recently retired from nursing after two decades in the emergency room. But when Covid-19 surged into New York City last spring he joined us again on the frontlines. In April 2020, the virus that brought Romy out of retirement took his life.

Over 115,000 health care workers around the world have died from Covid-19. We must make sure no more fall victim to this virus. That should be easy, as vaccines provide near-perfect protection against severe disease and death from Covid.

That’s why we should immediately…

Craig Spencer MD MPH

NYC ER doctor | Ebola Survivor | Director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at Columbia University | Public Health Professor | Doctors Without Borders BoD

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