Dr. Heather Young

Dr. Heather Young, the pediatric infectious disease doctor who coordinated an open letter to Governor Hutchinson this morning asking that he take stricter measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, said “asking nicely” is not going to do the job in getting the recalcitrant to mask up and take other precautions. “From a pediatrician’s perspective, sometimes you have to be a little firm,” she said.

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Young has yet to get a response from the governor to doctors’ plea that the governor enact the options the Arkansas Department of Health provided him as long ago as Oct. 9:

  • Increase the frequency of the governor’s briefings.
  • Change the message to include avoiding groups greater than 10 people.
  • Reduce the size of gatherings allowed at indoor/outdoor venues.
  • Encourage local government enforcement of the mask mandate.
  • Allow local government to implement curfews based on community data.
  • Implement 28-day restrictions that would limit social gatherings to no more than 10 people, resume working remotely, move to virtual education, close restaurants and bars to onsite dining and impose restrictions on other venues.

The “trajectory is pretty scary right now,” Young said of the spread of the coronavirus.

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Young said getting together the 270 signatories to her public letter was done by word of mouth and private Facebook groups. She did not go through the Arkansas Medical Society or the American Academy of Family Physicians or any other such groups, and she stressed that doctors signed not as representatives of their hospitals but as independent physicians. The letter was signed by doctors in a number of specialties, from surgeons to psychiatrists to OB/GYNS. Young said she hoped other health care providers would “reach out to the governor,” including advanced practice nurses, licensed nurses, respiratory therapists, EMS officers and others on the front lines.

The pediatrician noted that children are “thankfully” not as affected as adults by the virus, but still some will develop the serious complication multisystem inflammatory syndrome. “We just don’t know the what the longterm effects of COVID are on individuals,” Young said. “Just because you are fine now, doesn’t mean that you won’t have further problems.”

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The doctor said the situation is serious enough that she has stopped going to grocery stores: “The chances of coming into contact with a positive person has dramatically increased.” When, on earlier visits to the grocery, she’s seen people in line “wearing their mask as a chin guard,” she has asked them to wear it properly. It’s an uncomfortable thing to ask a person, she said, but no one has refused and “nobody has accosted me.”

“It’s not an easy thing to write a letter to the government” either, she added.

Young wants the governor to take a more personal leadership role. “People are looking to him as an example, and if he says, ‘This is so serious we need to restrict gatherings,’ maybe people will pay attention.”

UPDATE: more than 300 doctors have signed the letter. The governor responded saying, essentially thanks for their interest but what he’s doing is working just fine.

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Here is the governor’s response.