Dr. Darren C. Brucken, physician at Regional Hospital.

The Vigo County Health Commissioner has issued a dire warning to the community to take COVID-19 seriously and to stay at home for the next few weeks.

Only workers in truly essential services — health care, food line support and first responders/EMS — should be out, the doctor says.

Dr. Darren Brucken wrote a lengthy information piece, distributed on Facebook, predicting dire consequences if people don't stay at home and practice the precautions that have been urged by local, state and federal health authorities.

“CoVID 19 is here, it’s upon us, and yet few people seem to really grasp the immediate severity of what is about to unfold in Terre Haute and the surrounding area in the next few weeks," Brucken wrote.

"People are already hospitalized, on ventilators, and have sadly died from the illness. It’s not curable, it’s even poorly treatable when the severity is high. Older people — meaning 50’s and up, especially the ones with diabetes, lung disease, poor nutrition, and poor social support — are at an enormous risk of not only severe sickness, but of near certain death when the disease has spread into the lungs fully."

Brucken's letter was posted on his wife's Facebook account, and as of 6 p.m. it had been shared more than 3,600 times. While Brucken could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday evening, Joni Wise, health department administrator, confirmed Brucken wrote the piece.

His wife, Holly Brucken, said she asked him to write something that she might post "for as many Wabash Valley residents to read as possible."

In part of his article, Brucken states that local physicians and healthcare teams are meeting constantly to work collaboratively as the pandemic escalates.

"We do not have an unlimited supply of ventilators available to us. If unchecked, we could have every vent at both hospitals filled in a matter of days. As more critical patients arrive in our emergency rooms in need of a ventilator, none will be available. This what is happening in hot spots like New Orleans, Miami, and even Indianapolis already. It can very easily happen to us here at home if we all fail to stop the propagation of the virus in our community," he wrote.

Some in the community do not appear to be taking the threat of COVID-19 seriously, he wrote, "judging by traffic patterns in town and all of the ridiculous businesses and services that want to continue to operate 'as-is' despite the warnings, really stretching the line of what is 'essential' right now."

Healthcare delivery, food line support and first responders/EMS providers "should be the only faces in public right now. What people need to understand is that our local, state, and federal healthcare delivery system cannot support what is predicted," he wrote.

He further stated that Indiana "is projected to be one of the worst-hit states in the nation once this ends, with around 2,500 Hoosiers helplessly dying from the disease, and more than 100,000 people sick from the infection."

While young people may not be worried about contracting the disease, and may only have mild or moderate illness if they do get sick, they can still be carriers and spread the disease to those more vulnerable, he stated.

"If the young and healthy continue to blindly serve as carriers and vectors to spread the virus, their parents, older siblings, diabetic neighbors, grandparents, in-laws, and acquaintances will suffer a miserable end as we all stand by with disbelief on our faces," he wrote.

"The scariest part ... the worst is yet to come. The world’s leading epidemiologists predict Indiana to continue to exponentially fail in the coming two to four weeks — the whole month of April essentially — before the contagion starts to slow," dragging through May and likely in June by many models.

The only way to not get the virus with certainty is to stay home for the next two to three weeks, he said. Many positive-tested people have no symptoms, while many others have only mild cold or flu-like symptoms.

Brucken also points to the dangers for EMS and emergency room personnel who respond to, and take care of, those who have COVID-19. Those workers could become infected and spread the disease to their families, co-workers and friends.

"That unknown scares the absolute HELL out of every one us in healthcare. Protective equipment can only do so much, and we are never fully prepared for such a situation to unfold," he wrote. Respiratory distress situations "are absolutely chaotic — filled with spilled bodily fluids; with rushed, imperfect actions that lead to tiny mistakes and missteps that puts the healthcare workers in grave danger from this disease, without ever realizing it."

Brucken urged, "Everyone needs to stay home, everything needs to come to a grinding halt across this entire area, the whole country, and across the world. If we act collectively here locally, perhaps we dodge the feared massive influx of critically ill patients that is set to absolutely run over our healthcare delivery system — at least locally. But if we continue to act as fractions, separatists, individuals — we are sealing our own fate with this pandemic. Hundreds will die, perhaps thousands."

In some of his concluding remarks, Brucken writes, "Gather up everyone you love in this world, and make plans to do your part with this virus. It’s here. The 'planning stages' and 'preparedness plans' are going to be tested dramatically, unless we all pay attention to the seriousness of the pandemic," he wrote.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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