Opinion: Complacency is the Enemy; Let’s stop the spread of this virus while we still can

Chris Van Gorder is president/CEO of Scripps Health in San Diego.
(Courtesy Photo)

Opinion / Guest Commentary:

Like health care providers across the country, Scripps is working with our fellow health systems and we are in regular contact with county officials, state legislators and health care officials. Scripps applauds the work that has been done to date — California is one of very few states that have taken firm action and our county was willing to take action even before the state did.

But I fear, based on watching what’s happening in New York, Louisiana, Northern California and Washington state, it’s only a matter of time before coronavirus cases spike significantly in San Diego. Our state and local governments recognize that and that’s why they have taken the steps they have. But given the severity of this pandemic and its threat to our community, we’ve got to do more.

We need to re-evaluate which companies and functions are listed as essential. People must take social distancing more seriously. The shelter-in-place mandate must be stricter. I realize that may mean a more significant effect on our economy, but as a health care provider, my concern is about the health and well-being of my doctors, nurses and support staff, as well as that of my own family. And yours.

Our projections show Scripps overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients in a matter of weeks if we don’t take stronger action. With 30 percent success in social distancing, we will flatten the curve, but by June, we could have up to 8,000 concurrent patients requiring care just at Scripps for our 1,200 beds. Without any social distancing or other mitigation efforts, we are projecting the need to care for more than 12,000 patients concurrently at the peak, far exceeding our 1,200 beds.

And yes, we are worried about being able to protect our own employees and physicians in this situation. We have gone outside our normal supply ordering processes and gone directly to China for orders. Even those are being delayed.

We talked to leadership at a New York hospital and asked them what they would do if they could go back in time to where we in San Diego are now. They said: “People need to take this seriously. Many people assumed it just affected the elderly. We are now seeing 30- to 40-year-olds in the hospital. Ask everyone to heed social distancing.”

Bill Gates came out and said this country needs to basically shut itself down for six weeks or so. And he’s right. The best defense is a good offense. It’s not too late. We’re not going to be able to stop this virus completely, but if all of us do our part now, we can minimize its impact on our community.

Complacency is the enemy.

Chris Van Gorder is president/CEO of Scripps Health in San Diego.

Editor’s Note: Scripps Health is accepting donations of N95 masks/respirators; surgical/procedural masks; isolation/impervious gowns; non-latex gloves; eye protection; disinfecting wipes; hand sanitizer and hand soap. Those interested in donating supplies may contact Scripps at to discuss the donation and arrange for delivery. Donors will then be provided with a drop-off location that is most convenient for them.


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