ER doctor warns people to take COVID-19 seriously: 'I'm asking you to just stay home'

Posted at 9:34 AM, Apr 03, 2020

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. -- A emergency room doctor is speaking out about what it's like on the frontline of the COVID-19 fight in Florida.

Dr. Alonso Osorio has been an ER doctor for 20 years.

Osorio sees it firsthand. He says hospitals and healthcare workers are overwhelmed.

"We're being overwhelmed by hundreds of people all at once with the same disease process and on top of that you have the regular patients that are coming up," said Dr. Osorio. "It's going to be impossible to deal with a surge of this volume even in the best of circumstances."

They're working around the clock to treat COVID-19 patients in Tampa Bay.

"What we're seeing across the nation is that, initially we were misguided that this is a disease of older people only," said Osorio. "I'll tell you we're seeing physicians on the frontline dying, young people are dying. Children have been a lucky minority and that's amazing but young people with underlying risk factors, what we call obesity, hypertension, any underlying lung disease, they're all getting sick."

Every day they're learning more, taking new actions and getting more information about the new coronavirus.

Osorio wants people to take this seriously and says it's not like the flu.

"With the flu we have a vaccine to minimize the illness across the population, decrease the spread and have some therapies that we know potentially work and we have some new ones in the pipeline for the flu itself. With the coronavirus, we're barely gaining an understanding as this goes along," he explained.

Experts are worried because they still see people in the community, ignoring social distancing guidelines.

"Don't pretend that you're superman, and you're not going to get ill. Do your part," said Osorio.

Healthcare workers are begging people to stay home.

"I am remarkably concerned about the fact that people are gathering and getting together across the city in social gatherings, public gatherings, children play dates, and they don't realize that's how we're spreading the disease," he explained.

Practicing social distancing is the only way to slow down this pandemic.

"As a fellow citizen, as a healthcare provider, as a normal person, I'm asking you to just stay home and be wise. This is not a disease of elders. Just help us contain it because we are there on the frontline helping care for you. We'll be there for you but if you don't do your part to prevent getting sick, you don't want to be on a ventilator so just stay home and be socially responsible," said Osorio.

For him, and most healthcare workers, his home life has changed drastically since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"My wife has implemented infection control procedures in which I have to literally strip down in the garage. Before I walk into the house, I have to spray myself with a diluted cleansing solution. Then I strip down literally to my underwear and go across the front of my house to my isolation quarters. I'm sleeping in the guest room and I'm minimizing exposure to my little kids. No hugging them, touching them, kissing them. They all just try to keep their distance," said Osorio.

He says people should brace themselves.

"I think the worst is about to come. It's better to get us ready for the pandemic about to hit us really hard and I think it's just getting started in Florida," warned Osorio.

This story was originally published by Larissa Scott at WFTS.